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Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Explanation that Jim Crow Harmed Working Class Whites As Well As Blacks

August 29, 2019

Frederick Douglass and Angela Davis and even a white slave-owner made the same point, that racial discrimination against non-whites ALSO harmed working class whites. Read about this at this footnote.*


[Also please read "Is it a 'Privilege' Not to be Discriminated Against?"]

[Also please read "Racial Discrimination Against Non-Whites is Rampant and Harms Working Class People of ALL Races"]

[Also please read "Why and How Big Money Promotes "White Privilege" Rhetoric"]

[Also please read "How Jim Crow Laws Harmed Poor Whites in the South"]

[Also please read "The Confederacy was a con job on whites. And still is" by Frank Hyman]

[Read "What CRT Censors"]

The U.S. government killed MLK, Jr. Read about that here.



MLK, Jr. gave a speech (click here to see it in full) March 25, 1965 at Selma, Alabama, in which he carefully explained how the Southern aristocracy INVENTED racial segregation and Jim Crow for the purpose of keeping both the working class blacks AND working class whites in poverty, i.e., how Jim Crow was an attack on poor whites as well as blacks. Far too many otherwise sensible people think that Jim Crow BENEFITED the poor whites, which is totally false.

I have included the relevant excerpt from King's speech below, and you can listen to King saying these words during his speech here.

I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to understand what King explains here about the real purpose and effect of Jim Crow (and, hence, racial discrimination in general.)

The ruling class does not want us to understand this. That is why the ruling class censors the fact that, among working class people, AN INJURY TO ONE IS AN INJURY TO ALL. That is also why the ruling class has worked hard to replace the good phrase, "racial discrimination" (which points the accusing finger at the person or institution that is doing the discriminating) with the horrible divisive phrase "white privilege" (which points the accusing finger at working class whites with the false assertion that they benefit from [the word privilege means, by definition, a benefit] racial discrimination against non-whites), as you can read about here.

The ruling class wants working class whites to believe that anti-racism is code for anti-white. The Left agrees with the ruling class big lie on this, and not only loves the phrase "white privilege" but also thinks it is a good idea to attack working class whites just because they are white in the name of anti-racism, as you can read about here.


"Our whole campaign in Alabama has been centered around the right to vote. In focusing the attention of the nation and the world today on the flagrant denial of the right to vote, we are exposing the very origin, the root cause, of racial segregation in the Southland. Racial segregation as a way of life did not come about as a natural result of hatred between the races immediately after the Civil War. There were no laws segregating the races then. And as the noted historian, C. Vann Woodward, in his book, The Strange Career of Jim Crow, clearly points out, the segregation of the races was really a political stratagem employed by the emerging Bourbon interests in the South to keep the southern masses divided and southern labor the cheapest in the land. You see, it was a simple thing to keep the poor white masses working for near-starvation wages in the years that followed the Civil War. Why, if the poor white plantation or mill worker became dissatisfied with his low wages, the plantation or mill owner would merely threaten to fire him and hire former Negro slaves and pay him even less. Thus, the southern wage level was kept almost unbearably low.

"Toward the end of the Reconstruction era, something very significant happened. That is what was known as the Populist Movement. The leaders of this movement began awakening the poor white masses and the former Negro slaves to the fact that they were being fleeced by the emerging Bourbon interests. Not only that, but they began uniting the Negro and white masses into a voting bloc that threatened to drive the Bourbon interests from the command posts of political power in the South.

"To meet this threat, the southern aristocracy began immediately to engineer this development of a segregated society. I want you to follow me through here because this is very important to see the roots of racism and the denial of the right to vote. Through their control of mass media, they revised the doctrine of white supremacy. They saturated the thinking of the poor white masses with it, thus clouding their minds to the real issue involved in the Populist Movement. They then directed the placement on the books of the South of laws that made it a crime for Negroes and whites to come together as equals at any level. And that did it. That crippled and eventually destroyed the Populist Movement of the nineteenth century."


Some people just don't understand why, among ordinary people, AN INJURY TO ONE IS AN INJURY TO ALL, which is the point MLK, Jr. is making with respect to the injury of Jim Crow laws and how it harms "ALL" (ordinary people) including poor whites.

People who don't understand this say things such as, "White people benefit from white privilege when the police wrongfully kill blacks disproportionately more often than when they wrongfully kill whites."

Here is the false premise behind this wrong statement. The false premise is that the police are going to wrongfully kill a certain total number of people and nothing can ever change that number, so the only thing that can conceivably vary is what proportion of that given total of wrongful killings will be of blacks and what proportion will be of whites; if it's more blacks then it will be fewer whites.

So, given this false premise (that the total killed is fixed and unchangeable), then yes, if the cops kill disproportionately more blacks than whites then a white person will have a lower probability of being killed than otherwise, and will benefit from this fact.

But here's the thing. The premise (a fixed total killed) is false. And the conclusion that follows from it is also false. Here's an easy way to see this.

Let's say you have a dearly beloved brother. And let's say that, for some reason, you believe that either you or your brother is going to be murdered and there is absolutely nothing that can change that fact, and therefore the only two possible outcomes are that either you will be murdered or your brother will be murdered. Now let's say that your brother was murdered. Well, given your prior belief (premise) that one of you would for sure be murdered, you would have a logical reason to think, "Boy am I a lucky person. I have benefited from the fact that my brother was murdered; the murder of my brother benefited me."

But if you knew that the premise (i.e., that for sure one of you will be murdered) is false, then it would be crazy to think that the murder of your brother benefited you. Right? You would know that the murder of your beloved brother harmed you as well as harming (obviously!) your brother. Right?

Now apply this little lesson to the larger question about whether systemic racial discrimination against non-whites (such as Jim Crow in the past and similar things such as police violence today) harms or benefits ordinary whites.

Let's say you believe the premise that there is going to be a certain total amount of oppression and suffering of ordinary people (all races combined)--due to the domination of our society by a rich and powerful and privileged ruling upper class that treats ordinary people like dirt in order to maintain the class inequality that is the basis for its vast wealth and power and privilege. If this is what you believe, then you will also very logically believe that what's bad for ordinary black people will be good for ordinary white people. If you see that ordinary black people are made to suffer more than ordinary white people, you will quite logically conclude that this "white privilege" benefits ordinary white people, since the only alternative is to end the "white privilege" and have more white suffering (with less black suffering.)

But again, the premise if false. There is no reason why the total amount of suffering is a fixed and unchangeable amount. The total amount of suffering can be reduced. How? Only one way! By the combined efforts of all races of ordinary people in struggle against the ruling upper class, in other words with solidarity among all races of ordinary people. Read here what happened when poor whites and poor blacks realized this in the 1930s Deep South under Jim Crow.

Guess what? The ruling class--for obvious reasons!--does not want us to know that the total amount of suffering can be reduced this way. The ruling class wants us to believe the false premise that the total amount of suffering is fixed and unchangeable, and that the ONLY question is how much of this suffering will be borne by blacks and how much by whites.

The idea of solidarity among all races of ordinary people to challenge the power of the upper class is an idea that the ruling class has worked very hard to try to eliminate from the minds of all of us. Those of us who unfortunately do not have this idea in their head, and who thus believe the false premise about the total amount of suffering being unchangeable, and who are not even aware that they believe a false premise because they cannot even conceive of an alternative to it, are people who just do not understand why, as MLK, Jr. tries to explain, AN INJURY TO ONE IS AN INJURY TO ALL.  Such people have no clue--cannot even conceive--that the PURPOSE of systemic racial discrimination against non-whites is to foment fear and mistrust and resentment between whites and non-whites in order to undermine their solidarity and thus protect the upper class and maintain the high level of oppression that harms ordinary people of ALL races.

Such people think the same way the fool does who thinks that he/she enjoys a benefit when their brother is murdered.


I just read a book, Ben Fletcher: The Life and Times of a Black Wobbly, by Peter Cole, about some black leaders of the IWW (Industrial Workers of the World, a.k.a. Wobblies) around the time of World War I. The IWW, unlike virtually all of the other big unions in the U.S., aimed for working class solidarity (all races!), which they very correctly said was the ONLY thing that enabled workers of ANY race to successfully challenge the power of the capitalist class. Here are some excerpts (the emphases are mine) from articles by black Wobblies in the leadership of the the IWW's Local 8 of the Marine Transport Workers Industrial Union. It is clear they were saying the same thing that MLK, Jr. said about racial discrimination: that it undermined solidarity between white and non-white workers and thereby harmed workers of ALL races.

Ben Fletcher:

"In these United States of America less than 4 percent of Negro Labor is organized. Fully 16 percent of the Working Class in this country are Negroes. No genuine attempt by Organized Labor [which is mainly white--JS] to wrest any worthwhile and lasting concessions from the Employing Class can succeed as long as Organized Labor for the most part is indifferent and in opposition to the fate of Negro Labor...

"The secret of Employing Class rule and Industry's control, is the division and lack of cohesion existing in the ranks of Labor. None can dispute the fact that Organized Labor's Attitude of indifference and often outspoken opposition to Negro Labor, contributes a vast amount to this division and lack of cohesion...

"Until organized labor, generally casts aside the bars of race exclusion, and enrolls Negro Labor within its ranks on a basis of complete sincere fraternity, no general effort of steel, railroad, packing house, building trades workers or any workers for that matter, to advance from the yoke of Industrial slavery can succeed....

"Collective dealing with the Employing Class, is the only way by which Labor can procure any concessions from them of effect and meaning. It is the only way in which to establish Industrial freedom. This holds good for Negro as well as white labor." [pg. 104-6]

William D. "Dan" Jones:

"It is an undeniable fact that the employers will use one race or one group of workers to defeat the other group. Whenever the employers are successful in destroying the benefits achieved by the most advanced group by using the other group, they also destroy the chances of both groups for advancement. In so-doing they succeed in lowering the standard of the workers to a level of poverty....

"In mixed [racially integrated] unions there often arises internal controversy, especially when the epithet "nigger" is used which is the pride of Americans. This usually occurs when they want to take advantage of the other fellow. For instance if something occurs that is to the advantage of one group and not to the other, there is jealousy and dissatisfaction, with the less fortunate group contending that discrimination has been used. This will keep up an eternal controversy. the best way to overcome such a condition is to use a mixed working force. Especially in selecting officers should this be done....

"There is no advantage to the Negro in being in a separate union. It is true that he would do his own bidding, and, should he receive the largest percentage of the work, there is no doubt that it would be the most laborious kind in the industry. He would be expected to produce more than the white unions and take a smaller wage. One can readily see that would give the employer the opportunity to defeat both [the white and the black--JS] unions and in so doing would benefit only himself." [pg 107-9]


Frederick Douglass in his My Bondage and My Freedom wrote:

"The slaveholders, with a craftiness peculiar to themselves, by encouraging the enmity of the poor, laboring white man against the blacks, succeeds in making the said white man almost as much a slave as the black slave himself. The difference between the white slave, and the black slave, is this: the latter belongs to one slaveholder, and the former belongs to all the slaveholders, collectively. The white slave has taken from him, by indirection, what the black slave has taken from him directly, and without ceremony. Both are plundered, and by the same plunderers. The slave is robbed, by his master, of all his earnings, above what is required for his bare physical necessities; and the white man is robbed by the slave system, of the just results of his labor, because he is flung into open competition with a class of laborers who work without wages."


Angela Davis said in this 1972 video (it's also here at time 3:52).

"Racism, in terms of its material base, means super-exploitation. Economically it means that black people get the worst of the entire lot economically. It also means that the capitalist, the boss, is able to divide black workers from white workers. Why? Because he tells the white worker that his problem is not those who control his life, those who take his labor and turn it into profit for themselves, but his problem is the black man who's trying to get his job. And so racism is operated as a divisive force to prevent the emergence of a real revolution in this country."

A white slave-owner admitted that slavery kept the poor whites poor. Read about one typical slave-owner admitting this, as reported by the Northern visitor he admitted it to in a book reviewed in an 1862 publication, when, after the slave--owner explained to the author that the slave-owners' power relied mainly on getting the poor whites to vote for the pro-slavery politicians [both major parties, the Democratic and Whig, were pro-slavery] was asked by the author, "Then free-schools and education would destroy slavery?" and the slave-owner replied:

"Of course they would. If the poor whites realized that slavery kept them poor would they not vote it down?" [Pg. 541]

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