“Poor whites are being conned”

So writes Leonard Pitts, a columnist for the Miami Herald who’s trying to understand why Barack Obama lost so decisively in West Virginia (and later in Kentucky). If there’s a victim here, it’s not Senator Obama.

“The white poor have been victims of a con job going back at least as far as the Civil War, when poor white men were used as cannon fodder for the right of rich white men — I repeat: rich white men — to keep slaves. They were told they fought for state’s rights.

From then till now, the white poor have often been the front line of white supremacy. You think people with college degrees and six-figure salaries are out there marching around under pointy white hoods, burning crosses? Hardly.

My point is that race has often been used as a means of distracting and diverting the white poor. They had little in life, nor any realistic expectation of having more.

But the one thing they did have — or so the con went — was whiteness itself. Which meant they had someone to be better than. Someone to look down upon.”

Hearing this idea so clearly expressed reminded me of some of my favorite films that incorporated this theme: To Kill A Mockingbird, In the Heat of the Night, Monster’s Ball.

It will be interesting to see how the GOP works this lever between now and November.