For Americans to fully understand the current racial divide in the United States, citizens need to delve deep into how “whiteness” has been constructed and re-constructed throughout history.
A Fusion video posted Tuesday, titled “White People: An Explainer,” took on that task and broke down how the U.S. went from being divided by class to being divided by race in the 17th century. It also shows how over time groups like the Irish, Italians, and Eastern Europeans have gone from being seen as “others” to being integrated into the privileged construct of whiteness.
“Whiteness is tricky,” journalist Anna Sterling said in the video. “Not all white people were created equal. White people with power have had to reconstruct the definition of whiteness over time. Luckily, they can do that because whiteness is just something made up and used as a tool to preserve power.”
Ultimately, as Sterling notes, the idea that white people are superior to other groups is what allowed many low-income white voters to choose a presidential candidate based on ethnic and not economic concerns.
“Donald Trump became the Republican nominee for president based largely on a platform of keeping out Mexicans and Muslims,” she said. “And instead of the poor and working class uniting, racial tension and xenophobia distract us from a very real division: money.”