What Is Wrong With White America?

Last night while listening to commentary regarding the Rolling Stone article on President Obama the question was asked of the writer if he thought the Tea Party was racist, and if so to what degree.   His answer was that he thought there was a segment of the nation which felt white America was being treated unfairly. Many of those who felt that way are now what is termed the Tea Party.   The writer could hardly not smile when making that statement as he, along with every other sane person, knows white America, especially white males, have life on a rainbow in this nation.  Always have.

So what gives with all the anger and nastiness that has permeated this election cycle?  There is no doubt in uneasy economic times that all sorts of ugly fissures open in society and ooze stuff that in better times is kept in check.  And yet the volume of disgusting actions and words make that simple attempt at an answer inadequate to what we all witness.

Beyond the basic economics is the fact that when white America sees President Obama they see the future.  For some that is most unsettling.  After all, a white majority population in America is not the future.  The world is brown, and the trend lines have this country moving in the same direction.  And quickly.  There is nothing wrong with that.  Embracing what makes us diverse has always been the way for social progress, and it also allows for personal enrichment. 

In early 2009 I read an article in The Atlantic that I want to flip back to for a moment.  Some paragraphs just never leave my head.

Whether you describe it as the dawning of a post-racial age or just the end of white America, we’re approaching a profound demographic tipping point. According to an August 2008 report by the U.S. Census Bureau, those groups currently categorized as racial minorities—blacks and Hispanics, East Asians and South Asians—will account for a majority of the U.S. population by the year 2042. Among Americans under the age of 18, this shift is projected to take place in 2023, which means that every child born in the United States from here on out will belong to the first post-white generation.

There is a tremendous social flux that is taking place day-to-day in the nation, and some hate it.   When an intelligent black man….and both parts of that statement matter…was elected to the White House something snapped in the minds of too many insecure white people.  They saw the future, and it un-nerved them.  Mind you, the problem is not with the nation, the problem is with that segment of the white population that somehow feels threatened by the future.

Not only is President Obama black but he is a constitutional scholar and able to analyze complicated national issues which places him far over the educational level of many in the country.  If only the angry white ones can say he is a muslim (as if that even matters) or try to make others think he was not born in the nation (which he was) then they can tarnish him enough and bring this uppity black man down a peg or two.  That is, after all, what we have been witnessing for the past 20 months.  It is ugly.

I have no way to understand the fear and anger that I read about every day from the Tea Party types, the anger of white males.  While I always try to gravitate to the smart folks at a cocktail party there are others who feel threatened by those encounters.  It is that very dynamic that is now playing out in the national arena. Consider the upside to this trend of more ethnic inclusion into the governing class, the invigorating results of inclusion.

Whiteness is no longer a precondition for entry into the highest levels of public office. The son of Indian immigrants doesn’t have to become “white” in order to be elected governor of Louisiana. A half-Kenyan, half-Kansan politician can self-identify as black and be elected president of the United States.

These two men mentioned are in many ways political opposites and yet they are the same.  Americans.  What is so hard to understand that they each are like the rest of us and care about family and their favorite sports teams.  They went to college, worked hard, pay taxes, and are now following the American Dream.  Just because they worked harder and achieved more seems little reason to rant and rave.  That they are not white is even less reason.

Just a few thoughts this morning on a topic that will be with us for decades.

Now pass the hummus……(just one of the many pleasures of diversity.)

6 thoughts on “What Is Wrong With White America?

  1. Peter

    I half-White and half-Hispanic, and not a member of the Tea Party. However, one of the reasons why Tea Partiers are upset about this issue, and I completely understand why, is that White people are always viewed as the bad guys. Your blog sends the message that White Tea Partiers are racists simply because they are White Tea Partiers. But isn’t THAT racist? You accuse them of being racists simply for opposing Obama even though there are Black people who don’t approve of his job performance. You place “white supremacy” as a tag for this blog without providing any actual evidence that White Tea Partiers believe that the White race is superior to all other races.

    In this case of illegal immigration, for example, people call Jan Brewer a racist for wanting to enforce immigration law, but no one calls Obama a racist for wanting the same. Why? Because Brewer is White, and White people are all a bunch of racists; Obama is Black, therefore he can’t possibly be motivated by race.

    You expressed the belief White America is living on a rainbow. Seriously? All White people are living as kings and queens without any hardship and tribulation? Get real. Maybe you should acknowledge that White people are just as diverse as other races rather than lumping them all into one group. After all, isn’t wrong to stereotype a race? If someone said that Black people are criminals, that would be considered racist because it stereotypes a race in a manner that leads people to have less respect for members of that race. Claiming that White America is living on a rainbow has the same effect and is just as hateful.

    You stated that you have no way to understand Tea Partiers fear and anger. First, there is a way to understand. It involves something called “listening to them, not just hearing”. Second, if you don’t currently understand their position, then I suggest not judging it until you do.

    It is hateful blogs like this one that make White Tea Partiers angry.

    1. My blog post seems to have hit the mark. I will use this space to clear up a couple things, including a statement that you have just plain wrong in regards to Arizona.

      First, this post was based on a reasonable attempt to get at the under-pinning as to why there is so much angry and vile things being done and said against a black president by a segment of the white electorate. There is no way to deny that these things are actually being done and said.

      If, as the reporter for the Rolling Stone thinks, the reason some whites are so angry has to do with feeling they are not treated fairly or are losing power, than I think we need to ask why. I answered that question as to why, in part, by addressing the fact that white people are no longer going to be the majority in the nation. They will lose majority status in a couple decades. I even cited a source. Since that was a main thrust of my post, and you did not comment at all about it, I assume you agree with me that will be a good thing for the nation’s diversity and cultural mixing.

      Second, when you write, “You expressed the belief White America is living on a rainbow. Seriously? All White people are living as kings and queens without any hardship and tribulation?’ you really missed the point. Or you pretended to have missed it. I was speaking about the white power structure. That is why I wrote of the “ethnic inclusion into the governing class” as a good thing.

      Today look at Congress, Wall Street, excutive boardrooms and tell me it is not a good thing to be a white male. Look at the past two hundred plus years and tell me that white Americans(males) have not lived on the rainbow when it comes to having power and using it. That this will slowly change will meet with fear, and some of that is being used against President Obama now.

      Third, there is no way for you to make this claim, “people call Jan Brewer a racist for wanting to enforce immigration law, but no one calls Obama a racist for wanting the same.” That is absolutely false. Jan Brewer is being sued by the United States Justice Department. Already parts of Arizona’s unconstitutional law have been blocked. The parts such as requiring officers to check a person’s immigration status while enforcing other laws, and requiring immigrants to carry their papers at all times were stopped. Also stopped was the provison making it illegal for undocumented workers to solicit employment in public places.

      Let me assure you that President Obama, as you claim, did not want the same!

      Finally I do follow politics and I do listen. Probally too much at times. But I can tell you matter-of-factly I never want to be so empty inside that I can understand the need to spit on a black Congressman. I never want to hear anyone try and rationalize the racism, as if I only understood it better then I could see their point.

      There is no point to racism except hatred.

      1. Patrick

        I know there is no point, but the claim that white america is upset that they will not be the majority in a few decades is crazy. Aside from a few actual racists, who looks that far into the future? The American attention span is about ten minutes.

        The problem with a blcak president is not that he is black, but rather that his racist supporters suggest that any criticism of him (except regarding what he has failed to do on gay rights) is seen as racist. Consider all the vile BS that was thrown at Bush. Or Clinton. Only, Obama and his supporters throw the race card to silence criticism. Throw in the isolated real racist and the urban myth of a black congressman claiming he was spit at and the message is clear: don’t ctiticize the president or you are a racist. I don’t often read careful counter-arguments to criticisms of the president here (I know how impossible it would be to defend such stupid and ineffectual leadership) but I read regularly that “teabaggers” (a sexually derrogatory term) are troglodytes. Why is a smaller government bad? Why are lower taxes bad? Why is a strong national defense bad? Why is a huge national debt good? What happens when Obama care delivers exactly the opposite of what it promises? Why is it healthy for a body politic that a tiny minority of “rich” pay such a gigantic portion of taxes? Liberals have been in control of the legislature since 2006, and where are we now?

        You are right about the major institutions being controlled by whites, yet your party suggests that every minority appointed by or claiming actual conservative beliefs is an “uncle-tom” or sellout. Why not begin criticism with your own lefty friends who throw a hissy everytime someone steps off the intellectual plantation. But, as usual, racism is only a problem sometimes, right. Your own party re-elected a grand wizzard of the klan–or whatever–over and over again.

        As for the Arizona law, you might point out that is is assanine for a federal judge to be shocked that the state require immigrants to carry papers–federal law does too.

        1. I have no problem with differences on the issues…Gitmo…taxes…etc. I think we have had many back and forths on various policies. That is fair game….in fact it is fun. After all, policy is where the action is. Therefore let me start off by saying just because I say some things are racial does not mean to say all differences are racial. They are not. I think you already know that. And I have never stated otherwise.

          But what I have seen happen over the past 20 months is the use of Obama’s religion, his middle name, and all sorts of imagery designed to make President Obama seem dangerous. Different. Not American. Recall that line to McCain in the election from some old woman that Obams is an Arab? He doesn’t look like us…so he must be sinister. That is racial. The fear driven racism is designed to undermine the President.

          When the use of his cultural attire is used to demonize Obama that is racist.

          When the dead monkey cartoon ran, that was about Obama, and that was racist.

          When pictures of an African medicine man is super-imposed on Obama’s face that is racist.

          When there are signs of Obama as a blood-sucking alien that is racist.

          The fact is at Tea Party rally after Tea Party rally and all sorts of ‘town hall meetings’ these types of signs and slogans were present over and over and over again.

          I am not making this stuff up. It has been reported and there is more than enough video to prove my point.

          No one ever attacked Bush for his ethnicity. THAT is the difference. Bush was attacked in all sorts of ways, there is no doubt, but no one attacked him for being a white man. No one used images to make his whiteness an issue. But the level of attack on Obama for being black and the disgusting way it has manifested itself is more dark and sinister than anything Bush had to endure. Attacking Bush’s reading ability, or military stint pales to racial attacks on Obama. That is the difference.

          I would like nothing more than for the Dick Lugars and Linsey Grahams to gain control of the GOP. About a decade ago ( I think) John Danforth said the GOP needed to have the moderates take over the party. He knew we needed two real parties that could shape policy and move the nation in a fashion where we made progress on the issues that matter. But the GOP lurched to the right, and now the Tea Party has yanked the whole thing into outer space. I say that as there are real forward thinking and generally considerate and intelligent folks in the GOP. But they have been hustled to the other room as the jokers have hi-jacked the Republicans Party.

          I do not think you are comfortable with what passes for attacks on this President. I really do not. But are you willing to step up and take the party back from the ones who bring stuffed monkeys to rallies with Obama’s name on them or carry open weapons not far fom where Obama is to speak? Is that really where we want the political process to be?

      2. Marc

        Much of what we hear from these Tea Partiers has been said about every other group we have seen picked on politically over time from blacks to women to Jews and more. My would-be hate-filled sister-in-law has long been trying to convince me that she doesn’t hate me because she is a bigot and refuses to tolerate homosexuals. She hates me openly because, in her daughter’s words, “We have a difference in opinion”. Well, yes. We do differ in opinion. Hitler and I differed in opinion. Pinochet and I differed. Idi Amin and I couldn’t have gotten any further apart on the issue. Stalin was horrible. And so is my sister-in-law. And so are many of these Tea Partiers who try to disguise their wretchedness under the guise of fiscally-conservative policy and a “need for change”.

  2. James

    What Deke is getting at in his piece is what has been known for more than two decades now as “White Privilege”. It is the fact that we as white males in this society get to benefit from a whole bevy of unearned assets. We get lots of little perks just by being white.

    No white man has ever had to worry about being arrested for “DWB”–driving while black. We haven’t ever had to think about how an encounter with a law officer were going to end. We haven’t had to worry about anyone crossing the street to walk on the other side because a group of white men looks threatening and gang like. We get better education because as a part of our culture it matters if we say ain’t or not. We don’t “axe” anyone questions, and we even “talks” prettier in general.

    So the fact that there are many “Nascar dads” who seem to be angry that someone else is getting a piece of the pie is what Deke is trying to convey as a message.

    For those who need it, a short recommended reading list on the topic:

    McIntosh, Peggy. “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack”. from Rodolefsky, Aaron and Peter Brown, edr. Applying Anthropology, 6ed. Mayfield Press, 2001.

    Sleeter, Christine E. How White Teachers Construct Race. from McCarthy, C. and Crichlow. Race Identity and Representation in Education. New York: Routledge, 1993.

    White Racism by Christine Sleeter, Spring 1994.

    Learning in the Shadow of Race by Bell Hooks.

    Race and Schooling of Black Americans by Claude M. Steele

    Race without Color by Jared Diamond

    PBS television special: Matters of Race.

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