Supposedly late one night in Tennessee in the 1960’s after the last bottle of bourbon was finished, President Lyndon Baines Johnson said, “If you can convince the lowest white man he’s better than the best colored man, he won’t notice you’re picking his pocket. Hell, give him somebody to look down on, and he’ll empty his pockets for you.”
The quote has been verified however; whether he said it after the last bottle of bourbon was finished is up for debate.
President Johnson was from Texas, he grew up in the South and understood the politics of racism from the inside, and he saw it as a ploy to divide and conquer.
I have wondered for years how people could be convinced to vote against their own self-interest, and here was President Johnson, putting it out there on how to control some poor, uneducated and uninformed white folks.
But those were simpler times, and the people he was referring to could find jobs, manufacturing was strong, imports were not as prevalent, you didn’t need to tell people to “Buy American.” When they bought, they bought American. Equal rights laws were just coming into existence so while it was tough for many whites they were still doing better than most of the best colored men, and people like LBJ knew just how to use that to their advantage.
It is apparent that many of our modern day politicians have taken a page or two from President Johnson’s playbook and they have added a few of their own that revolve around several ideological beliefs.
Belief number one is that “they” are coming for your guns but we are here to protect that right, the second is that “they” believe in killing babies but we are here to protect babies, then there is the one that “they” are trying to take GOD out of our lives but we are here to protect your religious rights and finally “they” believe that it is okay for same sex marriage and partner rights and we are here to protect the natural order that we believe that GOD has deemed.
Now add those strategies to the reality that it is tougher today for the people he was referencing to distinguish themselves as better than the best colored man (black man), brown man or yellow man and that is a problem. Consider President Barack Obama, no matter how hard you try, it is hard to convince yourself that you are better than this colored man that is the Ivy League educated President of the United States. So many are left with questioning his legitimacy as a way to validate their value and they become hell bent on discarding anything that has his fingerprints on it even if it is against their own self-interest.
There is no doubt that racism was at the heart of it. However; I would argue that President Johnson’s revelation was more about “classism”, and a way for those with money (the upper class) to control the lower working class without the actual system of aristocracy that existed in Great Britain. The colored man was a convenient pawn. And the upper class has continued to manipulate the lower working class by simply refining their strategies to divide and conquer.
In the early 1980’s President Ronald Reagan introduced the concept of “trickle-down economics” convincing many lower working class people that they need to allow companies and the well off to do better. Because when they do better it trickles down to them, and unfortunately some poor, uneducated, uninformed working class people have been waiting since the 1980’s for the economics to trickle-down to them.
And that is one of the problems that we now face, because we have not seen trickle-down economics and it has to be somebody’s fault and this is where the ruling class has gotten really good, they have now convinced some poor, working class folks that all of their problems are the result of “them” black, brown and yellow people, you can toss in big government just to add a little spice. They and government are the ones taking your jobs, we did not outsource them; “they” are the ones looking for handouts, while the real numbers show that the largest percentage of entitlements do not go to minorities.
And here we are at healthcare repeal and replace, every analysis you find suggests that the proposed changes will affect the poor uneducated folks backing Trump and the Republican Party disproportionately, but we march on because “Obamacare” isn’t good, it can’t be. Remember it came from the illegitimate president, so while it will hurt us to repeal it, it has to go.
We have to hope that people in this country wake up before it is too late, not just with healthcare but with many complex issues that we face, that they go back and read the words of President Johnson and remember that there are people out there who believe what he believed: “If you can convince the lowest white man he’s better than the best colored man, he won’t notice you’re picking his pocket. Hell, give him somebody to look down on, and he’ll empty his pockets for you.” People, we have to stop emptying our pockets.
Samuel P. Martin, is the Publisher of The Birmingham Times, (Alabama)