Americans turn on themselves first, and then on each other. What we have is worse than learned helplessness. It’s learned self-loathing. To put it crudely, we are taught to hate not just the nigger over there, but also the nigger within. Ironically, and almost paradoxically, it is this largely racially motivated self-hatred– ‘you’re okay as long as you’re better than a nigger’– that precipitates the paralysis or the badly misdirected activism (e.g. teabagging)*: the fear and loathing of all things black, including the internalized states of mind and being that have morphed out of the concept of the despised and feared African descendant, creates a cognitive dissonance that prevents people from rising up against their true systemic antagonists. The term ‘class warfare,’ so bluntly wielded by right-wing mouthpieces, is an example of the exploitation of this dynamic. To suggest that the majority of working people (i.e. non-wealthy whites) should organize against their betters (i.e. predominantly white rich people) is to suggest that those working people must also identify with others who have been put upon (i.e. non-wealthy brown and black people). In other words, to fight against the traditionally white power structure, they must become niggers. For at least a healthy plurality of working white people, that is a sin worse than remaining enslaved to a worsening status quo that is manipulated against them by the traditionally white power structure.
Keep in mind that most people (especially those most involved in its perpetuation) would probably not articulate this phenomenon in such stark terms as I’m using here, and I’m not suggesting that the phenomenon is purely racial in structure and character. I’m just trying to cut to the core in as few words as possible. You know how difficult that is for me.
*It’s also part of what drove countless thousands of poor, put-upon Southern laborers to take up arms to protect the profits and bloated lifestyles of their aristocratic Confederate countrymen, instead of uniting with their black fellow laborers to overthrow the plantation economy and culture.