White privilege – a dark whisper which repeatedly interfered as I read through “Black Reconstruction and the Racial Wage” by W. E. B. Du Bois, taken from the larger work, Black Reconstruction in America. Not to say there was a lack of inference made to a similar struggle for the poverty-stricken white population, but there is a very clear delineation between what it meant (means) to struggle as a black person verses the struggle as a white person; and it was (is) important to note the difference. Du Bois wrote: “It must be remembered that the white group of laborers, while they received a low wage, were compensated in part by a sort of public and psychological wage.” (2017/1935, p. 92) – a very telling passage resonating the entire excerpt. Regardless of what should have been a common struggle for a class of united people following the Civil War, race continued to be the dividing factor.
Even as we have grown as a society, there are still so many racial divides – particularly when it comes to those persons living in poverty. What Du Bois spoke of is still evidenced today, white people (white men in particular) regardless of whether the level of poverty is the same as their black neighbor, are still given the advantage by virtue of race alone. We still see poor black communities struggle more than poor white communities… in education, in justice, and in wages. It is still common practice to place blame for economic woes at the feet of anyone who is not white. If we, as a society, are pitting ourselves against each other racially, then we do not have to accept the truth of our failings and we can continue to be a country framed in contradiction.