Greg B. is a regular commenter on the blog. He lives in Ohio. He is deeply knowledgeable about German history and literature. I enjoy his comments.

He wrote:

As much as many Americans crow about being the land of the free, etc., they don’t like to do the work of being citizens, much less engaged. With citizenship comes responsibility. When one is engaged with the history of this nation, one understands that the enslavement of Africans who were transported here and their descendants literally built this country. While we learn about elites, it was enslaving Americans that created capitalism and wealth for whites around the world. The descendants of those whites have benefitted immeasurably from the status quo and keeping status regardless of quo. Even those who weren’t direct descendants, yes even people who immigrated to the US in the 19th through 21st century have benefitted by virtue of not having immediately identifiable physical traits.

Those who continue to complain that they didn’t benefit from racism, who claim merit got them to where they are, conveniently forget that a large portion of the population never ever gets the chance to prove merit. And if they can, they are not promoted, they are paid less, and they are segregated to live in certain areas. Those who claim merit are scared of real competition; they like the game rigged, one that gives them advantages before they even start playing and excludes everyone else. They may claim equal opportunity, but they see in “woke” a threat to their status. Even poor whites in West Virginia and Utah don’t realize they’re being played as pawns.

For Black History Month, I reread a classic on enslavement and found these two nuggets that help explain it all: “The willingness of many white southerners to unite around the idea of hanging on to racial power made the South a swing region, and white southerners a defined interest group, willing to join whichever national party was willing to cater to its demands.” And, “…the unbending anger of former Confederates against Reconstruction morphed into their grandchildren’s suspicion of the New Deal, and the insistence of the part of white southern Democrats that measures against the Depression could do nothing to alleviate black poverty or lessen white supremacy.” That’s what they want to keep up.

Nostalgia for “The Lost Cause” and deep-seated racism keep white southerners tethered to a political party that keeps them poor.