The last five years has seen an increase in the so-called “white victim syndrome”. 2013 expressed that more than even the four previous years. More specifically, the “white victim syndrome” has often included the “white Christian victim syndrome”. The far right-wing, namely people like FOX News, the Tea Party, Mike Huckabee, Glen Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Sarah Palin, and Rep. Steve King from Iowa have been pounding away all year at this “white victimization”.
That has led to the “defending” of people who make racist and/or homophobic remarks. Megyn Kelly and her infamous Santa “is just white” comment. Phil Robertson and his racist and homophobic remarks in GQ magazine. Steve King and his “big thighs because they are hauling 75 pounds of drugs” comment. FOX’s fantasy “war on Christmas”. And of course, all of those “us against them” comments made by a whole host of people.
Most people in the media are rightly pointing out this “white victim syndrome” as part of the “Southern Strategy” the Republicans adopted after the Civil Rights Bill was passed. Targeting minorities as “them” and telling white people “them” are taking their jobs and changing America is the cause of the white’s struggles. Unfortunately, it worked all too well.
But, I have a different theory. All of this “white victim syndrome” has a far more sinister twist to it. This isn’t really about whether or not white Christians are being discriminated against in an ever-changing demographic. Rather it is intended to keep the working class in this country from coming together and fighting back against the wealthiest. It is intended to keep unions from gaining a stronger foothold in defending the working class against record profits that are kept by the wealthy.
When I was just out of high school, I got a job making about $2.35 per hour. That was in 1968. With that pay, I was able to pay my rent, get a car, and even go out for some fun. I was also able to attend college part-time. The job I had was considered an “entry-level” job. If I were to have that kind of job today and still be able to afford the same life-style, I would need to make about $17.20 per hour.
Today, those arguing against raising the minimum wage claim that these jobs are “entry-level” and are not intended to support a family. That is ridiculous. Entry level jobs in the past paid a living wage. Today they do not! Why such a disparity? Unions! In the 1960’s and 1970’s unions had a huge positive impact on the labor market. They were willing to fight for the worker’s share of the profits. Even non-union companies had to pay better to keep their workers from going to union companies. But, that started to change in the 1970’s.
Let’s take a look at one example of the fall of wages for the working class. Another area I know something about is slaughterhouses. No, I didn’t work in one, but Chicago was the capital of slaughterhouses in my younger days. Today, slaughterhouses hire mostly immigrants. They claim that is because the work is so unpleasant Americans won’t do the work. That is a complete falsehood. You may not remember, but between 1925 and 1965 immigration was mostly banned in the U.S. So, who did the work in the slaughterhouses? American born workers making middle-class wages! But things changed. As Mother Jones explains:
“Starting in the early 1960s, a company called Iowa Beef Packers (IBP) began to revolutionize the industry, opening plants in rural areas far from union strongholds, recruiting immigrant workers from Mexico, introducing a new division of labor that eliminated the need for skilled butchers, and ruthlessly battling unions. By the late 1970s, meatpacking companies that wanted to compete with IBP had to adopt its business methods — or go out of business. Wages in the meatpacking industry soon fell by as much as 50 percent.”
I knew people who made up to $18 per hour slaughtering pigs, hogs, cows, etc. Now, slaughterhouses pay an average of about half that. Would Americans slaughter these animals for $18 per hour? I bet they would. Problem is that with the cut in pay, safety in the workplace also went down. Slaughterhouses are some of the most dangerous places to work. Many of the companies running these slaughterhouses cut all benefits, including health coverage, as well.
The South Side of Chicago saw its share of violence over unionization. In 1894, President Cleveland sent 2,500 troops to break a strike at the Pullman Palace Car Factory. On Memorial Day, 1937, Chicago police killed 10 striking workers outside the Republic Steel plant. The names of those dead are cast on a brass plaque bolted to a flagpole outside a now-defunct steelworkers’ hall. There were other “battles” over unionization in Chicago that resulted in a lot of deaths.
The biggest problem in this country has always been the difference of thought between “blue-collar workers” and “white-collar workers”. The blue-collar workers were the ones who unionized. White-collar workers seemed to believe they were just one step below their bosses. This led to the belief that they weren’t part of the “working class”.
The real battle in the country should not be between blue-collar and white-collar workers. It should be between the working class and the owners. Unless you own the company you work for, or are one of the Executives of that company, you are working-class! It doesn’t matter what color your collar is. It is this division that the right is really trying to perpetuate. They know that if the white-collar workers started partnering with the blue-collar workers, their power and profit hogging would be in jeopardy.
In Capitalism there are only two classes of people. The wealthy and everyone else. The everyone else is the working-class! They are the people who built these business for their employers. They are the ones who bust a gut everyday to make the company successful. They are the ones who are the face of every company in America. They have earned the right to make a livable wage. They have earned the right to share in the profits of the company in fair wages and benefits.
The next time you hear one of these right-wing entities talk about “white victim syndrome” or “white Christian victim syndrome” remember they are placing all working people in the “them” category! You are part of “them” regardless of your race, ethnicity, religion, or gender. If we are going to get completely out of the Republican caused economic collapse of 2008, all working-class workers must stand together and fight the upper class. That is where the real economic war needs to be fought!