James Webb: White Angst or Southern Strategist?

July 26, 2010  |  

by Charing Ball

Democratic Senator James Webb penned an op-ed in the Washington Post last week entitled, “Diversity and the Myth of White Privilege,” which basically argues against government entitlement programs because of their ability to disenfranchise white people. Yeah, you heard me right.

Webb is upping up the race baiting war being played out in the media by arguing that affirmative action has resulted in preferences for groups, particularly Hispanic, Asians and Africans, that cannot claim to be victims of massive, systematic injustices inflicted in the United States. Well that is arguable to say the least, considering that the U.S. has historically not been so welcoming to any of those groups. Ok, but for the sake of argument, I’ll bite.

Webb, a proud Scot-Irish and former Republican, is known for playing the oppressed white male card and has penned a few books including “Born Fighting: How the Scot-Irish has Shaped America,” which claims, among other things, that the WASPs (White Anglo Saxon Protestants) have systematically kept the Scot-Irish oppressed in America.

This sentiment is not new or unheard of. A recent New York Times piece pretty much echoes Webb’s assertions and points out that a “upper-middle-class white applicant was three-times more likely to be admitted than a lower-class white with similar qualifications.”

I would be inclined to agree with Webb as well as the New York Times piece about the varying levels of class distinctions in society, but if the heart of this white angst is the entitlement given to upper class white folks over poor white folks, why then is all this anxiety and angst over entitlements being directed at the “others?”

What’s really at the heart of Webb’s, and others, perfectly-timed, white angst is two folds combined into one: 1).a dog whistle approach to gain votes  by 2) using the old Southern Strategy to manipulate fearful white folks, who are unable to accept that white privilege has and does exist. Webb, in his editorial, points out that it is unfair to lump White America into one large entitlement pot and makes the point of arguing that only 5 percent of whites in the south actually owned slaves.

What he fails to admit, even to himself, is that even if a white person, whether they were around during slavery or immigrated from Ireland or some other European country post-slavery, those immigrants were still able to benefit from jobs and other opportunities legally denied to those of African descent – regardless of what part of the Diaspora they originated. That benefit meant a step-ahead in education, employment and other opportunities, making it easier for white-skinned immigrants to assimilate into society and leaving those of the darker persuasion to struggle on the fringes.

Let’s lay out the hard facts: there are about 29.6 million small businesses in this country generating about $9 trillion in revenues. Only 7 percent are minority-owned and only 1.4 million (5 percent) of them are black owned [tag: business week]. Another 1.7 million (6.5 percent) are Hispanic owned. They (all minority owned businesses) account for $694 billion or 7.7 percent of the overall revenues.

And what about the other facts, which Webb ignores, that shows that 73% of all college students in the US are non-Hispanic non-Jewish whites compared to the 27 percent combined college student representatives of all other races [tag: chronicle article]. And while 48 percent of all poor people in America are white, that percentage only accounts for 11 percent of the total white population.  Compare that with the 34 percent of American blacks, the 31 percent of Hispanics and 13 percent of Asians, who are living below the poverty line.  And shall we mention that

I can certainly sympathize with Webb about the misdirected application of government entitlement programs [i.e. affirmative action], which have historically benefited White women the most (cough), but I cannot support his mischaracterization and virtual whitewashing of certain historical essentials. While poor whites may not have had a hand in creating this racial division in society, enough of them certainly held no qualms about partaking in these divisions including through segregation, racial intimidation (i.e. the Klu Klux Klan) and various other Jim Crow laws.

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