Oscar-nominated director Matthew Cooke produced a short PSA called “Race Baiting 101” that is absolutely brilliant. This 11-minute piece explains the history of the American slave system and how it still affects us 150 years after it was “abolished”.
One of the most interesting things discussed in the piece is the often-overlooked 3-tiered caste system established in the 1670s: (in order of hierarchy) rich whites, poor whites, black slaves.
This law enforcement system was created when black slaves and white indentured servants (considered equal before then) became allies in their fight for equality. Once put in place, this system gave more privileges to the poor whites, effectively breaking their alliance with the black slaves, and protected the financial interests of the rich whites (now known as the “masters”), which was completely dependent on free slave labor. With the often-false belief that they could improve their class status if they worked hard enough, poor whites were now considered better than black slaves, whose rights had been diminished to none.
Sound familiar? It should: this system is still alive today, although it now looks like this: The 1%, White America, Everyone Else.
This caste system was propagated during and after the abolishment of slavery (among other things) by minstrel shows, the myth of the big black brute, and in most recent years by black criminals in movies and televisions shows as well as the rise of “reality shows” such as Love And Hip Hop. Keep the poor whites and the blacks apart, and the rich can remain in power.
Yes, there are a few exceptions to the rule (re: Oprah, Will Smith, etc.), but the overall system is largely intact. It can be seen in the incarceration rates, the over-policing of blacks and other minorities, as well as the propaganda fed by the media (90% of which is owned by 6 companies) that consistently paint minorities as criminals (even when innocent) while praising whites (even when guilty).
Prime example: this article by the New Yorker that tries to explain and sympathize with the “plight” of Darren Wilson, the still-unapologetic cop who killed Michael Brown, an unarmed black teen. Wilson (along with the media) painted Brown as a monster and Wilson as the white hero, while reality says that Brown was shot in the back while trying to escape a cop drunk with power and pride.
You can see the clear racial/class divide in this CNN clip on CNN Tonight. Black journalist Marc Lamont Hill largely discredits the article for painting Wilson as a victim and sympathizing with his hypocritical perspective: Wilson grew up poor with a criminal mother, yet essentially classified blacks in Ferguson as the “wrong culture”. Yet, white law enforcement representative Jeff Roorda discredits the article for painting Wilson as a racist, which he apparently knows personally to not be true.
— CNN Tonight (@CNNTonight) August 4, 2015
Will we ever see the day when equality truly exists? It’s hard to say. However, with books like The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander and A People’s History of The United States by Howard Finn, as well as the Race Baiting short film, it is hard to remain ignorant of the truth.