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The American Con Game

Melvin B. Miller
The American Con Game
“I told you Josephus, it’s the nigras who are your enemy. You and I belong to the same race.” (Photo: Dan Drew)

The race problem persists in America. Reaction to Donald Trump’s hostile remarks indicates that it is alive and well. Remedies for the problem have had only limited results. There is no consensus on what has provoked the conflict. Some now believe that whites with modest incomes have been intentionally deceived by the plutocrats in order to establish a conflict among working-class Americans to prevent them from organizing for social change.

This notion might seem far-fetched, but what is the hostile conduct of African Americans toward whites that could justify such racial antagonism? Racial or ethnic hostilities between disparate groups are quite common, but there is usually an incident or a historical practice that foments the controversy. In ancient times, tribes went to war over territorial disputes, water rights or control of trading routes. Some groups even thrived by pillaging others. In modern times, religious differences have been a major source of conflict. However, there is no evidence of any mass violence of African Americans against whites.

America’s Founding Fathers were primarily the descendants of adventurous Europeans who had arrived after Jamestown (1607) and Plymouth (1620). Of the 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence (1776), 43 were believed to be slave owners. It is also significant that an estimated one-half to two-thirds of the U.S. immigrants in colonial times were indentured servants from Europe. In some Southern states there were more African slaves than white residents. The framers of the U.S. Constitution had to be concerned about extending the right to vote to a group they considered to be rabble that is large enough to vote them out of office.

Therefore, the right to vote was initially restricted to citizens with significant property. Specifically excluded were women, slaves and the poor. An early effort was to establish with pseudoscience that Africans belonged to an inferior race and that all whites were superior. U.S. Sen. John S. Calhoun from South Carolina had stated in an 1849 speech in the U.S. Senate: “With us the two great divisions of society are not the rich and the poor, but white and black, and all the former, the poor as well as the rich, belong to the upper class, and are respected and treated as equals, if honest and industrious, and hence have a position and pride of character of which neither poverty nor misfortune can deprive them.”

In 1857, Chief Justice Roger Taney of the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the Dred Scott case that blacks “are so far inferior that they had no rights which the white man was bound to respect.” Perhaps Taney’s ruling and Calhoun’s assertion inspired white sharecroppers to risk their lives in the Civil War so that wealthy landowners could keep their slaves.

The political problem became even greater for the plutocrats with the 13th Amendment ending slavery in 1865, followed by ratification of the 14th Amendment (1868) that granted citizenship to the slaves, as well as the 15th Amendment (1870) that assured them the right to vote. The coalition of blacks with the white working class would change the nation’s priorities substantially. Since the end of slavery, there has been a major propaganda campaign to demean blacks and convince whites that African Americans are primarily responsible for almost every difficulty in their lives.

When one considers the disinformation published about blacks, the reason has to be to establish the inferiority of blacks in the minds of whites. Clearly, whites in America have been subjected to a continual con game that is designed to disrupt affable interracial relations. It seems clear that a major purpose is to prevent political collaboration. The question is when will working class white Americans step up and stop being fooled?