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What's behind lower and lower-middle class white racism?

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arbusto_baboso Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Sep-16-09 04:11 PM
Original message
What's behind lower and lower-middle class white racism?
I have a theory on this.

I watched my grandfather - a racist if there ever was one - and how he reacted to non-whites. Especially his reactions to African Americans.

When my grandfather returned home after WWII, the job that Ford Motors promised to hold open for him at the Dearborn plant had been filled by a black man. Now, my grandfather was by no means a stupid human being. But rather than puzzle through everything and place blame where it was due (circumstances, the war, Ford reneging on their promise, et al), he blamed his African American replacement instead.

Now, my grandfather's circumstances were tangible, and he had an actual, real target for his hate, even if he reached the wrong conclusion and chose to hate someone who was just as much a servant of big business as he was. But I think many working class whites bemoan their own circumstances, and not having any concrete individual to blame it on, chose the Evil Other, the "Them", the minority group that they don't know and can easily demonize.

It's a lot easier for angry working class whites to choose this simplistic explanation, (Since most of them are not as intelligent as my grandfather was) than to try to understand how the American structure is screwing us all without a kiss. It's even easier now that the face of The Other is embodied in our President and is visible to them on a daily basis.

Am I off base with this, or does it sound plausible? Comments?
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Romulox Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Sep-16-09 04:13 PM
Response to Original message
1. I see no reason to believe lower class whites are any more racist than anyone else.
What are you basing this assumption on? :shrug:
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arbusto_baboso Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Sep-16-09 04:15 PM
Response to Reply #1
3. That's not what I said. Please re-read my post.
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Romulox Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Sep-16-09 04:18 PM
Response to Reply #3
10. You said, "It's a lot easier for angry working class whites to choose this simplistic explanation...
What makes it easier for working class whites to choose a "simplistic explanation" than anybody else? :hi:
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arbusto_baboso Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Sep-16-09 04:22 PM
Response to Reply #10
15. I was referring to the 912 rally types, NOT all working class whites.
As my whole family is white and weorking class, I'd be painting myself with the same brush if I said all working class whites are racist, wouldn't I?
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TxRider Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Sep-18-09 12:16 PM
Response to Reply #15
47. Affirmative action...
Is the key to them making the simplistic rationalization you are talking about popular.

I have heard all my life here about that one, less qualified people being promoted, less qualified people being hired over more qualified people due to nothing but skin color.

Replacing racism with just another form of racism, aimed squarely at them, working class white men.

That's what they believe, that has made it easy and in their minds justified to hold racist views, and oppose any government action that benefits blacks.

They are all your grandfather, they all fear they will be passed over, passed up or denied a job or replaced simply because they are white. It engenders the same reaction that it did in your grandfather across the entire white working class, and many react to it with racism of their own.

If you don't believe it, ask -any- white working class repub what he thinks about affirmative action.
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YOY Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Sep-16-09 04:13 PM
Response to Original message
2. It's easy and people with nothing to be proud of will be proud of the stupidest things.
e.g. For what they are versus what they have done personally.

That goes a long way for a lot of groups and takes a swipe at nationalism too.
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Zoeisright Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Sep-16-09 04:15 PM
Response to Original message
4. There are a whole lot of people with lots of hate in them.
Instead of hating those who actually hurt them, which takes some effort to discover, they'll just hate the easiest and laziest way: based on color of skin.

And there are a whole lot of people who only feel better about their sorry selves when they hate someone else.
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leftstreet Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Sep-16-09 04:15 PM
Response to Original message
5. Yes, it's because working class people are stoopid
It's a lot easier for angry working class whites to choose this simplistic explanation, (Since most of them are not as intelligent as my grandfather was)

:eyes: :eyes: :eyes:

(How many unRecs are we allowed per day?)
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arbusto_baboso Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Sep-16-09 04:17 PM
Response to Reply #5
7. Way to pick one phrase and characterize my whole post by it.
If you're trying to pick a fight, go elsewhere; I'm not rising to your flamebait.
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leftstreet Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Sep-16-09 04:21 PM
Response to Reply #7
13. You're explaining your gfather's racism by calling workers stupid
:wtf:

Yeah it's hard to pick anything out of your post that makes sense
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arbusto_baboso Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Sep-16-09 04:23 PM
Response to Reply #13
17. I can find at least one stupid person on this thread.
Look in your mirror and you'll find him.

I didn't say what you think I said, so stop taking offense at nothing.
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leftstreet Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Sep-16-09 04:28 PM
Response to Reply #17
22. You said your gfather had "an actual, real target for his hate"
Black people.

You excused his bigotry, and then went on to call working class people today stupid.

:wtf:
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arbusto_baboso Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Sep-16-09 04:29 PM
Response to Reply #22
24. I also said he reached the wrong conclusion and hated another victim.
You see only that which you choose to see, so I say right back atcha: :wtf:
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hfojvt Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Sep-18-09 12:26 PM
Response to Reply #7
50. flamebait my steel toed boots
If somebody wrote a post that was 1,000 words long and included the word 'ni%%er' that one word would characterize that person as a racist a$$hole, and rightly so. Your one phrase is evidence of bigotry against working class people in general that I think is unacceptable, and your defense of it here is not the height of logical argument.
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AllentownJake Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Sep-16-09 04:16 PM
Response to Original message
6. Simple Answer
We are tribal people. It is very easy for a tribe to identify itself by race. People who are educated learn to identify their tribes in different ways.

Most of the hatred is directed over access to resources. It is viewed as another tribe taking their turf. Why there is so much anti-immigration (well there always has been) feelings in the US. If you were making $13 an hour to do a job and than someone comes in and does it at $5 you have to make $5 an hour. You blame the person taking the $5 an hour for fucking up your lifestyle not the guy who is paying you $5 an hour.
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DesertFlower Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Sep-16-09 04:17 PM
Response to Original message
8. fortunately i was raised in a democratic
Edited on Wed Sep-16-09 04:18 PM by DesertFlower
family. never, ever did i hear racial slurs. my husband, on the other hand was raised by racists. fortunately he knew enough to think for himself, but his sister who is 58 still holds her parents beliefs.

BTW. back in 1977 my husband was supposed to get a promotion. he didn't because of affirmative action. he was a little pissed, but less than a year later he got the promotion.


on edit: my in-laws were not lower class. my father in law was a blue collar worker, but made a good living.
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anonymous171 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Sep-16-09 04:17 PM
Response to Original message
9. So are you saying that because working class whites aren't very intelligent, they are racist?
Edited on Wed Sep-16-09 04:21 PM by anonymous171
That relies on the upper class fallacy that people are well off because they are intelligent, and that people are poor because they are stupid. Nothing could be further from the truth.
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arbusto_baboso Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Sep-16-09 04:19 PM
Response to Reply #9
11. I am saying that the ones who are racist are not intelligent.
Or not enough to make a difference, anyway. But even the smarter ones like my grandfather can be drawn into racist sentiment under certain circumstances.

Btw, thank you for asking my intent rather than simply slamming my whole post before knowing what it is I was saying.
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mdmc Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Sep-16-09 04:21 PM
Response to Original message
12. lack of empathy
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Skidmore Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Sep-16-09 04:22 PM
Response to Original message
14. Fear and poverty and
history. Poverty and fear are companions. We are not that many generations removed from the Civil War, if you think about it. Some of the last CW vets died when I was a young adult. Jim Crow is within the memory of my parents' generation and my own generation. The poor compete for limited resources and history taught one group that they were more "deserving" than the other group of resources and survival. The CW was dirt hastily brushed under the national carpet and many issues were not dealt with by the generation that fought it. The resentments and fears have been woven within the fabric of families and the nation. Those threads need to be pulled out. We all need to participate in this task and not be afraid to face the very real manifestations of it in our families, towns/cities, regions, and the nation.
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subcomhd Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Sep-16-09 04:23 PM
Response to Original message
16. Gramscian hegemony theory. nt
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TxRider Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Sep-16-09 04:24 PM
Response to Original message
18. The exact same way you can label a group "angry middle class whites"
And assign blame, motives, and everything evil you want to about them without much of a second thought.

They become "the Evil Other, the "Them", the minority group that they don't know and can easily demonize."

It's human nature to do so.... It's part of our innate survival mechanism.

Our group, family, tribe, first... To be defended from other groups, tribes, etc.. In competition with "them" who we don't know..

Age old stuff there.

Critical thinking. To criticize ones own thoughts and thought processes.... Led me to this conclusion.

I do my best to try not to fall into the "them" trap.... In all circumstances.
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arbusto_baboso Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Sep-16-09 04:29 PM
Response to Reply #18
23. That's NOT what I said.
So stop reacting and just think.
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Obamanaut Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Sep-16-09 04:25 PM
Response to Original message
19. This is a lot of people being dismissed by this statement, sparky:
"Since most of them are not as intelligent as my grandfather was"

You knew, or know, "most of them" in order to make such a statement, or were you simply proud of grandpa? Either way, that's a lot of folks.
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arbusto_baboso Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Sep-16-09 04:27 PM
Response to Reply #19
21. See, it's this kind of banal nitpicking...
that usually makes me shy away from GD. You know damn well what I meant. And as for dismissing, you're dismissing a point that is bloody well valid, and you know it.
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Obamanaut Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Sep-16-09 05:17 PM
Response to Reply #21
39. Granted, I did not know Grandpa - but most people? Awesome!
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treestar Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Sep-16-09 04:26 PM
Response to Original message
20. There is no particular reason why a white person is worthier of a job
than a black person. If they are competing from the same place, the white has nothing but "I'm white" as an advantage. They tend to want to hang onto that, or have that be so.

It's no different when it comes to Mexicans or Indians these days. The white-black competition has died down. Now it's Americans who are worthier at birth to be employed.

Yet the competition between people on the lower rungs only hurts them - in fact it is Ford and the like that urge it on.

This quote:

"The working class? I am not afraid of the working class. I can pay half the working class to kill the other half." JP Morgan

Exemplifies that and explains all the Mexican/Indian/Chinese hatred we see daily on DU. Not to mention the right wing sites.
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anonymous171 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Sep-16-09 04:30 PM
Response to Reply #20
25. Do you have to compete with low wage mexican workers?
If you don't, you don't really have a right to dismiss their anger so easily. I'm not saying they are right, but that dismissal is one of the reasons they distrust lefties.
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treestar Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Sep-16-09 04:43 PM
Response to Reply #25
32. I don't see a way around it
but it's always been the case. Once it was the Irish. Or the African Americans. There's always someone on your own level to scapegoat. Rather than getting together with them and demanding equal treatment for all we let the JP Morgan's get us to direct our hate to people who are, after all, no worse than we are and not required to starve because we are "white" or "American." They're going to try to survive too.

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EmilyAnne Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Sep-16-09 04:31 PM
Response to Original message
26. My father went to all boy/ all white schools in Houston. The first meaningful contact with black men
was during the Vietnam War.
He said they attended something similar to what we call sensitivity training as a part of their basic.
I don't know how typical my father's experience was, but those men became his brothers.
He says that, as a unit, they had to trust one another equally with their lives.
Racism could cost someone their life, so with that on the table from the beginning, it just didn't belong there.

That experience changed him for life and I don't know that I have ever seen or heard any thing racist from him.
He's the kind of man who always, always, always stops to help someone change a tire or give a stranded person a lift.
In fact, another story I just remembered is that he and a friend were on their way home from college for Christmas when they passed through a town that had an all black school (Prairie View A&M).
They picked up two black hitchhikers who were also headed home for Houston.
It was raining really hard, and not ten minutes down the road, my dad's friend lost control and flipped it a few times before they landed upside down in a field.

My dad was in shock and running around in the road. He swears that the hitch hikers grabbed him and saved his life.
He said that the police were clearly put off by this "mix" of people in that car.
Also, relatives who showed up at the hospital were raising their eye brows when they heard about the two hitchhikers from Prairie View.

About the working class thing, I think you are on to something.
Its easier to blame your problems on another relatively powerless person than to take on the people who control the factory,.
Plus, its in the interest of these companies to create situations were racial tension is likely because they don't have to worry about a completely unified work forced.
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Sen. Walter Sobchak Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Sep-16-09 04:32 PM
Response to Original message
27. racism was a huge problem at my high school
Edited on Wed Sep-16-09 04:37 PM by Sen. Walter Sobchak
I went to high school in a part of California where a huge number of South Vietnamese and Iranian exiles settled after the fall of their respective governments and this was in an area that had been predominantly working class white and mostly the decedents of working class families who had come to southern california during WW2 to work in the war factories.

The resentment of the new arrivals came out of the fact they seemed to immediately prosper and immediately left their mark on the community. So despite the fact the new arrivals were the most ardent US allies in Vietnam and Iran they and especially their children immediately came to be called terrorists, gooks and worse.

Frankly the bigots were people who had never made any attempt to improve their station in life, placed no value in education and surrounded themselves with like minded people and just took for granted the job at the factory or garage or whatever would always be there for them as the world changed and the bubbas got squeezed out they found a convenient local target to lash out at. At the end of the day all they perceived themselves to have left and their only source of pride was their whiteness. "I may never own a car dealership, but atleast I am white, just like jesus!"
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anonymous171 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Sep-16-09 04:35 PM
Response to Reply #27
29. Ah, you had me until the last part.
A belief in, and a want of job security is not something to sneer at.
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Sen. Walter Sobchak Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Sep-16-09 04:49 PM
Response to Reply #29
33. No, but hating others who did something about it is.
Edited on Wed Sep-16-09 04:56 PM by Sen. Walter Sobchak
I grew up with refugees who were herded on to airplanes like cattle with only what they were carrying and only hours later delivered to a strange land with nothing but a heartfelt thanks for their dedication to their respective US backed regime. These families immediately set about putting lives together, building businesses and driving their children to succeed while the angry bubbas sat on their asses and had no greater expectation for their children than not getting pregnant or not getting anyone else pregnant.

If you look at my yearbooks from high school with each passing year you notice an increasing absence of white faces with each passing grade.

"Why finish high school? there will always be a job for you at Lockheed or McDonnell Douglas" Whooops!

The refugees didn't take their jobs, for the most part they made their own. The angry whites were tone deaf to a changing world and just lashed out at the nearest dark complexion.
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Nikki Stone1 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Sep-16-09 04:34 PM
Response to Original message
28. Working class whites have lost their unions and purchasing power and are being bated by
talk radio into thinking it's all the fault of "the welfare state" which is, of course code for "black people who won't get a job." Lots of race baiting out there.
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anonymous171 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Sep-16-09 04:36 PM
Response to Reply #28
30. +10000000000
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gratuitous Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Sep-16-09 04:38 PM
Response to Original message
31. I think there are powerful forces in our society
And some of those forces profit by dividing people. There are lots of ways to distract and divide people, and take advantage of their relative powerlessness to press an already considerable advantage. One of the ways people are distracted is by the empty promise of easy wealth. If someone is dirt poor, they come to resent people who are effortlessly wealthy (or seemingly so). However, if those wealthy people can persuade the dirt poor person that he, too, can become effortlessly wealthy somehow, someday, the dirt poor person will cast about for someone or something else as the cause of his poverty. And who is to say its totally outside the realm of possibility that a dirt poor person will become wealthy? Isnt that the American Dream?

Wealth and class differences have also worked hard over the decades to create their own distance physical, psychological and geographic. When the cause of your misery/plight/trouble is far away, its much easier and more convenient to find a cause that's closer. And those same powerful forces are eager to persuade people that the cause of their problems isnt the powerful force, remote and unreachable, but rather someone a lot closer: Someone who doesnt look like you. Someone who is really in the same situation as you, but who has a distinction that you can be persuaded is crucial: Theyre black, youre white; theyre female, youre male; theyre Scottish, youre Irish. Something. Anything! Its better for these forces to keep people divided and exploited than to let them start banding together and demand a bigger slice of the benefits of our common society.
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Scout Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Sep-16-09 04:52 PM
Response to Original message
34. the same things behind middle and upper class racism
hate and ignorance

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Yavin4 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Sep-16-09 04:58 PM
Response to Original message
35. Some People Believe In Phony Racial Solidarity
Some people believe that the skin color of their corporate masters give them some sort of racial bond, where none really exisits.

These corporate masters use their media power to reinforce this false solidarity, which is the reason why Rush, Sean, Beck, O'Reilly, et al. are compensated far above their actual value. Their job is to convince White working class men to support a political party whose economic policies are in direct contradiction to their economic survival.
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DrDan Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Sep-16-09 05:02 PM
Response to Original message
36. the racism that seems so rampant to me can be found among the elite - our legislators,
rich "entertainers" (ala the pigboy), athletes, etc.

Not sure this is a lower to lower-middle class problem.
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OHdem10 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Sep-16-09 05:15 PM
Response to Original message
37. Very good explanation and I think you are on to something.
In the South, politicians have exploited this in the past.
The blacks are going to get your job or your kids job.

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mitchum Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Sep-16-09 05:59 PM
Response to Reply #37
40. Exactly...I was going to reply that it was due to the Dixiefication of America
the privileged class has always exploited this in the south
and it has now infected the rest of the counry
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Cleita Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Sep-16-09 05:15 PM
Response to Original message
38. Fear, just plain and simple.
If you throw in a dose of ignorance, you've got yourself a prize xenophobic. We feared the other tribe back in the Stone Age because they were coming to take our resources and our children as slaves. It's pretty hard wired. This is where the ignorance comes in. With education about other cultures and ethnicities we discover that deep down they aren't much different than us.
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BlooInBloo Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Sep-16-09 06:01 PM
Response to Original message
41. They ENJOY being mean.
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RagAss Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Sep-16-09 06:02 PM
Response to Original message
42. So, did your grandfather remain unemployed forever?
I don't get it. That job was taken...did he get another one?
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blogslut Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Sep-16-09 06:18 PM
Response to Original message
43. Zinn's "A People's History of the United States" explains it well
It's a matter of the wealthy class dividing the poorer classes so that they will not band together.
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TheCentepedeShoes Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Sep-16-09 07:14 PM
Response to Original message
44. Something I heard
or a variation of, when I was a child (or even later):
"I may not be a Rockefeller but at least I ain't a (insert racial epithet here)" :eyes:
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Sen. Walter Sobchak Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Sep-18-09 11:51 AM
Response to Reply #44
45. I heard that one ALOT
Except it was "i may not be Reagan but at least I ain't a..."
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Hosnon Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Sep-18-09 11:53 AM
Response to Original message
46. According to many on DU, there can be no such thing because they are not powerful. nt.
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redqueen Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Sep-18-09 12:17 PM
Response to Original message
48. Primitive thinking, IMO.
We evolved in tribes, and learned to fear and hate the "other"... it's just primitive thinking that's long outlived its usefulness, IMO.

Add that to some people treating this kind of primitive BS as a tradition or even a 'value'... and there you have it.
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Mari333 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Sep-18-09 12:21 PM
Response to Original message
49. scapegoating
look what happened in post WW1 Germany...people were poor, the country was in shambles..they needed someone to blame..so Hitler used the Jews as a scapegoat..
its used now to stir up the masses by authoritarians...
scapegoat any class of people and blame them for your woes and then you wont be looking at who is REALY causing all the woes.
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