Creating racial categories to divide and conquer
Exploitated white and black workers were rising up together in the US in the 17thC. The government reacted by outlawing slavery of white people but not black people. This was a strategy used to quash uprising and placate the underclasses in a way that would allow exploitation to continue efficiently because “The great thing about the divide-and-conquer of creating white-skin privilege is that you don’t have to give people thusly bought off anything more” – having power relative to some others is enough.
Similar ‘divide and rule’ approaches were used throughout the colonial project:
As the aristocrats and their successors traveled around the world through the colonial age, Europeans all over would find or define a group within the colonial territory and elevate it above the other groups, give it some privileges, though never enough to challenge the intruding rulers. In exchange for this slightly elevated status, the rulers would make those people do the colonial dirty work, and usually keep them slightly more well off than their fellows. Over time, these slightly elevated people often tried to keep their European masters in power even after the people realized how evil colonialism was, maintaining the system both to keep above their fellows and out of fear of retaliation for the dirty work they’d done.
God made the whites to serve kings, and everyone else to serve whites.