In the popular culture of the '40s and '50s, white men were role models. They were the detectives and cops who ran down gangsters and the heroes who won World War II on the battlefields of Europe and in the islands of the Pacific.
They were doctors, journalists, lawyers, architects and clergy. White males were our skilled workers and craftsmen -- carpenters, painters, plumbers, bricklayers, machinists, mechanics.
They were the Founding Fathers, Washington, Adams, Jefferson and Hamilton, and the statesmen, Webster, Clay and Calhoun.
On April 22, 2014 Conservative radio show host Dennis Prager penned a column in the National Review titled "From The Great Man Theory To Dead-White-Male Criticism Theory". I didn't read this article until a friend sent it to me in September of 2015. After reading it I wrote a series of articles about race and used his arguments as a springboard for the first installment titled "The White Washing of American History". In his article Mr. Prager waxed nostalgically about a time in American history when all of the heroes were white males and their atrocities were hidden from plain sight. He went on to attack the universities for teaching a version of history that called into question the founding fathers. For many Americans the myth of America as a Christian nation ordained by God is as real as the Easter bunny is to a small child. They reflexively attack anyone who dares to present historically accurate evidence that contradicts the notion of "American Exceptionalism". The quote I opened with comes from an eerily similar Pat Buchanan article published on May 26th titled "The Great White Hope". After reading his arguments I was convinced that many on the right are suffering from an acute case of paradoxical thinking which is defined as:
cognition characterized by contradiction of common logical procedures. Even though this form of thinking can be correlated with skewed thought procedures, like those appearing in schizoid personality disorder or some types of schizophrenia. It can additionally be utilized as a way of abstaining troubles or aversive beliefs in a positive way. They've fought the notion of white privilege so long that the moment whiteness doesn't afford what it use to they liken the push for racial equality to white oppression.
The plight of white men in America is worsening at a time when racial minorities and women are represented in greater numbers across a variety of fields; however, the racial and sexual demographic shift the right complains about isn't truly reflected inside the power centers of America. Women, blacks, gays, Mexicans, and Muslims are blamed for the declining status of white men in America, but a majority of the causal links to this decline can be directly attributed to decisions made by other white men. The reflexive need to scapegoat the "other" is an outward sign of ignorance and cowardice. Instead of challenging the power structure in a direct and meaningful way too many choose to aim their anger at those standing beside them or beneath them on the socioeconomic scale. Now that large numbers of white men are suffering fates usually reserved for those of us on the underside of America's caste system conservatives are taking drug addiction, alcoholism, depression, shortened life expectancy, and suicide serious. The Republican debates were awash with one tale of drug tragedy after another. Carly Fiorina, Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, and Ted Cruz all told gut-wrenching stories about their families personal struggles with losing a loved one to drug addiction. The same politicians who thought incarceration was the solution to the inner-city drug epidemic have now shifted to policies geared towards treating the white men who've become the national face of these epidemics.
My whole life I've been told by conservatives and the conservative media that the very real instances of racism I've experienced weren't racism at all, but a combination of my overly sensitive perceptions about race and the legitimate economic realities facing Americans as a whole. I was told to ignore the statistics that chronicled the disparities in educational outcomes, employment, housing, incarceration, and mortality rates. I was told that those outcomes were due to the breakdown of the black family and Affirmative Action; in short: there's nothing to see here. The conditions too many inside the black community live in are a direct consequence of historical racial animus and the growing disparity in wealth accumulation. The condition many working class whites find themselves in is solely a product of our shared economic struggles. Global capital markets demand the cheapest labor force possible to insure high quarterly profits. This isn't an either or proposition. Americans, as a whole, are suffering from decisions made by the heads of multinational companies. The unemployment rate is half of what it was at the height of the economic crash, yet wages have remained mostly flat. The greed at the center of capital markets has reduced America's working class white population to an after thought. Money is more important to the powers that be than heritage, culture, and racial pride. The only thing sadder than this reality is the fact that so many working class whites refuse to accept that they've become victims of the one thing the wealthy elite in this country believe in more than "American Exceptionalism": capital markets.
Men like Pat Buchanan and Dennis Prager are so invested in the lies they've told their respective audiences over the years that truth looks like partisan opposition research. If you scan the channels on your television white men will still represent the majority of the people you see. If you show up on 99% of college campuses a majority of people you see with tenure are white men. If you read the above the fold stories in any major news paper the majority of those stories will be written by white men. Donald Trump's campaign is a symptom of the white male push to stem the demographic shift America is undergoing. Once the Tea Party proved to be ineffective at governing they changed their name to the freedom caucus, and once Donald Trump loses in November his base of angry white men will find another vehicle to vent their frustrations through. The inclusion of women and minorities to fields that are still dominated by white men is seen as proof of America's decline. I'm almost as frustrated with those on the left who try to legitimize and explain this line of argumentation as I am with those on the right who offer it as a reason for white male suffering.
It's difficult for me to place the newfound suffering of working class whites ahead of those who've struggled with systematic oppression in America for hundreds of years. I empathize with their plight, but I won't stop pursuing racial and social justice because someone fell off of a socioeconomic ledge they didn't earn. America has undergone a major economic shift over the last 35 years; much of the economic pain historically felt by people of color has shifted to working class whites. I don't know If it's possible to bridge our racial and social divides in a way that would be acceptable to all parties involved. I'm certain black people aren't willing to accept less for the sake of racial harmony with dissatisfied white men, and my hunch is women aren't likely to do so either. I don't know how to connect with someone like Pat Buchanan when he writes:
The world has been turned upside-down for white children. In our schools the history books have been rewritten and old heroes blotted out, as their statues are taken down and their flags are put away. Children are being taught that America was "discovered" by genocidal white racists, who murdered the native peoples of color, enslaved Africans to do the labor they refused to do, then went out and brutalized and colonized indigenous peoples all over the world.
My parents were still attending segregated schools over a decade after the Brown vs. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas decision was rendered. I know people who went to school districts in Virginia that chose to shut their doors to all children before they would educate black children. This America Donald Trump wants to take us back to and the right misses so much isn't a place I want to visit much less live. I understand that all of the really good jobs belonged to white men and that it was probably pretty cool to sit in a diner and not see anyone who didn't look like you, but those weren't great days and anyone who believes they were should never challenge the notion of white privilege: or as I like to call it for my overly sensitive progressive friends "advantageous societal predisposition". As bloggers we sometimes make the mistake of thinking we can solve society's problems in a few short paragraphs. Sometimes we just need to add our perspective to the problems we're facing so another voice of dissent can be registered. It's harder to cure a disease by treating each individual symptom rather than addressing the root cause of the illness. If a majority of the people on the right think like Pat Buchanan is it possible to change that thinking? Do we bear the responsibility for reaching out to them?