US poverty rate estimate for all ages in 2008. Data via U.S. Census Bureau data. Image via Wikimedia under Creative Commons Licensing
US poverty rate estimate for all ages in 2008. Data via U.S. Census Bureau data. Image via Wikimedia under Creative Commons Licensing

This also includes middle-income White people who are one or two paychecks away from losing it all

In 2018, non-college-educated white men (66%) and white women (56%) were the biggest voting bloc for Republicans followed by college-educated white men (51%). These are typical numbers that deviate very little from one election to the next. These demographics represent a good mix of minimum-wage earners, tradespersons, and a significant amount of professionals with income brackets that vary from below the poverty line to the mythical middle-class.

While standing to benefit the most from expanded government programs, this collection of white voters consistently stands opposed to them. Their loyalty to a set of principles that have reliably worked against them is incredible. While their reasoning varies greatly, it leaves tens of millions of us to wonder how they could consistently vote against their interests. For poor White people, many of the same inequalities that impact other poor and minority communities affect them too.

For example, making social services (TANF, SNAP) harder to get for Black people makes them harder to get for poor White people. Similarly, making it harder for minorities to vote makes it harder for White people to vote. Black and Brown people not having access to quality affordable healthcare, healthier food options because of food deserts, and quality affordable housing also impact poor White people. White supremacy has always had victims across the racial spectrum. But poor White people represent collateral damage to an ideology many of them support.

Sacrifices to white supremacy.

America needs to find a way to inform poor White people that they are victims (in many ways) to the preservation of white supremacy in America too. I want to be very clear here, poor White people do not suffer from white supremacist oppression the same way Black communities have had to endure and continue to endure. Nor do White people experience what other non-white groups do. They’re victims of being used as collateral damage so that the white elites who control the money get to hoard more of it.

“…in one industry, diversity numbers seem like they’re straight out of the 19th century: Firms owned by white men manage a stunning 98.7% of the $69 trillion managed by the U.S. asset management industry. That’s according to a 2019 Knight Foundation analysis, and includes hedge funds, mutual funds, real estate funds, and private equity funds.”

Morris, 2020

White people suffer from the classism aspect of racial injustice and very little else. But for White people, that means when Republicans go after social programs such as SNAP, Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security, it’s going to impact poor White people as well. Additionally, the wonderful tax breaks, bailouts, and cash handouts to corporations by Republicans also impact the poor. The tax burden of such policies leaves very little for social programs to lift people out of poverty.

Yet, as noted above, White people disproportionately vote for the same people who would make their lives harder. It’s almost as if they know they’re victims of these policies and are willing to struggle throughout their whole lives. Who would do that for the sake of fighting against racial equality? Sure, some extremists might. But I believe poor White people are largely unaware of just how much they are impacted by the policies of the people they largely support.

That lack of awareness comes from the propagandizing efforts of Republican politics and the unwillingness to listen to proposals being offered from the other side. It’s been that way for decades. The politics of today are no different than the politics of previous decades. They are merely a culmination of right-wing propaganda efforts. As the right veered to the far-right and Democrats kept trying to meet them in the middle, we ended up in a political environment where liberalism has shifted to the center/right and conservatism has gone bonkers with hate.

Beneficiaries

White people, Latinos, the LGBTQ community, and many other Americans have benefitted greatly from the Black-led Civil Rights movements of past generations. Similarly, when recipients of government assistance programs are stereotyped as largely Black and referred to as “welfare queens” — propaganda used by Republicans — White people are led to believe they are being short-changed for their taxpayer dollars. The reality, however, is much different.

Republicans take more serious issues and turn them into culture wars — as they have done since the Nixon-era — but White folks need to realize how much they benefit from the same programs that help ‘other’ groups.

According to a Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) report in 2017, 6.2 million working-age poor White people were lifted above the poverty line in 2014 thanks to the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program. Compare that to the 2.8 million Black people and 2.4 million Hispanics. Additionally, the Department of Agriculture issued a report in 2015 that showed a little over 40 percent of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipients are poor White people compared to 25.7 percent of Black people, 10.3 percent of Hispanics, 2.1 percent of Asians, and 1.2 percent of Native Americans.

Suddenly the welfare queen looks much different, right? But seriously, all bullshit aside, the reality for White people in America is that despite the success of racial justice efforts, they will still have it better than Black people, Indigenous people, or people of color (BIPOC). What white America needs to realize is that equality doesn’t mean they lose. Equality means ensuring there are enough services to lift everyone out of poverty. Equality means poor and underserved communities have the same services, resources, and opportunities that White people have.

“People of all races and ethnic groups who lack a bachelor’s degree receive significant help from the safety net, but on two significant metrics, the results for white working-age adults stand out. Among working-age adults without a college degree, 6.2 million whites are lifted above the poverty line by the safety net — more than any other racial or ethnic group. In addition, the percentage of people who would otherwise be poor that safety net programs lift out of poverty is greater for white working-age adults without a college degree than for other adults without a college degree. Still, poverty rates among people without a college degree are substantially higher for blacks and Hispanics than for whites — whether or not safety net assistance is considered.”

Shapiro, Trisi, Chaudhry, 2017

Despite receiving a disproportionate amount of benefits, plenty of White folks would argue that if they had the same services as they do in suburbia, they would have a better chance of getting out of poverty. Oddly enough, that’s what Black civil rights leaders want. What Indigenous people want. What Latinos want. What civil society wants and what anti-racists like me want and fight for. Look, if I can serve to amplify and add to ideas that will help bring about much-needed change, White folks can drop the white extinction crap and get with the program that benefits us all.

Nobody is out here looking to give White people what they got coming. No one wants to serve justice on White people for what their ancestors may or may not have done. Not a single soul is out here targeting White people. The battle for equality isn’t an attack on White people or American culture or communism or whatever other propaganda they’re feeding you guys at the Republican trough. The battle for equality comes with great benefit to poor White people.

The Bottom Line

The bottom line is White people need to get their shit together. I’ve said that the work shouldn’t be on us. But as I’ve stated those words I provided action steps White folks can take to help address growing white extremism. Well, here I am again. Offering even more ammunition that can open up discussions about race relations. Whether it’s with coworkers, family members, or friends, it’s these undeniable facts that can help bring people back from the realm of extremism.

Be prepared though. Some will refuse to listen. There will always be those who choose to be willfully ignorant of the facts and are just fine being hateful. But an effort has to be made and as I’ve stated many times, no one has access or proximity to White people like White people. In order to address many of the issues surrounding racist thinking, we need White people to make more of an effort. This is not something BIPOC can do for you. It’s on you.


References

Morris D. (2020). Investment management is overwhelmingly dominated by white men — and it’s costing you money. https://fortune.com/2020/06/19/investment-management-diversity-hedge-funds-mutual-funds-real-estate-pe-private-equity/

Shapiro I., Trisi D., Chaudhry R. (2017). Poverty Reduction Programs Help Adults Lacking College Degrees the Most. https://www.cbpp.org/research/poverty-and-inequality/poverty-reduction-programs-help-adults-lacking-college-degrees-the

Arturo Dominguez

Arturo Dominguez

Arturo is an anti-racist political nerd. He is an upcoming author, journalist, advocate for social justice, and a married father of three. He is a top writer on Medium and a regular contributor to several news media outlets. He writes educational and informative material about systemic racism, white supremacy, and racial injustice.
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