Friday, January 25, 2013

Brotha Wolf: About the White Male Problem

I am hosting another of Brotha Wolf's blog posts today. In it, he features and discusses three recent essays examining White male pathology, a topic I think is not only crucial, but long, long overdue for consideration. Thanks to Brotha Wolf for this piece and for his permission to re-post it.

"First of all, I want to make it clear that this post is not about all white men, nor is it meant to be insulting or racist. If you are a White male who is offended, maybe this post is for you to ponder. And I damn sure do not want to hear anything about Blacks and crime. That is not the topic of this post. It is about certain White men, their pathological behaviors that affect not just those locally but globally, and the mindset and atmosphere created that supports, protects and uplifts them almost unconditionally.

"Several recent articles put the spotlight of pathology on White men, especially over-privileged White men with wealth and power. The first, written by Joe, comes from Racism Review and talks about the economic crisis being the fault of most elite White men:

"Unusual numbers of photos of elite White men are in the news lately, since the financial crisis hit. Almost all perpetrators of our “second great depression,” as with the first, have been White men, White male business “geniuses,” often with top-college educations. It is odd that no one yet, to my knowledge, has featured the Whiteness or White-maleness of these malefactors of great wealth as a central feature of the life-devastating economic “problem” we face globally. One can be sure that if these agents of destruction were women or men of color that the reality of their gender and racial characteristics would be a constant topic of conversation by pundits and politicians, especially in the media.

"Come to think of it, White men (they named themselves “White” in the 17th century) created the modern Western (now world) economic system. They created the Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. Or should we say, the Predatory Ethic and the Spirit of Exploitation. Arrogant greed seems to be a major motivation behind the labor/land expropriation and exploitation euphemized by historians as “overseas exploration” and “settlement.” Certainly, White men created, expanded, and maintained the often genocidal taking of millions of indigenous peoples’ lands in the Americas and the Holocaust-like Atlantic slave trade. Mostly white men created the oppressive realities of modern capitalism and North American slavery, and have made huge profits and wealth off of it, now passed along to their descendants.

"In recent centuries, elite white men have caused much death and destruction, probably more than any other elite group on the planet. White men are certainly not the only major sources of “democide” and related despotism, but they do seem to lead the list. (Consider not only the many indigenous genocides and Atlantic slave trade, but the Holocaust, Soviet gulags, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, two world wars). While White men are not alone in such actions, the consequences of their actions have been more far-reaching, especially for the planet in general, than have those of despotic not-White actors.

"White men set up the Western legal systems reinforcing modern capitalism and North American genocide targeting millions of indigenous Americans and enslaving millions of African Americans. They created the White racial frame to explain and rationalize these savage operations. The White frame is a dominant worldview that a great many White men, including elite political-economic leaders, still seem to be operating out of as they today exploit the world’s majority, the 80 percent of the planet that is not White.

"And it was these self-named White men who reinvigorated a very strong White-patriarchal frame, with its “great chain of being” notions (God at top, then angels, then European men, then European women, then European children, then “other races,” then animals). In the North American case, they easily extended this to the system of racial oppression they had devised for Native Americans and African Americans.

"The White racial frame, which I have written about before, is more than a framing of racial 
matters to legitimate oppressions. It accents White virtues, especially White male virtues. It has a dramatic arrogance about what is virtue and what is not, about who is virtuous and who is not, and about where and when there is virtue. It assumes an arrogant greed, a predatory spirit, an overarching patriarchism that means White men should be at the head of society, the masters of the social universe.

"Yet it is the lack of virtue of a great many White men that has gotten the world’s economy into this second depression. It is their stupidity, their lack of “IQ,” their lack of foresight, their lack of political regulation and planning, and thus their lack of public-regardingness. A recent report on the “financial crisis and the systemic failure of academic economics” (by mostly European economists) makes quite clear the failure of the (substantially White male) economics profession to research and interpret the global financial crisis.

"Why blame White men? Well, the men who gave us this global crisis are overwhelmingly White and “educated,” often from top universities, but not very good in regard to critical thinking or the ethics of the “commons.” Then, there is the white collar crime, or at least corruption, that many have apparently engaged in -- so far rarely discussed. White collar crime and other corruption, economic and political, is pushed to margins of public discussion because this is the kind of behavior dominated by White men. Such actions are often seen as not criminal, as “normal,” in part because White men wrote the laws about what “serious” crime is. They decided what is to be punished, and how much. Millions have lost their homes, jobs, incomes, and pensions, yet we rarely see elite White men targeted, photographed, or treated as criminals who stole or otherwise savaged lives -- unlike hundreds of people of color who get such treatment by the media weekly.

"Why blame White men? A reason, again, is that White men control the mass media corporations, and thus control how White men and their corruption get portrayed in society. They are the ones who force portrayals of this second depression as an economic reality for which “we are all responsible,” a crisis “no particular group” created. Yet, there are real people, real White male actors, who did in fact create this horrific reality the world now faces.

"The second article from Salon, written by David Sirota, discusses another problem, the tendency of White men to arm themselves to shoot and kill as many people as possible before they – sometimes – kill themselves by the same weapon. With such acts of violence now common in this society, why isn’t there a discussion on White male crime? Sirota wonders if it’s time to profile white men:

"Yesterday, during a cable news discussion of gun violence and the Newtown school shooting, I dared mention a taboo truism. During a conversation on MSNBC’s “Up With Chris Hayes,” I said that because most of the mass shootings in America come at the hands of White men, there would likely be political opposition to initiatives that propose to use those facts to profile the demographic group to which these killers belong. I suggested that’s the case because as opposed to people of color or, say, Muslims, White men as a subgroup are in such a privileged position in our society that they are the one group that our political system avoids demographically profiling or analytically aggregating in any real way. Indeed, unlike other demographics, White guys as a group are never thought to be an acceptable topic for any kind of critical discussion whatsoever, even when there is ample reason to open up such a discussion.

"For making this point, I quickly became the day’s villain in the right-wing media. From the Daily Caller to Fox News to Breitbart to Glenn Beck’s the Blaze to all the right-wing blogs and Twitter feeds that echo those outlets’ agitprop, I was attacked for “injecting divisive racial politics” into the post-Newtown discussion (this is a particularly ironic attack coming from Breitbart – the same website that manufactured the Shirley Sherrod fiasco).

"The conservative response to my statement, though, is the real news here.

"Let’s review: Any honest observer should be able to admit that if the gunmen in these mass shootings mostly had, say, Muslim names or were mostly, say, African-American men, the country right now wouldn’t be confused about the causes of the violence, and wouldn’t be asking broad questions. There would probably be few queries or calls for reflection, and mostly definitive declarations blaming the bloodshed squarely on Islamic fundamentalism or Black nationalism, respectively. Additionally, we would almost certainly hear demands that the government intensify the extant profiling systems already aimed at those groups.

"Yet, because the the perpetrators in question in these shootings are White men and not ethnic or religious minorities, nobody is talking about profiling them as a demographic group. The discussion, instead, revolves around everything from gun control to mental health services to violence in entertainment — everything, that is, except trying to understanding why the composite of these killers is so similar across so many different massacres. This, even though there are plenty of reasons for that topic to be at least a part of the conversation.

"Recounting the truth of these double standards is, of course, boringly mundane, which means my comment on television summarizing them is an equally boring and mundane statement of the obvious. However, as evidenced by the aggressive attempt to turn those comments into controversial headline-grabbing news over the weekend, the conservative movement has exposed its desperation — specifically, its desperation to preserve its White Victimization Mythology.

"In this mythology, the White man as a single demographic subgroup can never be seen as a perpetrator and must always be portrayed as the unfairly persecuted scapegoat. In this mythology, to even reference an undeniable truth about how White privilege operates on a political level (in this case, to prevent a government profiling system of potential security threats even though such a system exists for other groups) is to be guilty of both “injecting divisive racial politics” and somehow painting one’s “opponents as racist” — even when nobody called any individual a racist.

"In this mythology, in short, to mention truths about societal double standards — truths that are inconvenient or embarrassing to White people — is to be targeted for attack by the right-wing media machine.

"Last, but not least, is an excerpt from Alternet that’s been getting a lot of hits. It was written by Frank Schaeffer who is a former right-wing evangelical. His article focuses on his Grand Old Party which he believes is now governed not by politics, but by raw fear. He calls it America’s White male problem:

"Not everyone who disagrees with the president is a racist. Not even most people who do are. But the continuous attempt by the White far-right in Congress to shut down the government rather than work with our Black president has a lot to do with racism. And lurching from manufactured crisis to crisis isn’t about politics; it’s about pathology. It doesn’t make sense politically to take the blame for risking America’s future — and the Republicans know they will take the blame — so how can we conclude other than something else is going on here?

"I’m not talking about the White young male mass murderers we’re afflicted with carrying assault rifles courtesy of the NRA. I’m talking about the White far-right males who hijacked the 112th Congress and are set to destroy the 113th. They have metaphorically done to our country what the killer in Newtown literally did to 20 children, and for the same apparent reason: alienation from the mainstream and retreat to a paranoid delusional fantasy land of — literal — mental impairment.

"This has less to do with politics and more to do with the fear and mental illness that grips a willfully ignorant minority of White males. But the mainstream media is talking about everything but the underlying racial, cultural and mental health issues afflicting the White male minority of far-right congressmen holding us all hostage. And the extreme insanity of the right-wing rhetoric over the last four years -- from “birther” to Obama-is-a-Muslim, etc. -- conclusively points to something other than politics.

"The manufactured crises we face are not about economics. These self-inflicted wounds are about a few people’s fear of being marginalized.

"It’s not considered polite to mention race anymore. But I’m going to mention it anyway. We have a White problem.

"The White Republican hijackers of our Congress talk about smaller federal government and out-of-control federal spending, states’ rights and the Defense of Marriage Act. These are the defenders of 30-round magazines and personal arsenals, Kevlar-piercing cop-killing bullets, access to unlimited numbers of semiautomatic weapons and lethal handguns carried in public — all in the name of the Second Amendment.

"The mainstream media doesn’t have the courage to say it, but the Second Amendment “defense” is nothing to do with today’s loud defense of “gun rights.” The truth of the matter is that there is a subculture of frightened White Republicans who see their own government as a threat. They’ve embraced ignorance and a fact-free life that denies evolution, gay-rights, the demographic changes in America, and above all, the fact that their fellow countrymen have rescinded our entire history of racist bigotry and voted for a Black man for president. They just can’t accept this.

"The common thread that runs through the Republicans’ “issues” of the day has little to do with those issues per se. What it’s really about is the fear of a future in which traditional White male power structures dissolve.

"Simple palpable hatred drives these people to willful ignorance. The White males insisting on carrying guns (in a country where violent crime is way down!) are scared, not of muggers, but of the fact that their imaginary reality is coming unstuck.

"The fact is that many flag-waving American Republican males these days are horribly unpatriotic...Some of the Republican “patriots” hate this country so much they join secessionist movements and interpret their “right to bear arms” as a right to build personal arsenals against that day when the federal government comes to “take away our freedoms.”

"Were these articles meant to bring an unrelenting sense of guilt onto the entire White male population? No. But these articles -- all written by White males -- are trying to address a problem that has been kept quiet for far too long. This is not to make White men ashamed to be White men. This is to realize that the problem is not because of ”other” people, referring to poor people and people of color from within or outside America’s borders. Articles like these are responses to the constant scapegoating of the less powerful population -- which includes poor White men.

"It is not easy for some people to take this in. It’s far easier to jump on the mainstream bandwagon. But in these times we cannot afford to rely on simple, convenient lies and hope the situation will fix itself. We need to tell it like it is, and hold those wield their power so recklessly accountable."
NOTE: The graphic above is the work of Paul Kuczinski.


aspergum said...

Thank you for calling attention to these articles, two of which I hadn't seen before.

For a couple of decades now, class-privileged white men in general have grown steadily more anxious about their supposedly victimized status. But as these articles point out, that's a terribly ironic fear, given how relatively invisible their group status remains. And thus, how entrenched their collective power remains.

It's been almost humorous to watch the Republican Party try to deal with the reality of changing demographics (and thus with changing political attitudes). Almost humorous, because it's really more dangerous than funny. White men have been taught to blast their way out of danger; negotiation and compromise are for "pussies."

Anonymous said...

"One can be sure that if these agents of destruction were women or men of color that the reality of their gender and racial characteristics would be a constant topic of conversation by pundits and politicians, especially in the media."

Changeseeker said...

Aspergum: It's absolutely true (and crucial to the long-term maintenance of a power position) that those in the catbird seat are perceived as invisible so that their position is never questioned. That way, it comes to be seen as "natural," so no one will ever imagine that it needs to be changed.

Anon 8:45: Are you speaking to Brotha Wolf or to me? To my knowledge, we're both living in the real world. Which world are you living in?

steve p said...

Joes article on the economy makes no sense, he blames capitalism, which is not the problem.

it was the progressives and their policy's over the last 100 years that made this possible.

I don't want to call the man and idiot, but it is rather pathetic to see someone who has no knowledge of economic forces write an article about something he obviously does not understand, and possible will never comprehend because of his bias political views.

I would explain myself further, however im not sure if anyone will read this post.

Changeseeker said...

It never fails to amaze me, Steve P., that people who think what I publish is garbage will, nevertheless, waste their limited time in a given day reading post after post on this blog. There are millions of blogs and websites you would undoubtedly enjoy much more. Or, as I said in response to another of your "comments," you could write your own blog, developing your ideas much more thoroughly. My readers know exactly where you're coming from. Folks who think like you established White Supremacy in the first place. And every time you comment, you serve as an in-house "object lesson," sort of a show-and-tell example of what I'm writing about. I guess I should thank you for helping make my point.