My American Identity

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Some history to explain the current situation

 

Chapter 6

Falling into a racial hell-hole

 

whites become an anvil

The German poet and philosopher, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, once said: “You must be either the hammer or the anvil.” This is a pessimistic assessment of human nature. Evidently, Goethe did not believe that society could exist without oppression. That being the case, one could choose to be either the oppressor or the oppressed. It was better to be the hammer striking the anvil than the anvil receiving such blows.

I think that this principle applies to what the Civil Rights movement has become. Let’s say that white America, especially in the south, was once a hammer that beat down black people, first through slavery and then through unequal social arrangements. The Civil Rights movement came along exhorting whites to stop their oppression.

The immediate appeal was to end racial prejudice. That meant that whites should stop judging all black people by the actions of a few. No, we should judge people individually - “not”, as Martin Luther King said, “by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” White Americans generally accepted that proposition. They did not want to be unfair to black people or “oppress” them because of their skin color.

That was then and now is now. Do we have have a color-blind society that treats everyone without prejudice? No, I’m afraid that Goethe’s principle has kicked in. Whites have now become the ”anvil” receiving blows. I do not mean by this that blacks have made slaves of the majority white population but that whites as a group have become objects of a new racial prejudice. One cares little about white people’s “content of character”: they are racists pure and simple. Whites oppress black people, no matter what they individually may do. Or maybe it is “white society” doing this.

Thus ideological stereotype trumps fact. The curious fact is that a certain type of white is making this argument more than black people. Even more curiously, it is educated white classes more than the uneducated who are pushing the anti-white message. These people may be unaware of the moral argument raised during the Civil Rights era. Otherwise, they might be ashamed of their own prejudice. But one dogmatic opinion feeds on another. Simple observations of truth pass beneath the radar of an entrenched belief system. That is the nature of aggressive ideologies: The more divorced they are from reality, the more zealously some people will hold on to them.

accusations of racism

The reigning opinion says that racism is racial prejudice plus power. By that definition, black people cannot be racists because blacks as a group do not have power. Only white people do. All whites participate in having power, presumably even an aging diabetic who has lost his job and is living on credit cards. Therefore, white people are “privileged” even if they do not know it. Somewhere along the line they must have benefited from the fact that they are white. Minorities, in their shoes, would have had it worse. This statement is made on general principle, with no attempt to get at the facts.

It’s hard to imagine a more prejudiced point of view. Racial zealots with tenure in well-paid teaching positions become champions of “justice” while the politically unconnected white person is maligned and abused. The one who can see truth in untruth must be a bit smarter than us and should be rewarded accordingly.

What is racism as it is understood today? It’s when white people have a negative opinion of blacks more than when they engage in hostile actions directed against blacks. Do statistics show that black people have a higher per-capita crime rate than whites? Do black students generally have lower test scores in school? If so, the only correct way to interpret those facts is to say that they show the effect of racial discrimination. It could not be anything that blacks had done themselves. Least of all, it could not be because blacks are genetically predisposed to poor performance. Anyone who says that is a flat-out racist. He’s evil for having such thoughts.

The fact is, obviously, that many whites and others do have negative thoughts about black people when they engage in certain kinds of negative behavior. Blacks themselves disapprove of this as Jesse Jackson once did when he admitted that he felt comfortable when he learned it was a white man following him in the dark rather than a black. But who said such things makes all the difference to the hardened ideologue. Whites are inherently evil. They must be educated to hate themselves for their racial nature. Whiteness is a condition to be overcome; we’re talking about more than skin color here.

At the University of Minnesota in the summer of 2009 the College of Education and Human Development’s “Race, Culture, Class, and Gender Task Force” issued guidelines for those wanting certification by the Minnesota Board of Teaching that they had to take courses making race, class, and gender politics the “overarching framework” for materials taught in those courses in order to product “cultural competence” in teachers who would be serving a culturally diverse student population. (Reading between the lines: The failure to teach courses this way accounts for minorities’ poor test scores.) The goal of these exercises was to ensure that “future teachers will be able to discuss their own histories and current thinking drawing on notions of white privilege, hegemonic masculinity, heteronormativity, and internalized oppression.” Specifically these aspiring teachers should be able “to explain how institutional racism works in schools.”

An even shorter description of those course requirements would be to say that the University of Minnesota proposes to teach future teachers how they should hate white people, using all the correct jargon and employing the enforcement powers of the state. Education students would be required, for instance, to prepare “autoethnography” reports to probe their own latent racism, classism, and other chauvinistic tendencies arising from conditions determined at birth. White applicants “earned points” in these courses for “demonstrating the ability to be self-critical.” It was unclear whether black teaching applicants were offered the same advantage. “As an Anglo teacher, I struggle to quiet voices from my own farm family, echoing as always from some unstated standard” was the model wording of a personal confession proposed for students who came from rural Minnesota.

It seems here that we’re moving toward mechanisms of thought control and hate not seen since the heyday of Hitler and Stalin. The generic term for this is “political correctness”. Its morality is replete with double speak and shameless double standards. We are living, after all, in a post-Orwellian age. In this age, people show “zero tolerance of intolerance”. They hate people who hate, all in the name of love. Bigoted white people must, of course, be put down by enlightened society. However, hateful attitudes toward whites are still examples of hate; and if hate itself is wrong, then this type of attitude cannot be justified. The “tolerance” must be of all people.

a replacement scenario

How could a “majority population” be put into such an unenviable position? Since we are living in a democracy, it would seem that the majority population would control the government. If government power were used abusively, it would seem that the abuse would fall more on minorities than on the white majority. A white president, for instance, would naturally tend to favor other whites, would he not?. He would feel a sense of kinship with them. Appearances, however, can be deceiving. Indeed, the fact that white people are in the majority may be the key to their political vulnerability. The situation is more complicated than the argument about white privilege would suggest.

Bill Clinton was a white president. He stirred controversy in some circles, and won praise in others, when he told a group of students at Portland State University in 1998: “Today, largely because of immigration, there is no majority race in Hawaii or Houston or New York City ... In a little more than 50 years, there will be no majority race in the United States. ... (These immigrants) are energizing our culture and broadening our vision of the world. They are renewing our most basic values and reminding us all of what it truly means to be an American.”

In other words, we should all “celebrate diversity”. In effect we should celebrate the replacement of one population by another. What Clinton means here is replacing the majority white population with a population of immigrants or others who are not so white. And this, he says, is good. It depends on one’s point of view. If it would “energize” American culture to have more of another kind of people in our country, what does this say about the people already here? Are they lazy dolts? Is that who Americans born and raised in this country are?

The question of immigration is a sensitive one for several reasons. First, many of the immigrants in recent years entered the United States illegally. Yet, for many years the U.S. government refused to enforce border security. Therefore, in comparison with ordinary citizens, the immigrant population seems enjoy a certain impunity with respect to observing U.S. laws. Second, the immigrants posed an economic threat to the other workers because they increased the labor supply and contributed to a lowering of wages. Third, immigrants changed our communities, giving them a different cultural feel. That could be good or bad, depending on one’s point of view. Those who cherished the traditional American small-town life might find the changes unappealing.

In his book, The Lexus and the Olive Tree, New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman identified certain cultural conflicts as globalization came to previously underdeveloped nations. Yes, people in those places accepted the McDonald’s or Starbucks that came with this trend but they also wanted to retain something of their own culture and tradition.

A former Indian prime minister, dressed in traditional Indian garb, told Friedman: “ Unless you preserve at least some of your own olive trees in your own backyard, you will never feel at home in your own home.” Friedman pondered this comment while conversing with an Israeli friend, Yaron Ezrahi, in Jerusalem. Ezrahi said: “You know, Tom, there are two ways to make a person feel homeless - one is to destroy his home and the other is to make his home look and feel like everybody else’s home.”

That is what massive immigration has done to Americans - made their home look and feel like everyone else’s home. It is also what court-enforced policies of racial desegregation did to white Americans fifty years ago. It made their neighborhoods, schools, and gathering places look and feel like another people’s home. The home that used to be theirs now it belonged as well to someone else. The owner might fairly ask: If outsiders must live in my home, could they not at least stay in their own room? Could they not at least be polite and stop arguing with me all the time?

By “home”, I mean personal identity. An identity that looks and feels like everyone else’s is no identity at all. We each must retain something special of our own. Identity is at the root of many disputes today - between Islamic culture and the west, between Jews and Arabs in Palestine, between the races and genders in America. Is there not a way to accommodate all people’s identities in dignity without intruding on the domain of one’s neighbors? Or are certain people - white people, perhaps - beyond the pale of respect because of injuries they caused others in the past?

politicians ignore the white majority

So we can see that the fact that white people comprise the majority population in America does not necessarily mean they are privileged. The government does not really represent them. Instead, the politicians play racial games catering to organized groups.

Since the 1960s, the Democrats have counted on solid support from the black community augmented by support from other groups that consider themselves oppressed by the majority population. Some day, when those groups outnumber the white majority, Democrats will win most of the elections. Until that time, they mute the racial argument to avoid offending white voters while making a special appeal to the minority groups.

The Republicans, on the other hand, appeal to white voters in subtle ways without helping them. They can not afford to alienate the “suburban white women” - Oprah Winfrey’s audience - who take an idealized view of race. For a time, until Tom Tancredo made an issue of illegal immigration, the Republicans under Bush thought they might make inroads into the Latino vote as the Democrats had done with blacks. Now the situation is confused. It will be interesting to see how this situation develops.

With respect to the immigration question, neither major party cares much about non-Hispanic white people. The Democrats cater to Hispanics as a potentially supportive voting bloc. The Republicans support business interests that want the influx of cheap labor to continue. Majority status in the voting population does not seem to ensure that government policy will favor one’s interests.

In fact, I would say that the opposite is true. While the founding fathers may have feared “the tyranny of the majority”, minorities have, in fact, managed to dominate our politics. There are several reasons for this. First, political success depends on a highly motivated group of people applying pressure on government officials. Minorities, fearful of the majority, tend to be much more motivated. Majorities, supposing they are protected, tend to be complacent.

A second reason is that governments have become predatory with respect to their constituencies. Money is increasingly the focus of their attention. People with money in their pockets become the chief target for predators. In other words, the venal politicians go where the money is. It’s with middle-class whites rather than the less affluent black population. The formula is first to vilify someone and then pick his pocket; no one will feel sorry for that wretch. In this case, you label the working-class white a racist and then take away his economic “privilege”. That’s how the system works in America. It’s another reason why the majority does not necessarily rule when politics enters a particular phase.

In 2000, George W. Bush beat John McCain in the South Carolina presidential primary using racial dirty tricks. When asked in a debate with Al Gore whether he supported affirmative action, Bush said, no, he supported “affirmative access” - a Texas program to admit the top ten percent of high-school classes to college. With its soft rejection of racial preferences, this was edgy enough to win disaffected white voters while it did not offend anti-racist white women. The balancing act continued once Bush was in office. The President appointed blacks as Secretary of State and minorities in several other cabinet positions. To court Hispanic voters, he supported “comprehensive immigration reform”. Otherwise, his administration kept quiet about race. Many whites identified with Bush personally. That was enough for him to retain their support.

Obama's new element

The new element is the election of Bush’s successor, Barack Obama, as the nation’s first black President. Obama is actually a mixed-race President - son of a black African father and a white mother from Kansas. This led to early accusations from the black community that Obama was “not black enough”. He did not have any ancestors who were slaves. Obama, a graduate of Harvard Law School, was not really “one of us”, so to speak.

Early in the 2008 primary season, many black leaders supported Hillary Clinton, believing that she had the only serious chance of winning. Then, amazingly, Obama won the Iowa caucuses. These caucus delegates were overwhelmingly white. Black leaders and voters alike now jumped aboard the Obama bandwagon. In the hotly contested primaries with Hillary Clinton, Obama voters were split in two groups: First there was a solid bloc of African American voters voting for Obama because he was black. Second were white voters who lived in states, such as Iowa, with small black populations. Hillary Clinton tended to win white votes in states with more blacks in the population.

What does this mean? It means, I think, that the message of racial unity which Obama delivered at the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston resonated with many white voters. They were voting for Obama not because he was black or would be the first black president but because they liked Obama as a candidate. Also, they liked his message. If Obama had tried to sell primary voters on the idea of electing the first black President - especially if he had approached whites on the basis of whether they were “up” to electing a black president - he would have lost much of his white vote. Hillary Clinton took that approach as a female candidate. She raised the prospect of breaking the “glass ceiling” to become the first female president and, while this message worked with some female voters, it had not the breadth of Obama’s appeal.

Below the surface, I think, most white Americans, were tired of the old-style racial politics. Some harbored what commentators might describe as “racist” views. At the same time, they were willing to vote for an articulate, intelligent, and moderate black candidate like Barack Obama, especially in the context of the national crisis left by the departing Republican President.

Although Obama has mainly white voters to thank for his victory, whites will not reap any reward. Now that Barack Obama is elected, it’s almost inevitable that the transition from Bush to Obama will be interpreted in racial terms. The white president, Bush, made a mess of things. Obama, if he succeeds, will be seen as a black leader who cleaned it up. This succession of Presidents will reinforce the changing demographics of the U.S. population. Shrinking in size and influence, white Americans will just have to accept that George W. Bush represents them symbolically as being like a captain who led them onward and downward aboard the Titanic.

contempt for white people

From the standpoint of racial politics, whites are looking at a debacle. Culturally it’s even worse. For a long time now, white people have been the butt of ridicule and scorn. The new field of “whiteness studies” in college stresses the moral dilemma of being white - i.e., privileged but unworthy. Epithets continue to rain down on white people. Noel Ignatius, who is white, wants to abolish the idea of the white race. “There is nothing positive about white identity,” he once wrote. The black novelist James Baldwin said: “As long as you think you’re white, there’s no hope for you.”

Some whites who call themselves “wiggers” - white niggers, get it? - stop thinking and acting as if they were white. William Wimsatt has said: “If channeled in the right way, the wigger can go a long way toward repairing the sickness of race in America.” In other words, he thinks white people must renounce their racial identity for American society to be revived. My local black-community newspaper in Minneapolis referred approvingly to the election of two black state representatives as “power sharing among black voters and among a new breed of white voters who proudly identify themselves as members of the black community.” They were evidently not proud of being white.

Again, we must look to the universities to find “cutting-edge” expressions of the anti-white opinion. As I write these words, pieces of paper bearing the large-lettered words, “privilege”, “this”, or “status quo”, are posted anonymously on walls in a building that houses the Barbara Barker Center at the University of Minnesota. It seems that some students of color were cut from the production of a dance piece, Missa Breva, in February, and a post-show discussion was held among cast members. Evidently the discussion did not go well. “You are now entering a space of privilege and prejudice” says a caption superimposed on a photograph of the building.

An email from someone responsible for the postings noted that the discussion was one of “the ways in which conversations about institutional racism and white privilege have been mishandled and silenced within the department ...The pain of our fellow White students confronting their privilege and guilt about racism is not the same as the pain of students of Color dealing with the sometimes numbingly routine, sometimes shockingly unexpected experiences of being a visible minority.” The director of the dance program was herself a long-time anti-racist activist. At first, she thought that the student anger might help to raise “important issues” but soon realized that it would not.

Such attitudes are hardly confined to academia. In an article in The Atlantic titled “The end of white America?”, Hua Hsu wrote: “Just as Tiger Woods forever changed the country-club culture of golf, and Will Smith confounded stereotypes about the ideal Hollywood leading man, hip-hop’s rise is helping redefine the American mainstream, which no longer aspires toward a single economic image of style or class. Successful network-television shows like Lost, Heroes, and Grey’s Anatomy feature wildly diverse casts, and an entire genre of half-hour comedy, from The Colbert Report to The Office, seems dedicated to having fun with the persona of the clueless white male.”

“It’s become harder for the blond-haired, blue-eyed commercial actor,” observed an Hispanic marketing executive. In a recent casting notice, she noted, there were requests for people with brown hair and, in one case, for someone who appeared “ethnically ambiguous”. In light of Census Bureau projections, the profile of the typical American consumer was changing to “multicultural inclusion that seems to value every identity - except whiteness.” Bill Imada of the IW Group, a marketing firm, said: “I think white people feel like they’re under siege right now, especially if you’re a white male.”

Short of renouncing their whiteness, how do whites react to that situation? One kind of reaction is to admit, yes, I’m white, but I’m not like all those other white people. I’m more tolerant and hip. Others make a joke about it. Christian Lander, a satyrical writer who has a blog called “Stuff White People Like”, suggests that white people play soccer and like bottled water. “As a white person,” he suggests, “you’re just desperate to find something else to grab onto. You’re jealous! Pretty much every white person I grew up with wished they’d grown up in, you know, an ethnic home that gave them a second language. White culture is Family Ties and Led Zeppelin and Guns N’ Roses - like, this is white culture.”

The trouble with white culture, said a sociologist at Temple University, is that white people “don’t have a culture that’s cool or oppositional.” Maybe that’s the price of being a demographic majority. He added: “To be white is to be culturally broke. The classic thing white students say when you ask them to talk about who they are is, ‘I don’t have a culture.’ They might be privileged, they might be loaded socioeconomically, but they feel bankrupt when it comes to culture ... They feel disadvantaged, and they feel marginalized.” Many would call this historic justice. Even some whites feel that way.

let's crawl out of the corner

I do not think it healthy that America’s majority population, white people, has such a poor self-image. It affects the health of the nation. A people or nation with a weak sense of identity will also become weak in other ways. And that’s exactly what has happened. Personal identity, while intangible, is important. It’s important to try to feel good about yourself, not by reciting empty mantras but by doing something about problems that might exist.

An obvious step toward white healing would be that white people should occasionally stick up for each other. Don’t plead guilty to racism unless you have actually done something to hurt persons of other races. If you let yourself be treated as a white-racist doormat, people will walk all over you. Failure to defend yourself against unreasonable accusations will only embolden your adversaries to abuse you again and again.

The racist accusation is not itself an unbearable burden. Just try shrugging it off. Don’t listen to your malicious critics. You answer to yourself, not to college professors, priests, journalists, and other race authorities. For all their apparent credentials, such persons may well have ill intentions. Maybe, their readiness to accuse people of racism is just a way they maintain their own positions of power. There’s also money to be made in this racket.

The fight here is not so much against black people as against white-hating whites. My impression is that blacks are not so heavily invested in this racial nonsense. Yes, there are black people who will try to take advantage of white weakness. There are black con artists who will exploit the racist angle. However, if whites did not allow this to happen, it would not happen so much. The problem, then, is really with whites. Fortunately that is a group with which white people may have some influence.

So let’s look to ourselves first when trying to correct a problem that also involves other people. It will not be easy. Still, each of us has the ability to stand up and say: This is what I think. I think this is right, and that is wrong. Admittedly, on racial questions, the response will likely be condemnation, or silence, if you try to express an opinion on the wrong side of today’s orthodoxy. But, it’s a free country. You can say what you want and probably not go to jail.

There is, on the other hand, a group of whites who do take race seriously but push their advocacy of whites to an extreme. The strongest possible defense of their racial identity, they think, is to mount an attack on other races and, at times, use violence. This serves only to create the stereotype of the hateful white racist that the larger society rightly rejects. Admittedly, this approach gets media attention. But it hurts the cause of a strong white identity.

The white extremists are reacting to what they see as a hopeless situation. Their demographic enemies surround them them on all sides and mercilessly cut them down. Only a “strong” response, they think, will make a difference. In fact, a patient effort is required. Victory will come, if at all, in the realm of public opinion. It cannot be forced.

What makes things seem so bleak is that public opinion in America is shaped by the mass media, and the people who run the media are not fair. If it were not for this, race relations in America would be much better.

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