Weep, Weep (Don't Weep) For The Poor (Not Poor) White Supremacists (Definitely White Supremacists)!
Last week, America was blessed with a tantalizing glimpse of the future. Black Twitter, farm Twitter, real estate Twitter, blue-check policy wonks, and trailer park Twitter came together as one. What for? To deep-fry Walker Bragman, whom I had never heard of before last week, for his ignorant assertion that white supremacist terrorism is caused by "economic circumstances."
Unfortunately for poverty tastemakers like Bragman, who once complained that Uber brings gross icky poors who sleep in their cars into his nice clean Hamptons, rural Americans use Twitter. They were quick to point out that building private armies to overthrow the government is a rich and middle-class man's game. Accordingly, this isn't the broken-down shack that Walker, East End Ranger thinks it is. It's messy because it was just raided by the FBI. The home is new, in good repair (as seen on its Zillow page), and owned, not rented. It's got a private dumpster. Those are costly: a de facto class marker in rural areas without trash service. Nearby residents complained Joseph Morrison brought large groups to use the whole neighborhood as their personal shooting range. In other words, the first people these men terrorized were their own neighbors — the very rural residents Bragman claims to speak for.
Explaining away domestic terrorism as symptom of poverty is false, it's condescending, and it's weaponized rich white men's nonsense. It's the other way around. White supremacy causes poverty. Real live rural activists know this from experience. We build on work like unionizing the Tar Heel plant, the world's largest slaughterhouse, where traditional race-blind labor organizing failed again and again. That's because the plant's white leadership purposefully sowed racial hostility in its workforce, pitting local Black workers against immigrant Latino labor. Only when labor organizers laid their usual race-blind tactics aside and tackled racism first were they able to unionize the plant.
Unlike Bragman, who handles rural poverty at a discreet kid-glove distance, rural activists like me can't escape how white supremacy drives poverty. I live 20 minutes from the Tar Heel plant in Bladen County. Yes, that Bladen County, home of the infamous NC-09 election fraud scandal. Ballot fraud targeted poor rural meat plant workers, who are disproportionately Black and brown. Now Tar Heel workers get to try and live through a pandemic in a workplace that's one of the main hotspots for COVID-19 in our whole state. If terrorism were really about poverty, Bladen County, North Carolina's soggy trailer parks full of broke, sick Black and brown meat workers would be ground zero.
I used to do food safety checks for farms in rural southern Michigan. These weren't government inspections. Farmers ordered and paid for them. Even so, one client skipped a lot of basic public health measures, like storing tools indoors where rats can't get to them. He thought we were a diploma-mill. He became so enraged that I actually did my job and docked points that, afterwards, he tailed me down the road and tried to run me off it. I saw his truck coming up in the rear-view mirror and gunned it. Like last week's arrestees, he preferred femicide to meeting basic responsibilities to public health. He peeled off when we hit the town limit, too chicken for vehicular homicide in front of witnesses, I guess.
Just last month, another farmer in southern Michigan got in the news for yelling the N-word at a Mexican farmworker on camera. (For those keeping score at home, yes. He 1. yelled racial slurs at staff and 2. can't keep his slurs straight.) Neither man behaved this way because they're poor or powerless. In fact, both own a lot of property. Both already have a lot of control over other people. They use violence to stay in control. That's what drove last week's arrestees too. Rural desperation is real — and it's not what drove these men to plot a coup. That's just basic thirst to dominate.
This is what the rural poor are up against. The rural upper class, from meat plants all the way down to the petty bourgeoisie, rules by violence both public and intimate. It's almost always white men dominating those they deem inferior: women, men of color, and laborers. There's an entire wing of farm twitter dedicated to ending this behavior. We live here and we know exactly where rural poverty comes from: white male violence. That's why the loudest voices shouting "Poverty causes white supremacy" aren't working people in rural areas. They're well-heeled racists who desperately need to sell white supremacy as the (white) people's choice.
But as we saw last week, most people already know this. That's brought Americans from all different walks of life together to bond over one poverty-splaining buffoon from the Hamptons. And that's a common bond that we can build on.
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