When 40%, not 97%, Is Illiberal
One of the legacies of the Obama presidency is that “white male” as a term of embarrassment has now transcended the hothouse of the campus and gone mainstream. We are lectured by media figures, celebrities, and politicians ad nauseam that the November election is really about a new America of diverse minority groups, gays, feminists, and green pitted against a dying and shrinking number of old white guys. Sometimes that narrative requires absurd assumptions.
If blacks vote this election in ratios of 97% for Obama, it is not really proof of racial solidarity, but because Romney somehow is a racist. In this regard, consult the wisdom of Louise Lucas, a Virginia state senator, who is part of something called the Obama “Truth Team”: “What I am saying to you is Mitt Romney, he’s speaking to a segment of the population, who does not like to see people other than a white man in a White House or any other elected position.” Note that Lucas adduces no evidence to back up her slander.
In turn, Romney supporters allegedly have employed racial “dog whistles” — coded language like “golf,” “welfare,” or “cool” — intended to call out white racist males who favor Romney by supposed margins of 40% to 60%. Again, examine the logic — when various minorities prefer Obama by margins of 70% to 97%, we are to assume that they are both enlightened and that Romney is a racist; when white males vote in far greater percentages for Obama than do minorities for Romney, we assume they are racist and illiberal. That white males usually vote for the more conservative candidate, regardless of race (ask John Kerry), is ignored.
You’re Pale, Not Me
Harry Reid, the rather old, white, wealthy, and grumpy Senate majority leader, recently remarked that “the day after the election 17 angry old white men will wake up and realize they just bought the country.” I am not as angry, old, white, or wealthy as Harry Reid, so I assume he has better claims on membership in that guild than I — and millions of white male others.
Radio host Richard Fowler joked to rather pale, unexciting, and male Bill Press on the latter’s TV show that the Republican National Convention was “pale, stale, and male.” Giddy on hearing the glib stereotype, and apparently assured that his own liberalism meant that he was not included in it, Press chimed up that they were “old farts.”
Not long ago, an upscale, well-paid host on MSNBC by the name of Melissa Harris-Perry attacked Paul Ryan as a “wealthy white man.” Ryan, of course, makes a lot less than does Harris-Perry. A bit earlier, the rather boring and very white NBC host Brian Williams asked Mitt Romney whether he would pick as his VP candidate another “incredibly boring white guy.” These examples of the new racial polarization could be multiplied, from the idiot rantings of a quarter-educated Cher to supposedly serious entertainers like James Earl Jones, Morgan Freeman, and Chris Rock (the 4th of July is now “white people’s independence day”) to the ranting of the Congressional Black Caucus to “put y’all back in chains” Joe Biden.
Rules of Racialism
There are a few general rules in these new daily racial obsessions. Stereotyping is not just permissible, but welcomed as long it is never reciprocal. If one were to answer Fowler by invoking skin color in a derogatory way of those not “pale,” he would lose his job. If someone watching Ms. Harris-Perry were to use her language to say that he resented a “wealthy African-American woman” ranting on TV, he would lose his job. Try using the word “niggerization” as did someone calling himself Touré, and see what happens.
Generally the ignorant in politics and the media take their cues from the even more ignorant in academia, who for nearly half a century have sermonized that race or gender stereotyping is applicable only to, and mostly welcome when aimed at, white males. Given supposed “power imbalances” and a “history of oppression,” all but white males can stereotype with exemption. When a Harry Reid or Bill Press takes up the white male slur, they take their cue from the archetypical university president, who for decades has entrenched his own position, and deflected criticism from his usual mediocrity, by warning the campus community of the -ologies and -isms of the white male like himself. I have known about 20 college presidents; they often had one thing in common: they usually upon retirement never followed their own prior loud tutorials. Instead, once out to pasture, the whiny liberals sought out exclusive communities and social engagements with mostly rich white people like themselves.
So liberal white males never imagine that their own slurs could easily apply to themselves. We are to believe that Harry Reid is not old, white, and rich by the fact that as a liberal he caricatures others less liberal with such labels — and feels that his own rather startling success in making money while in office does not mean that he qualifies as wealthy. The same is true of Bill Press or Brian Williams, who likewise trust that their loud liberal credentials offer a pass from the smears that they level at others. I doubt that either thinks that a John Kerry or John Edwards is rich and white, or if he were, that his race or gender matters.
So we come to another disconnect: almost all of those who level these charges are well-off. A Reid, Chris Matthews, or Harris-Perry seems to think that the white males that they stereotype are uniformly of their own privileged class: white guys of the sort they see daily on Wall Street, in the Senate, or on campuses — but not quite like the vast majority of those who instead irrigate in Bakersfield, run a machine shop in Lansing, or wire houses in Houston. I would have some respect for a Harry Reid had he give his grumpy old white man speech to a room of white male laid-off workers, or had Brian Williams suggested that his Akron Chamber of Commerce audience was “incredibly boring,” or had Harris-Perry had one of her psycho-dramatic meltdowns at a NASCAR rally.
Does the cheap smearing also earn psychological penance? The more Chris Matthews and Cokie Roberts hear racial dog whistles, the less they have to live in integrated districts or send kids to inner-city schools. After Harry Reid cited “white men,” was he freed then to talk of Barack Obama as a light-skinned Negro who talked like a white person when he wished? The more Joe Biden warns that “they” are going to put “y’all in chains,” the more it was then permissible for him to have once said of Barack Obama that he was a “clean” black and a “nice-looking guy.”
With this fixation on race and gender, note how individualism fades and character matters less, as we regress into cardboard caricatures of human beings. In the world of a Harry Reid or Robert Fowler, white males can be pale or old, but are not mere individuals who may intermarry or have less money and fortune than females or non-whites — unless they pass muster as liberals and thus are given free rein to stereotype others by their race and gender.
Yet I would resent sharing anything like “white maleness” with Harry Reid, an unscrupulous and unhinged demagogue. I have far more in common with the Mexican-Americans I live among than with Sen. Reid; in that sense, some of those most responsible for the decline in American values and culture have been white males in Hollywood, the universities, the media, and politics. Again, the more white males talk about pernicious white males, the more they seek to be exempt from their own advocacies. The Harvard Law faculty, Obama’s campaign advisors, the ACLU, and the major motion picture companies are far less diverse than the average white middle-class public school.
I was introduced to this phenomenon at 30, when as a young professor at CSU, I had a shouting match with a senior (white male) professor in the philosophy department. He raged on and on about the “lack of diversity in our department!” — in explanation of why he would not hire a gifted young and exploited white male part-timer. So I reminded him that he and his eight full-professor colleagues — unpublished, hired ABD without finished degrees in the heyday of the 1960s, and poor teachers — should then resign after a good 30 years of mediocrity and give their slots to young minorities and women, especially given that the white male part-timers they discriminated against were far better qualified than were the tenured faculty. His answer: “Chaos!” “Anarchy!”
Is an all-wealthy, all-powerful Oprah or Michael Jordan “grumpy” or “old” or “wealthy”? How about Clintonites Franklin Raines or Jamie Gorelick, who hand-in-glove helped to loot Fannie Mae for millions and were at the heart of the 2008 housing bubble and collapse? Was another liberal Clintonite, James A. Johnson, who drained Fannie Mae, one of Reid’s rich and old white males? In this regard, don’t look to our leadership for guidance, since we live in an age where the president of the United States urges Latinos to “punish our enemies” and the attorney general talks of “my people.”
If an America is to become Bosnia, as a white male am I then to regress to claim greater affinity with Jefferson than does Barack Obama? I am “proud” of Lincoln because he was a white male in a way the Asian-American cannot feel such affinity? Do I have special claims on Socrates or Jesus by virtue of being “white” and “male”? Or alternatively, should I curry favor with the new racial barons, by jesting about those “wealthy white men” and “old white males”? Or again, am I responsible for Harry Reid or Bill Maher?
Where Does the Nightmare End?
At best, race will become irrelevant as it has in the case of a Susana Martinez or Marco Rubio. Both can win a state-wide race in a way that members of the Latino or Black caucuses could not, because race is as incidental to their personas as it is essential to race-based congressional cliques. If Rubio were to commit a crime, he would be held to account, in a way that a Charles Rangel or Maxine Waters never will, since everything in the latters’ case become racial, a sort of calculated insurance against accountability.
At worst, the proverbial white male will begin to see society as does a reactionary, bigoted Richard Fowler or Louise Lucas or Melissa Harris-Perry — all of us as little more than mooing cattle, herding in groups in the pasture on the basis of the particular spots on our hides and the size of our horns, or perhaps the United States as the common prison yard, where we divide up as tribal hoodlums by the color of our skins and nothing much else.
Is Hell for a white male such a place where you are supposed to have natural solidarity with a buffoon like Michael Moore?