Racism as a political tool

I am mulling over something I recently read: the assertion that racism arose in the colonial US as a tool to keep the subordinates divided and subdued (Howard Zinn, A People’s History of the United States). The poor whites, the enslaved blacks, and the Native Americans had a common enemy in the colonial elite. Instances of rebellions by various combined forces support the idea that the elites feared their collusion. Laws were enacted to prevent collaboration as well as to encourage indentured whites to identify with the elites by promising them economic spoils at the end of their servitude.

I wonder how thinly disguised (or maybe not so thinly disguised) racism is currently being used as a divide and conquer tactic in the US. Certainly different groups have similar beefs with the status quo and the power structure. Keeping them separated and fearing each other through racism (and discrimination in general) is one way to ensure no uprising.

How much does racism as a tool to ensure the security of the elites play a part in the current immigration debacle? Nothing is happening. No Congressional resolution is in sight for the “problem” of immigrants in modern-day US. How much is the fear of the Other, the fear of the immigrant, being stoked to ensure the status quo? The fear of jobs, culture, and identity is raised. But is this legitimate? Or is it disguised racism to keep political, social, and economic inferiors in the US in their place?


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