FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Last Gasp of White Privilege in America?

by

Some of the richest white Americans are lined up and determined to buy the next election(s).  Sheldon Adelson tried it in 2012 but he made a terrible choice: Newt Gingrich.  He won’t do that again.  The ever-ready Koch brothers will pump so much money into the 2014 off-year elections that it’s possible that the Senate will turn Republican.  Add into the mix the privileged Mars and Walton families who gained their wealth by inheritance, like the Kochs, and who are determined to keep the poor and the middle classes in their place, and the immediate future looks either as scary as it ever has or as if it’s about to enter the final stage of capitalism (controlled by these Frankenstein monsters) before it begins to collapse because of economic inequality.

All of these ageing white male supremacists have aligned themselves with the other pillars of white privilege in the United States, beginning with the five conservatives on the Supreme Court.  Yes, I know, Clarence Thomas looks dark if you see him under a certain light, but I don’t know a single black person who believes that Thomas is African American.  He shares the arrogance and the assumptions of privilege that taint all of the others. And the Supreme Court’s continued decisions about campaign financing, voting rights, and affirmative action are nothing more than the last gasps of rich, white men frightened to death that they and their aged supporters at some time are going to have to stand on an equal playing field.  Delay that day as long as possible! Three cheers for Citizens United!

Ageing white males and their flunkies (mostly middle-aged white males) have not only been able to prop themselves up as a result of recent Supreme Court decisions but also with their ubiquitous reliance on the infallibility of the United States Constitution read literally.  The Second Amendment on the right to bear arms has segued into the right to own small arsenals for people to defend themselves, mostly from the perceived threat of minorities.  Stand your ground! Yet the Constitution (like the Bible, which these people also use as a sacred text) is always interpreted selectively.  Possessing weapons carries more weight than the right to vote.  It’s probably just a matter of time before the NRA argues that Americans ought to be able to shoot themselves into voting booths.

President Obama’s blackness—considered an asset before his election in 2008—turned into a liability almost as soon as he took the oath of office.  Almost immediately, white males cheered for his failure, as a President, no matter what good actions he initiated  to earn the respect of the people who had voted for him.  Unfortunately, those who voted for him were not the same people (in Congress, on the Supreme Court, and in big business) he has had to work with.  Can you imagine a white congressman shouting ”You lie!” during a white president’s State of the Union speech?  Or Republican congressmen and senators (almost exclusively white males) voting against their own policies that Obama borrowed from them in an attempt to work with them?  You cannot convince me that Obama’s election brought an end to racism in the United States.  Rather, it made it much more overt, much more ugly than it has ever been before, as the racist verbal attacks and innuendoes concerning Obama’s wife and children have clearly demonstrated.  It’s almost as if privileged, white Americans saw Obama’s election as an excuse to legitimize racism in its vilest form.  No wonder the poor man has been politically neutered, rendered impotent (which also fits into the historical pattern of castrating black males).  He can’t exactly respond by using the race card as Clarence Thomas did.

And, yet, there is little opposition to these vile actions—especially in the press.  Younger Americans and women (the people we could once count upon and the ones who  elected him) have largely been turned off by the disgusting state of American politics.  I was aghast a few days ago to read an article on Yahoo about students at American University, where I spent most of my academic career.  The university prides itself on its student activism and political awareness.  Yet, when “more than a dozen students on the American University campus ― in the nation’s capital, no less ― were recently asked by the conservative Media Research Center” to name one United States senator, all but one failed.  This is terrible news, no doubt provoking smiles on the faces of the Koch brothers and their ilk.  They are still in control and will be for a little while longer.

But not for much longer.  The white center cannot hold.  Demographically, we already know that.  It’s not for much longer that white Americans will be a majority in the country.  Before that shift, however, the center will begin to change, because so many young Americans (especially those with recent BAs, Ph.Ds in the humanities, and law degrees) will have such piss-poor jobs that the entire fabric of privilege will be torn apart.  I look at myself and my wife and many of our university colleagues who began their academic careers during the sixties and seventies and am grateful for the enormous security we had from our jobs.  But this is no longer true of what used to be regarded as the sacred academic profession.  Fewer than half of the professors on university campuses hold tenure-track positions.  The careers and job security that many of us enjoyed are soon to evaporate.  Universities with their bloated budgets and overpriced tuition will shortly be forced to retrench in the same way that manufacturing has become lean and clean, unions have lost their clout, and too many workers (at Wal-Mart, for example) with full time jobs have discovered that they cannot live without food stamps and other government support.

Echoing William Butler Yeats fifty years ago, the Nigerian writer, Chinua Achebe, wrote of a different context, of a totally different continent: things fall apart.  Here in America, things are rapidly falling apart.  The center cannot hold much longer.  Anarchy is about to be loosed upon the world.

Charles R. Larson is Emeritus Professor of Literature at American University in Washington, D.C.  Email: clearson@american.edu.

 

 

Charles R. Larson is Emeritus Professor of Literature at American University, in Washington, D.C. Email = clarson@american.edu. Twitter @LarsonChuck.

Weekend Edition
February 5-7, 2016
Jeffrey St. Clair
When Chivalry Fails: St. Bernard and the Machine
Leonard Peltier
My 40 Years in Prison
John Pilger
Freeing Julian Assange: the Final Chapter
Garry Leech
Terrifying Ted and His Ultra-Conservative Vision for America
Andrew Levine
Smash Clintonism: Why Democrats, Not Republicans, are the Problem
William Blum
Is Bernie Sanders a “Socialist”?
Daniel Raventós - Julie Wark
We Can’t Afford These Billionaires
Enrique C. Ochoa
Super Bowl 50: American Inequality on Display
Jonathan Cook
The Liberal Hounding of Julian Assange: From Alex Gibney to The Guardian
George Wuerthner
How the Bundy Gang Won
Mike Whitney
Peace Talks “Paused” After Putin’s Triumph in Aleppo 
Ted Rall
Hillary Clinton: the Good, the Bad and the Ugly
Gary Leupp
Is a “Socialist” Really Unelectable? The Potential Significance of the Sanders Campaign
Vijay Prashad
The Fault Line of Race in America
Eoin Higgins
Please Clap: the Jeb Bush Campaign Pre-Mortem
Joseph Mangano – Janette D. Sherman
The Invisible Epidemic: Radiation and Rising Rates of Thyroid Cancer
Andre Vltchek
Europe is Built on Corpses and Plunder
Jack Smith
Obama Readies to Fight in Libya, Again
Robert Fantina
As Goes Iowa, So Goes the Nation?
John Grant
Israel Moves to Check Its Artists
Dean Baker
Market Turmoil, the Fed and the Presidential Election
John Wight
Who Was Cecil Rhodes?
David Macaray
Will There Ever Be Anyone Better Than Bernie Sanders?
Christopher Brauchli
Suffer Little Children: From Brazil to Flint
JP Sottile
Did Fox News Help the GOP Establishment Get Its Groove Back?
Binoy Kampmark
Legalizing Cruelties: the Australian High Court and Indefinite Offshore Detention
John Feffer
Wrestling With Iran
Rob Prince – Ibrahim Kazerooni
Syria Again
Louisa Willcox
Park Service Finally Stands Up for Grizzlies and Us
Farzana Versey
Of Beyoncé, Trudeau and Culture Predators
Pete Dolack
Fanaticism and Fantasy Drive Purported TPP ‘Benefits’
Murray Dobbin
Canada and the TPP
Steve Horn
Army of Lobbyists Push LNG Exports, Methane Hydrates, Coal in Senate Energy Bill
Colin Todhunter
“Lies, Lies and More Lies” – GMOs, Poisoned Agriculture and Toxic Rants
Franklin Lamb
ISIS Erasing Our Cultural Heritage in Syria
David Mihalyfy
#realacademicbios Deserve Real Reform
Graham Peebles
Unjust and Dysfunctional: Asylum in the UK
Yves Engler
On Unions and Class Struggle
Alfredo Lopez
The ‘Bern’ and the Internet
Missy Comley Beattie
Super Propaganda
Ed Rampell
Great Caesar’s Ghost!: A Specter Haunts Hollywood in the Coen’s Anti-Anti-Commie Goofball Comedy
Cesar Chelala
The Public Health Impact of Domestic Violence
Ron Jacobs
Cold Weather Comforts of a Certain Sort
Charles Komanoff
On the Passing of the Jefferson Airplane
Charles R. Larson
Can One Survive the Holocaust?
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail