this was to be a commentary on the plight of the white middle
class, but that demographic no longer exists in America.
So, let’s talk about the swindling of the white working
And although it has all come to a head in the past few years,
it is a story that is years in the making. If Stockholm
Syndrome relates to the feeling of empathy that kidnap victims
have with their captors, then certainly what we are witnessing
today is a Stockholm Syndrome of those on the losing end
of American capitalism.
To single out white working people is not to assume that
others are immune from identifying with those who would
exploit them financially - their own economic kidnappers,
if you will. At the same time, it was white working folks
who made a deal with the devil a long time ago. And now
they’ve been sent the invoice from that Faustian bargain.
Allow me to explain.
American capitalism has promoted the mythology of the “American
Dream,” the notion that everyone has a chance to get rich.
In pursuit of that dream, poor and working white Americans
chose their enemy years ago. They made a conscious decision
to side with the “1 percenters” whose feet were firmly placed
on their neck, rather than with similarly situated black
and brown common folk. They decided it was those of a darker
hue whose progress stood in the way of their own movement
up the ladder.
Generation after generation, they fought and died in wars,
someone else’s beef, designed to protect the interests of
the 1 percent.
They opposed social programs that had any chance of helping
blacks, even if they stood to benefit from the programs
themselves. And ultimately they failed to join forces with
workers of color to build a strong labor movement. As a
result of that fatal decision, the jobs moved offshore to
where the labor costs were cheapest. Chinese slave laborers
are now making our iPhones, iPads, X-Boxes and other toys,
and now even Chinese workers are becoming too expensive.
The most impoverished European immigrant had neither a pot
nor a window to throw it out of. But at least he or she
was not black, and thus could be considered a real American.
Though poor whites had far more in common with their poor
black-, Latino-, Asian- and Native-American counterparts
than with some Wall Street banker or fat cat industrialist,
nonetheless they viewed racial minority groups and others
as the enemy. That’s how scapegoats are created.
So, the blame is not placed where it should, which is the
über-wealthy sucking the lifeblood out of democracy. Rather
the problem is identified as affirmative action, or welfare
queens, or undocumented Mexican immigrants. Solutions to
the nation’s woes are offered in the form of mass incarceration
and the death penalty. Tighter social controls are introduced
in the form of bans on Sharia law and Latino studies, voter
ID, draconian anti-immigrant legislation and prohibitions
on same-sex marriage.
Culture wars are the ultimate shell game, a cheap parlor
trick of smoke and mirrors to mask the wide scale corporate
theft taking place. These cultural issues - which also
include gun proliferation and the war against a woman’s
reproductive rights, including contraception - will do nothing
to improve anyone’s station in life. Yet these time-tested
culture wars are fought because someone is betting that
the common folk will take the bait. And usually, such is
Meanwhile, the sanctimonious and self-righteous rightwing
among us, a morals police and Christian Taliban of sorts,
would distract us with fertilized egg personhood and mandatory
sonograms for women seeking an abortion. But in the face
of injustice, like the white clergy in Martin Luther King’s
Letter from Birmingham Jail, they “have been more cautious than courageous and have remained silent
behind the anesthetizing security of stained glass windows.”
King called the contemporary
church “a weak, ineffectual voice with an uncertain sound.
So often it is an archdefender of the status quo. Far from
being disturbed by the presence of the church, the power
structure of the average community is consoled by the church's
silent - and often even vocal - sanction of things as they
So, those who obsess over the sex lives of private citizens
have said little about our national scourge of economic
inequality or the suffering of the poor - you know, the
stuff Jesus talked about. Preoccupied as they are with
birth control bans and zygote rights, they were conspicuously
silent when the living among them suffered and the innocent
died. Last year, when the state of Georgia killed Troy
Davis, an innocent black man, they said nothing. And they
had remained silent seven years earlier, when the state
of Texas wrongfully executed Cameron Todd Willingham, an
innocent white man.
Yet, there is hope that for their own sake, people will not
fall for the shell game forever. There is a chance that
citizens are waking up, resisting the Stockholm Syndrome,
and refusing to act against their economic self-interests.
The spirit of the Occupy movement has liberated the public
discourse, an alternative to the neo-segregationist Tea
Party and its reliance on racial scapegoats.
David A. Love wrote this commentary as the Executive Director
of Witness to Innocence, a
national nonprofit organization that empowers exonerated
death row prisoners and their family members to become effective
leaders in the movement to abolish the death penalty.
BlackCommentator.com Executive Editor, David
A. Love, JD is a journalist and human rights advocate based
in Philadelphia, is a graduate of Harvard College and the University
of Pennsylvania Law School. and a contributor to The Huffington
Post, the Grio, The Progressive
Media Project, McClatchy-Tribune News Service,
Times and Philadelphia
Independent Media Center. He also blogs at davidalove.com, NewsOne, Daily Kos, and Open Salon. Click here to contact Mr. Love.