Your Ancestors weren’t Worth Shit
It is the habit of any right-wing movement or ideology to look backwards. To look back not necessarily at the historical past, accurately remembered, recorded, and recounted, but a mythical past, one romanticized and full of aggrandizing falsehoods. Whether the rhetoric of common reactionary conservatives or radical fascists, there is the regular and consistent invocation of a glorious past that must be returned to in the interest of future advancement.
“Remember the good old days.”
“Make America great again.”
Such phrases act on impressionable minds, particularly those feeling disadvantaged and disenfranchised, as though they had power and have had it taken from them, inspiring them to join a cause promising a return to that mythic past. That such movements are unlikely to do any such thing, and that such a time never existed, eludes them.
Putting aside the often addressed loophole in the “maga” phrase, that its implicit intent is to make the country “great” for a specific group, low-class whites, at the expense of all other racial groups and classes, in reality it is meant to serve primarily upper class whites, because that was the nature of the time-period being evoked. The mantra is inherently racist, sexist, and xenophobic in that it glamorizes the long time during which the power of white men was paramount. But it is also by its nature classist, because as has always been the case in this country and throughout the “western” world, that it is wealthy whites who are and have been dominant. Being white carries a lot of privilege, being male even more, but there is a gulf between wealthy and poor whites.
In the “good old days,” when blacks and women were property, non-christians and suarthier whites were persona non grata, and homosexuals didn’t exist, it was not the case that everything was great for the majority of white people. They were better off than those other, bottom-rung classes, but hardly thriving. If you were a rich white male propertied land owner, you were doing splendidly, but everyone else was essentially in the shit heap. Prior to African slaves being brought over to what were then British colonies, the labor force consisted of white people, who were ostensibly enslaved. They were poor, without options in Europe, and typically had their passage to North America paid for by the wealthy landed class already settled here. Once arriving, they were contractually bound in servitude to those rich pricks, who could do with them as they pleased, including beating, rape, and torture, and in some cases murder. A difference between these poor white servants and the kidnapped black slaves who replaced them, was that the white indentured servants could eventually earn their freedom and possibly even some compensation in the form of capital, land, or civil rights (generally at the expense of Native Americans and Black slaves).
That does not mean that there is a legitimate comparison between the exploitation that poor whites endured and that which was forced on Blacks in the formation of this country, but is meant to highlight the fact that the majority of contemporary white Americans are not descended from a superior ethnic group; they descend from a despised underclass whose existence at the mercy of their wealthy superiors progressed only to the extent they were allowed by the wealthy elites, and that they were afforded even that meager privilege was for the circumstance of their being white.
Throughout slavery, and the entirety of United States history, there was never a period when all people of any racial or ethnic class was doing well. It was always the case that there were a small number of exorbitantly wealthy people at the top, a great majority at the bottom, and just enough allowed to be in the “middle,” given relative privilege, greater than the lower class, but far lower than the upper class.
The idea that the working class (white or otherwise) ever had it good in this country is a fantasy. Sure, there were brief periods when a coal miner or factory worker could at least buy a house and provide for their family. But for all of our history, the majority of people, particularly those of the working class, the laborers, have been exploited. It has long been the tactic of the powerful minority to obfuscate the problems of the working class, namely the exploitation of them by the ruling class, and direct their aggressions against those even worse off than themselves, be they black, brown, native, or immigrant.
The mythical past to which the indoctrinated masses of the far-right movements seek to return is a fantasy, and the best they can hope for is to return to a time when they again occupy that precarious “middle-class,” still at the mercy of the wealthy elite, but at least not as poorly off as those at the very bottom. But make no mistake:
You’re not special.
You’re not the descendant of important people.
Your ancestors weren’t worth shit.