All Articles Tagged "racial oppression"
There’s a scene in the movie “Spinning into Butter” in which Sarah Jessica Parker’s character comes to grips with what possibly may be her racist outlook on the world. She talks about stepping onto a bus and evaluating where she’s going to sit from her highest preference to be seated next to a white woman, but if that’s not an option she’ll sit beside a white man. If there are no other seats available she can stomach sitting next to a black woman and god forbid in the event where she doesn’t want to stand she would have to muster up the courage to sit next to a black man. And let’s not forget the episode of ABC’s “What Would You Do?” that aired the other night where in a social experiment with actors playing an interracial couple in a small Utah town, many of the residents reacted to interracial dating like it was the Black Plague (no pun intended), to the point where two older white women shed tears at the thought of **gasp** races mixing. It’s no wonder why the black man is angry. He’s been casted as the dark and dangerous villain in a production for which he didn’t even audition.
As a black woman, I can relate to questioning if every slight or snub was based solely on the color of my skin, but I could never understand how my male counterparts must feel when gesturing to help an older woman with the door as she clutches her purse before realizing that he’s “one of the good ones” or hearing the door locks click on a family’s mini-van as soon as he walks by. Some men are unable to release the resentment they experience from being racially profiled on a daily basis, and they end up bringing it home with them and taking it out on the ones that are closest to them. I don’t even necessarily mean through more destructive behavior like substance abuse and domestic violence; sometimes the frustration alone can greatly contribute to a tense living situation that’s challenging for the whole family. I can remember biting my tongue as a child and not approaching my father for at least an hour after work because he needed time to wind down after feeling the need to defend himself and his strong opinions on social issues when talking with his white colleagues. In relationships, I can recall regularly being a strong sense of support for partners who at one time or another dealt with social and structural racism on a daily basis; struggling to be successful through situations that attempted to limit them to being a stereotype (the white supervisor who thought it was OK to refer to him as “boy” or a casual racist joke among colleagues).
Not too long ago, I wrote a column hoping to dissect and dispel the myths circulating in the media about this new trend of white male oppression. However, I’ve been thinking about the topic more lately, thanks in part to continuous news stories about this alleged pessimistic and alienated group. I felt that an amendment of sorts would be needed to fully explain the peculiar nature of this white discontentment.
First and foremost, it’s the economy. Simply put, we wouldn’t be having this conversation if it wasn’t for the stagnated economy, which has left many people, particularly white folks, wondering what happened to the American dream. Historically speaking, when times are bad, folks tend to resort to ethnocentrism as a scapegoat to explain why domestic jobs decrease while defense and foreign aid increase. This sort of cultural clinging is what gave rise to the Tea Party, which, prior to the economic collapse, had as much political appeal as the Lyndon LaRouche movement.
Recently, the Atlantic ran an article about how working class whites are the most pessimistic group in America. The aricle cites a Pew Charitable Trusts’ Economic Mobility Project survey, which suggest that 43 percent of blue-collar whites don’t expect to be better off economically in 10 years. Furthermore, these blue-collar whites see opportunities for people like them shrinking in favor of the “others” in society—although whites without a four-year college degree still remain the largest demographic in the workforce.
Politicians and other political mongers have used this scare tactic since the 60s to exploit fear of affirmative action, welfare, illegal immigration and other irrational suspicions in order to win over rural white votes. By using these tactics, the rich and powerful—many of whom are white males—trick their poor and working-class white counterparts into believing that their interests were mutually aligned. It’s how poor whites, particularly in the antebellum South, were able to accept, if not fight for, the institution of slavery, even though slavery was the reason why they lived in destitute poverty and in some cases, were indentured themselves.
Unbeknownst to poor white folks who continue to fall hard for the rhetoric of the anonymous black and brown bogeyman, and search for answers politically by voting for folks who screw them over legislatively, the ivory tower may be laying the groundwork to usher in a new way of thinking, which will ultimately use poor white folks as a scapegoat for society’s ills.
In a recent lecture titled “The State of White America,” libertarian scholar Charles Murray, co-author of “The Bell Curve,” highlighted what he calls a series of self-destructive behaviors occurring in working-class white communities, such as high out-of-wedlock birth rates, and a decline in marriage and poor work ethics. His conclusion was simple and straightforward—that conditions in working-class white communities are the result of “a different attitude towards work, a fundamental change in the norm…” Now where have I heard this lazy, shiftless line before?
White working-class folks need to be better informed about who or what they place the blame on for their shrinking opportunities in society. Despite all the hyperbole, it ain’t the blacks, browns, or any other minorities that are keeping you down, but rather the more affluent, blue-eyed white folks at the top, who are really your oppressors.
Charing Ball is the author of the blog People, Places & Things.
Ever since the media began reporting on various statistics that people of color will become the new majority by 2050 in the United States and throughout most of the globe, there have been parallel reports circulating about the plight of the oppressed white guy.
Yeah, you read that correctly. White men, who have long lived off of the divine privilege of whiteness, are now pulling out of the ole’ proverbial race card and claiming that their whiteness is somehow prohibiting them from moving ahead in society.
You need a second to stop laughing? Sure, I’ll wait. Okay, got that out of your system? Good. Let’s continue.
CNN published a story a last month asking if whites are racially oppressed. In the story, there were various accounts from white folks who thought that they were losing their country, their identity and more importantly, their jobs to blacks, immigrants and Jews. To counteract their impending loss of white privilege, one of the many things these dispossessed white folks are doing is starting courses at colleges called “Whiteness Studies.”
I’ve tried to ignore these stories, but the same premise kept showing up in other places like in a Public Religion Research study that suggested that 44 percent of Americans believe that present-day discrimination against whites has become as much of a problem as discrimination against blacks and other minorities. Most recently, Newsweek ran a piece called “Can Manhood Survive the Recession,” which highlighted the true victims of the down economy: “The same guys who once drove BMWs, in other words, have now been downsized to BMWs: Beached White Males.”
As defined by Newsweek, these BWMs are the former white corporate suits who are now finding themselves out of work and on the unemployment line with those “other” people. Apparently, its pretty bad for these BWMs—in the first quarter of 2011, nearly 600,000 college-educated white men ages 35 to 64 were unemployed, which equates to a jaw-dropping five percent of the unemployment rate. Shocking, isn’t it?
I find it hard to pity the “plight of the white man,” which so happens to be one of the most entitled positions in our society. Before I can even get to the point of shedding a tear or two for the alleged racial oppression of White America, we must first address the history of racial inequalities against people of color.
Despite Newsweek’s best attempt to garner sympathy, the story failed to acknowledge the other color spectrum of manhood, i.e. men of color who have seen an unemployment rate in the double digits since the beginning of the recession. According to the Center for American Progress, the unemployment rate in 2010 for African Americans and Latinos was upwards of 15 percent compared to 8.7 percent for whites. In that same period, homeownership rate for African Americans and Latinos was 45.0 percent and 47.0 percent, respectively, while the homeownership rate for whites was 74.7 percent.
According to the National Urban League’s 2010 State of Black America report, whites are still more than one and a half times as likely as blacks, and more than two and a half times as likely as Latinos to hold a bachelor’s degree. Also, whites are more likely to have health insurance and six times less likely to be incarcerated.
By definition, oppression is the systematic mistreatment of one group of people by another group of people or by society as a whole, with institutional power as a means of asserting that mistreatment. By sheer birthright, white men have had a historic advantage to feel secure in the fact that when it says ‘All men are created equal’ that it really means ‘all white men.’
So Mr. White Man, if you still feel like society is giving you the short end of the stick than it’s best not to point the finger at blacks, Hispanics or women. Instead, point it at your fellow white men at the very top of this pyramid, who seem to be doing quite well for themselves unlike the rest of us who are losing out on jobs and benefits.
Charing Ball is the author of the blog People, Places & Things.