Tag: Race

No, We Don’t All Need to Get Along

Good intentions abound. That’s the only reason people still embrace misguided ideas like “colorblind society,” despite the powerfully negative connotations that such phrases conjure up.

The latest nicey-nicey concept I’ve encountered (and no doubt you have as well) is the absurd notion that, for America to succeed, we need to put aside our differences. In essence, we all need to get along.

Where in the hell did this strange idea come from?

For the overwhelming majority of American history, we have not all gotten along.

For example, Hamilton and Jefferson didn’t say, “let’s be pals” when they were hashing out what kind of government we should have. They had more important things to do.

Even during the so-called Era of Good Feelings, America’s many slaves weren’t feeling the love and joining in group hugs.

Speaking of slavery, America didn’t even reach its centennial before we started shooting at each other over that touchy topic. And it was another century of violence and antagonism before the government said, “Maybe we should be nicer to ethnic minorities.” At no point in that process did we all get along.

Yes, one could argue that the country was united during World War II, but even in that case, all it took to bind us together was a global conflagration where millions of people died and the very survival of democracy was in question. In other words… good times.

More recently, we’ve come to blows over Vietnam and Iraq, over abortion and affirmative action, over gay rights and healthcare.

So when was this mythical time when Americans were of one mind? And why does anyone think this is a necessary condition in order for the country to thrive? Obviously, we’ve found a way to work around our internecine loathing.

The truth is that a nation as vast as ours — with its myriad subcultures, each enjoying a large degree of freedom — is never going to be truly united. To believe otherwise is to embrace the thinking of a child.

However, this Kumbaya concept is more than a pathetic pipe dream. It features an insidious aspect snaking below the surface.

We see this in the earnest pleas, even demands, for liberals to shut up and support Trump. Of course, conservatives would like nothing better than for progressives to give Trump a chance (which many liberals, inexplicably, are quite willing to do).

But why would leftists agree to a right-wing agenda that goes against every principle we have, and that could lead America into chaos? Apparently, we should do so out of blind patriotism and for the sake of the vague, abstract concept of “unity.”

According to this idea, striving to be friends supersedes the threat of decimating the country.

“Yes, thousands of people are dead now because Obamacare was repealed, but at least we’re all getting along, and that’s the most important thing. Yup.”

This is clearly insane.

And aside from the specifics of the current era — where a wannabe fascist seeks to make the nation great again for white supremacists — the fact remains that striving for unity at all costs is spectacularly naïve, even destructive.

The US Constitution is the result of Founding Fathers threatening to duel each other to the death. Slavery was abolished through warfare. Civil rights came only after decades of people refusing to back down, and not settling for getting along.

One of the virtues/flaws of American culture is our hyper-competitiveness. As such, one idea or principle usually emerges triumphant. Sometimes it’s a good idea… and sometimes it’s not. Still, as we know, the moral arc is long but bends toward justice (at least we hope it does).

However, progress is delayed even more when we smile and act polite in the face of idiocy or fanaticism or demagoguery. And there is no need to do so.

Because we have never all gotten along.

And we never will.

 

 


You Made Me Do This

Recently, I badmouthed those liberal celebrities who blame themselves for the rise of Donald Trump. Of course, our titans of the entertainment industry have bigger problems to face, like opening the correct envelope, so I’ll leave them alone.

Instead, I’m going to focus on progressives in general — be they famous, infamous or completely unknown — by pointing out a disturbing trend that has emerged since November. This is the tendency of leftists to absolve conservatives of all responsibility for Trump’s election. Even weirder, my fellow progressives are saying it is our entire fault that America has a cackling xenophobe in the White House.

Indeed, many good leftists are bowing their heads and admitting that it is the most malignant of monsters — political correctness — that explains, “more than anything, how the left created Trump.”

Progressives are shouting that the left abandoned the white working class, and that liberal elitism pushed rural voters away, and that liberals became bullies and gave conservatives no choice (no choice at all!) but to embrace Trump.

All this strikes some other liberals as whiny and self-indulgent. But I disagree.

I believe that it is the political equivalent of spousal abuse.

 

It’s clear that some liberals have been punched, degraded, and insulted by conservatives for so long that many progressives now accept the horrible image that right-wingers have created for them.

Just like in cases of spousal abuse, liberals are justifying the repulsive behavior of many conservatives, releasing them from blame, admitting the ill treatment is deserved, and then lining up for more.

Let me be clear. I am not making light of the issue of domestic violence. Some of my friends and family have suffered through this agony, so I don’t employ this metaphor lightly.

But it is eerie how so many progressives, no matter how much they are slurred and ridiculed, turn around and say that we had Trump coming, just be virtue of being liberal.

Remember, right-wingers never blamed themselves for Obama. Hell, they shrieked that liberals were idiots who had destroyed America by voting for a Kenyan socialist who was going to take away all their guns. Obama’s election only increased conservatives’ disdain for progressives, and it lead to zero self-loathing or reflection on the part of conservatives.

So why are liberals prone to accepting blame for the actions of conservatives, even clamoring for it at times?

Well, there are many reasons for this.

First, liberals tend to be nicey-nicey and avoid hurting anyone’s feelings (that conservative chestnut has a grain of truth to it). And in this case, progressives don’t want to get all mean and point out that many Trump supporters are straight-up misogynists and racists.

So progressives imply that Trump supporters are merely misunderstood, and that if we just charm red-state America enough, these people will forget all about their hatred of gay marriage and fear of Latinos.

It’s just that easy. Yup.

Of course, we would have to ignore statistics like this one: “A whopping 39 percent of Trump voters believe that women who get abortions should face legal punishment, an opinion that is otherwise so unpopular that even the anti-choice movement disavows it.”

But of course, they can’t be criticized for that loathsome viewpoint. It’s all the liberals’ fault.

Far too many leftists are saying we must reach out and plead with Trump supporters, who in turn don’t have to change at all. It is the progressives who must alter their worldview. This is despite the fact that Trump lost the popular vote (overwhelmingly) and has one of the worst approval ratings for a president this early in his administration. No, let us — the progressives — drop all our principles and try to understand the fury of a small group of conservatives, even as they deride us as dim-witted, latte-sipping wimps.

This brings up another point, which is that liberals are insulted routinely, and yet, we have not used this as a pathetic excuse to “blow up the system” or whatever euphemism the right wing is using to endanger democracy.

“But wait,” the bruised and battered liberal says. “We made them hate us, because Hollywood skewers them mercilessly in popular culture.”

Hey, here’s an interesting statistic for you. Latinos are the most underrepresented group in popular culture, and when we are shown, it is usually in stereotypical or highly negative ways.

No, the white working class has no idea what it’s like to be mocked.

But let’s accept the argument that the entertainment industry — and by bizarre extension, all of liberal culture — has been vicious to conservatives. Well, liberals don’t say, “suck it up, snowflake,” because that would be, you know, not nice.

Instead, the self-loathing liberal says that this is perfectly reasonable grounds for embracing demagoguery.

Think about that.

We’re basically saying it’s ok to get annoyed that, for example, many black people prefer the term “African American.” And not just peeved, as when one rolls his eyes, dismisses something as silly, and then goes about his business.

No, we agree that the logical reaction is to fly into an eye-popping rage and vote for a narcissistic nutjob. How in the world does A follow B? Why is becoming furious at the idea of women getting equal pay somehow acceptable, and even more so, a solid rationale for voting for an unqualified man-child who is cozy with dictators?

But progressives ignore these reddest of red flags, and they simply say, “Hey, right-wingers, we apologize for asking you not to slur Asians and refrain from throwing shit at mosques. We don’t know what we were thinking.”

Again, this is the political equivalent of saying, “I’m sorry I made you so angry that you punched me in the face. I’ll go get your beer now.”

As a final example of this twisted tendency, look at how many liberals are falling over themselves to proclaim Trump “presidential” now that he has successfully delivered one insult-free, semi-coherent speech. This most meager of accomplishments has convinced many progressives that Trump is a changed man, and will do the right thing, and will be the president for all of us.

And he bought me flowers and didn’t hit me on my birthday and he’s a changed man it’s different now don’t you see he really loves me and it will be better now and…

And…

And…

 

 


All an Act

Yes, it’s a unique issue for ethnic minorities. Questions about authenticity hound, pester, poke, and prod us.

You see, many of us constantly face accusations of whether we are Latino enough, or black enough, or truly Asian, or a real Native American. I’m pretty sure nobody ever asks if someone is white enough… unless of course, there is an Aryan Nations initiation rite going on.

For nerdy ethnic minorities, the problem can be even more pressing. After all, we know full well that African American students who academically excel are ostracized for “acting white” — right?

Well, it turns out that we don’t know that.

A recent study has debunked this myth, showing “there’s no research that explicitly supports a relationship between race, beliefs about ‘acting white,’ social stigma, and academic outcomes.”

In fact, “studies suggest that the highest-achieving black students are actually more popular than the lowest-achieving ones” and that “black students have more positive attitudes about education than white students.”

Well, that’s a plot twist.

Now, the study didn’t examine whether Latino students are mocked for “acting white” if they get good grades. However, from my personal experience, I can answer this question.

And the answer is…

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So Far, So Horrific

We are now approximately 1% of the way through the Trump presidency. That means, mathematically, it will only get 100 times worse.

To be fair, things are actually going great… for white nationalists and people who think immigrants are plotting to kill them in their sleep.

For the rest of us, not so much.

You see, the start of the Trump era is, by many accounts, “the most alarming in the history of the American presidency.”

 

The rate of Trump’s grotesque actions outpaces our ability to react to them. Are we really supposed to call our congressional representatives and organize protest marches and boycott companies and sign petitions every single day?

Hell, we barely have time to unboggle our eyes and force our slackened jaws shut before another monstrous executive order comes washing over the American landscape. The best we can manage most days is to force down our vomit.

But here’s one thought that will keep us focused. One inescapable truism that we should keep in mind at all times.

And it is simply this: Trump means everything he says.

All the talk about whether we should take him literally but not seriously, or vice versa, was overcomplicated nonsense from the start. It should have been apparent long ago that when a wannabe dictator says he’s going to do something, he fully intends to do it.

Trump is not capable of metaphor. I doubt the man even knows that word means. I’m serious — the guy boasts about never reading books.

You see, our tiny-fingered, small-minded president does not engage in subtlety, and the only time that he backs off on some of his more egregious pronouncements is when he no longer has any interest in them and/or because they no longer serve a purpose (e.g., prosecuting Hillary Clinton).

Otherwise, he is remarkably consistent.

This does not mean that he will succeed in his endeavors. For example, that fabled wall with Mexico is never going to be built. But this is only because reality will intrude. This barrier might take the form of logistical issues or— it’s possible — political resistance.

But he will not stop of his own free will. He will not moderate his views. He will not listen to reason or decency.

I have never understood why any sane person would think otherwise.

For example, some conservative Latinos voted for Trump under the bizarre assumption that he would be more respectful to Hispanics or even compromise on immigration. That idea doesn’t look so bright now.

Of course, that’s not as bizarre as Middle Eastern immigrants who just assumed his talk of banning them was, I don’t know, some oddball banter from a kooky billionaire.

Heed their regret. And please remember this for the next four years. He means everything that he says.

That makes it even scarier, doesn’t it?

 


Are You Being Nice Enough to Racists?

So mere days away from Armageddon — I mean, Trump’s inauguration, excuse me — we’re all wondering how Democrats are going to rebound in 2020.

Will they seek to rebrand themselves with the white working class by appealing to its concerns? Or will they double down on their base, and nominate a truly progressive candidate?

Ha, we’re just kidding.

We all know Democrats will run like hell from the “liberal” label. They will strain to convince Pennsylvania factory workers and Wisconsin farmers that the Democratic Party has learned its lesson and is abandoning “identity politics.” And then Democrats will ask white rural voters to grab a beer with them and talk about the Packers before heading out to the deer stand.

There are, of course, numerous issues with this approach. Let’s skip the obvious one for now, which is that Democrats will once again take the Latino vote for granted while dismissing progressives as silly elitists.

 

Instead, let’s analyze a very real problem, which is that many people who voted for Trump weren’t just being loyal Republicans, or looking to drain the swamp, or getting bamboozled by a con man.

No, many of them are damn racists who knew exactly what they were voting for. In fact, the link between racism and Trump mania is disturbingly clear.

Now, for the sake of argument, let’s say that it’s morally ok to court such voters. So how does one persuade them to abandon the Republican Party and its blatant xenophobia? How can we convince a person feeling white resentment or white anxiety (or whatever term euphemizes prejudice) that his attitude is not cool?

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Crystal Ball

I admit that my powers of prediction are so-so.

After all, I didn’t think the racist misogynist would win. However, in my defense, I was the only progressive in the country who was merely surprised — as opposed to shocked, flabbergasted, and devastated — when Trump clinched the White House. I had always acknowledged it as an unpleasant possibility.

But now I’m going full-on psychic when I say that Trump will not turn America into a dictatorship, or provoke a nuclear war, or imprison every intellectual, or fulfill any of the other alarmist predictions you’ve seen from my fellow liberals.

For example, Trump’s wall on the Mexican border will turn out to be a couple hundred miles of extra fencing, if that.

There will be no deportation force that kicks 12 million people out of the country.

The First Amendment will remain intact.

And we can move on and on through the numerous other apocalyptic visions of what will happen in the next few years — they will not come to pass.

To be clear, this isn’t because Trump doesn’t want to do these things. Indeed, one of the more insane comments we heard during this most insane of presidential campaigns was that Trump didn’t really mean what he was saying, and was just riling up the base. Bullshit — he meant every word.

Also, let’s drop the delusion that Trump will somehow settle down once he takes the oath of office. The man has no intention of backing off on his reactionary agenda. He really does want to revoke the citizenship of people who burn the American flag.

But he won’t — mostly because he can’t. The first reason is checks and balances.

And I don’t mean that the Republican-dominated Congress is finally going to stand up for principles and standards and decency and other quaint concepts that the GOP sloughed off when it embraced Trump. It’s very cute to think so.

The only reason the Republican Congress will block Trump’s more egregious proposals is because it’s not worth the political headache. They will be too busy passing tax cuts for the rich and killing Obamacare and gutting Social Security — you know, standard GOP stuff. And they will send bills to Trump and say, “Sign here,” and he will do it, because he has no political viewpoint other than self-aggrandizement, and in any case, he will be too busy composing attack tweets.

So clearly, it’s going to be bad — just not “Here comes Hitler” bad.

upsidedownflag

 

And that leads to the chief reason why Trump will not shut down the New York Times, or make college professors sign loyalty oaths, or change the nation’s motto from “E Pluribus Unum” to “Bros before Ho’s.”

Oh, all that would be very Trumpian — and way too obvious.

You see, I know you were all ready to sign up for that Muslim registry (whether you are Muslim or not), just to stick it to the man and mess with the banality of evil and be all defiant. But there will be no Muslim registry. So then we’ll all relax and just shrug when surveillance on mosques is increased and hostility toward Muslims gets even worse. We’ll say, “Well, that’s not as bad as I thought it would be.”

And when the new Supreme Court chips away at abortion rights, we’ll say, “Whew, I though they were going to completely overturn Roe v. Wade. So I’ll take it.”

And when voting laws continue to suppress blacks and Latinos, we’ll say, “Hey, I thought he was going to trample civil rights all at once. Close call.”

You get the picture. All this shrieking that Trump is going to be an American Mussolini does us a disservice. It primes us to be relieved when climate change is ignored, or when gun control becomes even less of an issue, or when healthcare is merely as terrible as it was ten years ago.

We are setting ourselves up to embrace the miserable, simply because it is not the horrific.

The most egregious, outrageous, and overt violations of our Constitution and societal norms will not be so easy for you to spot. They rarely are. So it will require work to fight cultural deterioration. Caving in to hysteria doesn’t help.

Of course, I could be tragically wrong on this, and four years from now our nation might be a fascistic nightmare and/or in the midst of societal collapse.

What happens then?

Well, then you can turn to me, as they march us into the thunderdome, and smirk when you say, “Told you so.”

 


Snowflakes

For the moment, let’s avoid dwelling on all the hate crimes that have erupted across the nation since our small-fingered president-elect nabbed his 270th electoral vote.

But let’s just acknowledge that there have been a lot of racist attacks, many of which have been spectacular in their brutality and lunacy.

However, as horrific as these public displays of xenophobia are, I’m more interested in our reaction to these fascistic assaults.

You see, many people are writing off those losers painting swastikas or some thug grabbing a woman’s hijab as stray nutjobs, a tiny percentage of freaks that’s inevitable in a nation of 300 million people. Yes, it stretches the boundaries of plausibility to say the surge in hatred has absolutely nothing to do with Trump, but let’s go with that scenario for now.

What is far more problematic, far more onerous, is the response of social conservatives whenever an ethnic minority has the chutzpah to point out such acts of bigotry.

We get that laziest of insults, which is that we are pampered snowflakes.

snowflakes

The message is that shit happens and we need to toughen up and we have to stop whining and so on and so on.

Of course, the real reason for this dismissal is that acknowledging racism is psychologically distressing for many people — particularly white conservatives who really want to sidestep the obvious truth that a significant chunk of their peers are bigots, and in some cases, actual damn Nazis.

So snapping that a liberal is just a snowflake is a way to jettison the discomfort. It denies that the problem is widespread or even that odious. It says that, basically, it’s just a few jerks, so get over your hypersensitive self.

One recent example of the snowflake phenomena caught my eye. Perhaps you heard about the school in Michigan where white students formed a human wall to block minority students from getting to their destinations. A 12-year-old Latina “was stopped from going to her locker by a group of boys who told her to go back to her country and that they were going to ‘make America great again.’”

I read a few accounts of the story, and (against my better judgment) many reader comments. It was easy to spot the opinion pattern that “boys were just being boys” and outraged adults were simply a bunch of —you guessed it — snowflakes.

But I’m just wondering, at what point did a 12-year-old facing a gauntlet of racists become so much political correctness? When did we collectively decide to dismiss these incidents and treat them as a normal part of growing up? When did we latch onto the term “snowflake” as mindless shorthand and mocking derision?

To be honest, right now in America, the only snowflakes I see are middle-aged guys who are pissed off that life didn’t work out perfectly for them. I see horribly insecure men lashing out at children who are having threats literally shouted into their faces. I see hypocritical conservatives who most likely have never endured a moment of mob hatred, never been the object of abuse, who now sit smugly back and tell kids that they’re just being wimps.

This is beyond blaming the victim. It is even beyond simple prejudice and petty hatred.

It is a sociopathic disdain for humanity.

I’m sorry if that hurts your feelings. I guess you’ll just have to fucking get over it.

 


Don’t Say a Word

Americans have received more than a fair amount of post-mortem analysis and 20/20 hindsight into how the country got stuck with that malignant clown for president. Despite this, it remains astonishing to note how the media tries to avoid stating the obvious.

For example, CNN recently unveiled its 24 theories why Trump won. Here are a full two dozen rationales — some astute, some questionable — in which the word “bigotry” does not appear.

Yes, a couple of CNN’s theories allude to it in euphemistic terms (e.g., “white male resentment”). But the nearest any of its reasons comes to acknowledging real prejudice among Trump supporters is to discount the very idea. In fact, theory #22 clearly states, “Not because of racism.”

By the way, the words “misogyny” and “sexism” do not appear on CNN’s list at all. So apparently, “Trump that bitch” was just a catchy slogan.

In any case, here we have a major news outlet listing dozens of reasons why Trump emerged victorious, and heaven forbid they acknowledge the well-documented fact that a significant number of Trump supporters are white supremacists. Or perhaps I just imagined that whole thing about the KKK throwing a victory parade.

klannn

Now, racism certainly wasn’t the only reason for Trump’s ascendency, and it probably wasn’t even the main reason. But to imply that it was no reason at all, and to sidestep this most unpleasant of factors, is disingenuous at best and cowardly at worst.

Another CNN piece states “this election was for the forgotten among the American people…. When Donald Trump came on the scene, for the first time, they had a voice.

Yes, thank god someone is finally speaking up for white men!

However, it is not just CNN that is embracing this soothing narrative that bigotry is miniscule among Trump supporters.

For example, a professor at my alma mater, the University of Wisconsin — Madison, recently published a book based on her months of talking to rural voters of that swing state. In a Washington Post interview about Trump’s popularity in the heartland, the professor acknowledged that many of her interview subjects expressed bigoted sentiments, but she quickly dismissed this by stating, “it’s not just resentment toward people of color. It’s resentment toward elites, city people.”

Ah, I see. So to the professor, whenever a Midwestern farmer snapped that blacks are lazy criminals, it was justifiable irritation with all those fancy urban types.

Good thing it wasn’t racism.

By the way, I am from Wisconsin and have spent more time in small towns and on dairy farms than the vast majority of “coastal elites.” The people there are overwhelmingly polite and hardworking. But yes, I’ve been slurred a few times. And I assure you that it wasn’t because I was too cosmopolitan.

Again, all this dancing around and justifying and flat-out ignoring is jarring to both our knowledge of the world and our sense of decency.

For some delusional reason, we remain deathly afraid of calling out racism in a large swath of people, as if doing so might acknowledge that bigotry still lingers in our “post-racial” society. And we can’t have that.

Or maybe we just can’t offend white people.

After all, as some writers have noted, “to call out voters for falling for damagingly racist and sexist messages is viewed [as] dangerously snobby by the media, as though working-class people are precious toddlers who must be humored and can’t possibly be held responsible for any flawed thinking.” We should also be aware that “only the white working classes are accorded this handwringing and insistent media empathy.”

It’s all about white fragility, which often mixes with a toxic helping of male insecurity. When that happens, we get the idea that “if white men are not living the American Dream the system must be broken. For everyone else, failure is a sign of individual failure, cultural failure, and communal shortcomings, but if white men ain’t winning, the game is rigged.”

So we remain highly sensitive about making any accusations of prejudice. And we embrace the lie that blatant xenophobia had little to do with Trump winning — anything but that.

By the way, hate crimes against ethnic minorities surged after the election. But I’m sure it was just a coincidence.

To summarize my point on this topic, please allow me to share an email I received the morning after the election. It was from a Trump supporter, identified only as Nmslr1. He had read my articles and was rather displeased with my conclusions.

I have edited his email for length because, quite frankly, it went on and on. But I have not corrected any of the grammatical errors (yes, I’m aware of the irony that this person has a horrific grasp of English).

In any case, here is my fan mail from Nmslr1:

Well, it seems White People have seen and heard about all they are gonna take from the ingrates called hispanics.

Did you really think we were just going to turn the other cheek while you all pilfer our resources and hard work? Did you?

Well you all are going to get whats coming, thats for sure.

The joy! The absolute joy to think we banded together and finally said “enough”. The only solution left is to round them up and send them back where the hell they came from.

Oh, and don’t forget little ole abuela, poor thing.

Now its our turn to gloat.

Get this straight: your raping, thieving shit cultures will respect our culture when you’re on the next bus to the living hell holes you all created and where you all ran from.

Oh, are you an anchor baby? Just to make clear when that insane and abused statute is voided out there will be an amendment to make it retroactive.

Gone. Gone. All gone.


Sympathy, Part Two

Picking up where I left off, in last week’s post I asked the following: Why should we feel sorry for the white working class?

Yes, that’s harsh, but we’re talking about a demographic that prides itself on straight talk and not being politically correct and so on and so on.

Of course, claims about being non-PC usually mean, “We like to talk shit about minorities, who better not say a damn thing back, and watch your mouth when you’re addressing white Christian America.”

In any case, the WWC, by almost any measure, is not doing particularly well.

sisyphus-image-01c

 

However, to be brutally honest about it, these people are white — still the majority in this country — and as such they enjoy the benefits of white privilege. They have more economic clout, more societal influence, and more cultural power (obvious in that we are constantly talking about how they feel and think and live).

At the very least, one cannot argue with the inherent contradiction that their anti-immigrant stance has created. Namely, the white working class prides itself on its deep roots in American society. They have been here for generations, with great-great-grandparents who came from the good countries (i.e., Europe). The WWC is not fresh off the boat.

OK, but here’s my question to them: With such an overpowering head start, why are you struggling so much? You’ve had generations to build up wealth and establish your families. Why are you still slaving away in coal mines? Isn’t that what your ancestors in Great Britain were trying to escape?

Taking this point further, how can a group of swarthy outsiders who don’t even speak English — and are supposedly lazy and stupid — be so thoroughly kicking your ass? What are you doing wrong?

“But they’re stealing our jobs!” the white working class screams.

First, this is not true, as many studies have shown. Second, even if it were true, perhaps the WWC should be annoyed at the corporations that are kicking them to the curb in favor of immigrants (and yes, voting Republican will surely show corporate America a thing or two). And third, if you’ll permit me to use a conservative talking point, that’s just an excuse.

You see, whenever someone tries to explain the cycle of poverty that engulfs many African American or Latino communities, a huge right-wing chorus rises up to dismiss the hard data and sociological theories and economic realities that show why poor communities stay impoverished.

Instead, we hear that all those blacks and Hispanics just need to pull themselves up by their bootstraps and stop whining.

I never — and I mean, never — hear this argument applied to the poor regions of Appalachia. Not once have I heard a politician tell laid-off blue-collar workers in white towns that they need to take responsibility for their decisions and stop blaming others.

Actually, I’ve heard the opposite, which is that the WWC should blame immigrants and nobody else.

In addition to this illogical, hypocritical, misplaced blame, there is often a powerful sense of entitlement — supposedly anathema to conservatives — that pervades the white working class. For example, there are members of the WWC who are “sick of hearing in job interviews” that certain positions require Spanish.

Now, as I’ve written before, learning Spanish is not some magical skill beyond the reach of mere mortals. My own fluency is marginal at best, but I can tell you it’s not difficult to learn the basics and, with some effort, become proficient.

But hostility toward a bilingual world is a chief way in which the WWC tries to flex its entitlement. After all, if a job calls for being an expert in Microsoft Word, or knowing how to fix a carburetor, or identifying the cortex after opening up the skull, or knowing whether to snip the blue wire or the red wire, we don’t stomp our feet and say, “But I speak English, and that should be good enough!”

No, we accept that those are the requirements for the position, and the skill sets of the past may no longer apply.

America, as we all know, is evolving rapidly. And the stubborn refusal to acknowledge this — the overt battling to prevent this evolution — is one reason the WWC is in such a messed-up situation.

So again I ask, why are we bending over backward to spare the feelings of poor white people?

Well, an immediate answer is this: Because we should. They are human beings and deserve the support of their nation and their countrymen.

And despite my harsh words in some of this article, I do feel sorry for the white working class (I’m just a bleeding heart that way).

They have indeed been screwed over by politicians, corporations, and a rigged societal structure. And I don’t believe it’s as easy as pulling themselves up by their bootstraps. All that is true.

I’m just asking why our cultural sympathies are so easily tapped into when it comes to the WWC. Why do we feel for a white person mired in the economic misery of dying small town, but we mock blacks and Latinos who struggle in inner cities?

More important, what can we do to lift people of all backgrounds out of poverty, without making them go all Hunger Games on each other?

Well, I know that telling the WWC that they are right to feel rage at immigrants, and are correct to get pissed at a changing world, are not productive ideas.

So now that we’ve embraced the exact wrong thing to do, can we somehow adjust and do things the right way — for all our sakes?


Sympathy, Part One

One of the most riveting stories I’ve read this year is the Washington Post article about Melanie Austin. She’s the Trump supporter who has, shall we say, some rather colorful views of the world.

OK, the woman is fucking nuts.

Austin believes that President Obama is a Muslim who is secretly gay, and “that Michelle Obama could be a man, and that the Obama children were possibly kidnapped from a family now searching for them.” Also, Austin thinks that Hillary Clinton is a founder of Isis, and “U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia may have been murdered in a White House plot involving a prostitute and a pillow.”

By the way, Austin is on anti-anxiety medication and was once “involuntarily hospitalized for several weeks” because of a psychotic breakdown.

Now, there are legitimate questions over whether the Washington Post story is morally repugnant. After all, one could argue that the reporter took advantage of a mentally ill person who had no idea how she would be portrayed.

And there is also the valid point that the article paints all Trump supporters as deranged and pathetic, and therefore constitutes a form of libelous yellow journalism.

Those are intriguing arguments, but what I find more interesting is the default mechanism for how Austin and other members of the white working class (WWC) are presented in the media.

She is, for the most part, portrayed as a victim. Even liberals have rushed to push aside her reprehensible, bigoted, and insane statements, in favor of asking, “What did Melanie Austin do to warrant this type of treatment by a national newspaper?” After all, she is a “woman who has suffered so much in her life.”

This is part of larger trend. As a member of the white working class, Austin has the cultural advantage of instilling sympathy for her plight. Other poor people — such as African Americans and Latinos — are more likely to provoke contempt, or even outright hostility and blame for somehow causing the degradation of the WWC and, by extension, America itself.

We see this in the descriptions of the white working class, a subset of Americans that have struggled for generations.

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Most media accounts are careful to avoid stating that poor white people have failed to keep up with a changing world. Rather, these individuals have cruelly been left behind (note the passive voice).

They are not angry and rage-filled. Rather, they are shell-shocked and forced to endure “the collapse of a whole way of life.”

They are not embracing Trump for his xenophobic bile. Rather, they just feel “isolated and disillusioned,” and have made an honest mistake in following him.

The point is clear. The WWC may be supporting the vilest presidential candidate in U.S. history, and they often spew horrific statements and even engage in overt violence. But deep down, they are salt-of-the-earth types who just got a bad deal. Have a little compassion for them.

Why is this? Well, for starters, members of the mainstream media can simply relate better to white people — even poor ones far removed from their elite journalistic circles. In fact, some journalists come from such a background, while reporters who hail from, say, Compton or East LA are fairly rare.

But it’s also because our default setting for empathy and compassion still centers on white people. They remain our cultural mainstays, and the central figures in our stories and the stand-ins for our national moods. To date, the white experience has been synonymous with the American experience.

However, we are living in a new era, and as such, a natural question arises when we think about the WWC who are supporting Trump.

And that question is an offensive one, but here it is: Why should we feel sorry for them?

I will address that question in my next post.


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