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Ok, so how does whiteness work in practice as a system of social control or the upper classes? Let's look at an example from after the Civil War, literally during the Reconstruction period that highlights how this system functioned and continued to function after slavery:
Let's briefly look at the Free Soil movement, the Homestead Act and the ultimate result of this entire process.
Ok, so in a nutshell the Free Soil movement is a populist political force predicated on the idea that laboring class Americans (white ofc) cannot escape wretchedness and poverty without the ability to own land - which, in a semi-agrarian society is probably not entirely untrue
Now, this is a huge threat to the ruling class - not just planters in the South, but all over the country;' the peasants are demanding their own houses and farms, which is gonna make it hard to cheat them out of poverty wages by renting them parcels of land at high rates.
But this movement is huge, and it's angry and it's organized and the ruling classes know that they're not getting out of this without some concessions - so, you get the Homestead Act, which allows regular people, known as Homesteaders to claim "open land" in the West (and South)
Now, before we go any further it needs to be mentioned that even without the racial restrictions I'm going to talk about in a minute, the Homestead Act and the Free Soil Movement are both already pretty damn racist b/c the "open land" we're talking about is owned by (ct)
Indigenous tribes in America, and often guaranteed by military treaty - there is no deception about this, it's pretty much understood that if you're going to become a Homesteader you're going to "kill Indians" as part of the process. So don't glamorous this moment, it's bad.
Anyway, the Homestead Act however includes a number of coded restrictions that ultimately make it impossible for Black people to become homesteaders; in turn, the white settlers, including many new immigrants from Europe, basically accept that they're on their own
Unfortunately for the Homesteaders, as we've seen time and time again, the American ruling classes use the whole cow - they saw these dim-eyed yokels a mile away and quickly established a "Homestead industry" built to milk the Homesteaders out of every penny they could
But that's not even the really insidious part because the Homestead Act was specifically billed as a way for poor laboring class Americans to get a piece of the pie - the government was giving away land (it didn't own, and NOT to black people) but the upper class didn't qualify
So how they did it, is they gave the Homesteaders bank loans, lots of them and bad loans, at horrible rates designed to ultimately bankrupt the Homesteader.

It took them about 20 years to turn the vast majority of claims into bank property, railroad property or lumber yards.
So in the end? The Homesteaders, were bought off with empty promises, platitudes about whiteness and gave up decades of their lives to - colonize Indigenous land for the banks and combines.

Good job guys!
And what did the broke whites do in response to realizing they'd been duped? Glamorized the Homesteader in song and story, completely glossed over how that story ended and went on being broke crackers.
I suppose I should also add, lest someone accuse me of leaving out part of the story, that there were indeed prominent Black members of the Free Soil movement who advocated for African American homesteading opportunities - including I believe Frederick Douglass for a time
Unfortunately as is often the case with class struggle, the successful application of whiteness in the form of racial privilege re: Homesteading managed to separate white labor from Black Free Soilers and nobody really did much about the restrictions that barred African Americans
This is part of a long history of reactionary impulses in American labor, encouraged by the ruling classes, to divide those they would exploit and it's why a lot of folks don't always trust the American left's promises of racial solidarity - it's not all shitlib propaganda.
(again tho, keep in mind that homesteading, in and of itself is a plot to placate exploited labor and steal Indigenous treaty land - so there wasn't a "right" way to do it.)
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