Much of today’s talk is about angry white men who believe that they are getting the short end of the stick. But should we appease them or should we stop lying to them?
It is too easy to coddle newly aggrieved angry white men when the premise of their grievance is false and misleading. Once again a scholar wrote an article that gets much right but fails to provide the only advice that makes sense.
Steven M. Gillon, scholar-in-residence for History and Professor of History at the University of Oklahoma wrote an informative article titled “Why are so many white men so angry” that we must explore. The article was right on matter-of-fact history. It severely lacked perspective.
The gist of the article was to identify the genesis of angry white men’s rage. Unfortunately, while he identified why they feel angry, the solution he offered was to coddle them.
I found this statement bewildering.
The past five decades have not been kind to the white, heterosexual men who made up the overwhelming majority of those who invaded Charlottesville and who support the white nationalist movement. Until the 1960s, white men sat unchallenged atop the United States’ cultural and economic pyramid. They did not have to compete against women or African Americans in the workplace, and they benefited from laws and customs that sustained their privileged position. They not only ruled the workplace, they dominated American politics and exercised virtually unchallenged power at home.
The author admits that white men did not need to compete with other groups in the aggregate. He even rightly called it a privilege. It is astounding that he did not also point out that said advantage was immoral and unfair.
The author made the rightful success of others getting an opportunity as “then their world exploded” which seems to justify their anger.
And then their world exploded. African Americans, unwilling to accept the legacy of Jim Crow, confronted the white power structure in the South. With the help of liberal allies, they pushed Congress to pass two major pieces of civil rights legislation that outlawed legal discrimination. Feminists, inspired by these successes, challenged laws that confined them to traditional roles in the private sphere. They smashed the notion that women could not be lawyers, doctors and corporate leaders, and they made clear they were not content to be subservient housewives. They were later joined by the LGBT community that demanded equal treatment while questioning traditional conceptions of gender and sexuality.
He would further make immigration another justification for angry white men. The author failed to realize that in effect this analysis makes angry white men seem racist. After all, what exactly is American culture?
After 1965, the vast majority of new immigrants came from Asia, Africa and Latin America. Many whites view these immigrants as a threat to America’s “common culture” — a culture that white men created. From their perspective, instead of assimilating into the American culture, recent migrants have given rise to a new identity politics that celebrates cultural differences and rejects shared values.
Beginning in the 1960s, many white men perceived the changes wrought by the rights movements and increased immigration not as building a fairer, more diverse society and rectifying past wrongs, but as a direct assault on them and their values. In response, they mobilized in opposition to policies designed to promote diversity, from busing and affirmative action to bilingual education and gay rights. Grievance defined their targets. They fumed about companies and schools giving preference to less-qualified minorities in an effort to achieve greater diversity.
American culture and values have always been diverse. The only difference is that all other cultures and values that made this nation were forcefully suppressed, from the only real Americans (Native Americans) to all the other cultures that built the country, African, Chinese, Spanish, etc.
What is the author’s solution?
But we also need to address the underlying conditions that fuel white male resentment. That means having a balanced discussion about immigration that appreciates the many contribution that immigrants make to our nation while establishing clear, fair-minded limits on how many people can enter the United States. It means dramatically increased federal spending on infrastructure and on education to provide meaningful jobs now and the hope of better jobs in the future. It means rethinking government policy that contributes to income inequality. It also requires having difficult conversations with white men about their misperceptions about themselves.
The same economic angst felt by angry white men is the economic anxiety felt by all Americans. That those angry white men are feeling the economic pain more in the aggregate now is not the fault of immigrants, gays, women, blacks, Latinos, or anyone else. It is the fault a Plutocracy that used all the phobias to stay in power. They have taken away the wealth of the others. Who do you think is next?
Angry white men should be enraged. But they must identify the real target. As long as society coddles them, they will throw their ire in the wrong direction, and they will never solve their problems. The real solution is to wake up. Understand the realities.
The concept of race is a social construct designed to divide as there is no inherent virtue or intellect to any hue. Sexism, xenophobia, and all the other prejudices create unwarranted fear. The only fear one should have is that of an ever expanding Plutocracy pilfering us all; the one that low balls your wages, the one that outsources your jobs, the one that hires slave labor, the one that continues to foment divisions between diverse cultures and peoples. Escape from that indoctrination, and we can all work together to take back this country from the band of thugs that continue to rip us off.
Also published on Medium.