It is so important for all Americans to understand this reality. We need to ignore the lie that America has always been a meritocracy. It has always been an invitation to success and not necessarily to the deserving. Case in point, Donald Trump is the President of the United States.
The United States long reserved its most lucrative occupations for an elite class of white men. Those men held power by selling everyone else a myth: The biggest threat to workers like you are workers who do not look like you. Again and again, they told working-class white men that they were losing out on good jobs to women, nonwhite men and immigrants.
It was, and remains, a politically potent lie. It is undercut by the real story of how America engineered its Golden Era of shared prosperity — the great middle-class expansion in the decades after World War II.
Americans deserve to know the truth about that Golden Era, which was not the whitewashed, “Leave It to Beaver” tale that so many people have been led to believe. They deserve to know who built the middle class and can actually rebuild it, for all workers, no matter their race or gender or hometown.
We need to hear it now, as our nation is immersed in a pandemic recession and a summer of protesters demanding equality, as American workers struggle to shake off decades of sluggish wage growth. We need to hear it because it is a beacon of hope in a bleak time for our economy, but more important, because the lies that elite white men peddle about workers in conflict have made the economy worse for everyone, for far too long.