How to build a Black, Brown, and White working class coalition
President Lyndon B. Johnson once said, “if you can convince the lowest white man he’s better than the best colored man, he won’t notice you’re picking his pocket. Hell, give him somebody to look down on, and he’ll empty his pockets for you.”
The placation to racial conflict to appeal to the White working class has been the oldest political trick and still used till this day. This is not just my opinion, but a fact according to former Republican National Committee chairman, Ken Mehlman who apologized for the Republican Party’s use of the Southern Strategy after the political realignment of the 1960's. While the Black and Brown folks were mostly ostracized by the Republican Party, the Democrats solidified their gains in the Black community through the ’70s, ‘80s, and ’90s creating two racially polarized parties.
As the US becomes increasingly more diverse, our futures will depend on a healthy multiracial coalition for society to function and innovate at a high level. A revival of Dr. Martin Luther King’s Poor People’s Campaign will be needed for the working class to come together. Although difficult, a coalition of White, Black, and Brown working class voters can work, but Democrats will need to let go of their corporate interests as stated by former National Press Secretary for the Bernie Sanders campaign.
The disregard for the working class demonstrates how the out of touch the Democratic Party is as called out by the Sanders wing of the party. This small exclusive club has been stuck in their D.C. bubble for far too long with a majority of these lawmakers being millionaires who use tokenism as a method to project racial progress. This also goes hand-in-hand with many folks who are part of the White working class who praise Donald Trump and the Republican Party because the bottom line is this: rich people do not care about you either.
When Trump ran for president in 2016, he promised well-paying jobs with infrastructure investments, repealing Obamacare for a better healthcare system, and building a wall that Mexico would pay for. All of these and more were broken promises and exposed the fake populism he ran his campaign on. The COVID-19 crisis dragging us back into a recession and the George Floyd murder put much of this into perspective with a dramatic increase in political engagement. While the incompetence from Congress to pass adequate legislation to address economic grievances has been evident, the absence of leadership from the White House has also been present.
Now, this is not to leave Joe Biden off the hook as most of his cabinet picks have been terrible for the working class. These parties have been an abomination to the economic health of the middle, working, and poor classes the past forty years and abandoning party loyalty should be the first step in how we build a united working class coalition for the common man, woman, and non-binary folks.
Abandoning the establishment of both major political parties will be critical to how the White, Black, and Brown working class works together because the goal of the elite is for us to not have progressive dialogue. For example, a Black laborer has more in common with the average White union worker than a rich Black/Brown person, but class-based interests between racial groups are not as discussed as much as they should be because the elite wants us to fight amongst ourselves.
Yes, there will be those on the fringe who will always have hate and contempt for people of color, but I truly believe this is not the majority. It is a matter of who holds the power and the elite are very few and far between in terms of numbers. When groups of people are devoid of power and resources, going against each other over such is imminent.
However, the common interests of workers have no boundaries and we all know that being able to provide for your family, raising your child in a healthy environment with good schools, and having access to basic healthcare are needs for all. With the official poverty line increasing by 60 percent and the top one percent’s income nearly doubling since 1968, reviving the Poor People’s Campaign should be essential in order for the mobilization of disadvantaged people across racial and geographic lines. After all, it would be a testament to King’s legacy and dream.
– Peace be unto you.