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.

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

February 27, 2017
Anthony DiMaggio
Media Ban! Making Sense of the War Between Trump and the Press
Dave Lindorff
Resume Inflation at the NSC: Lt. General McMaster’s Silver Star Was Essentially Earned for Target Practice
Conn Hallinan
Is Trump Moderating US Foreign Policy? Hardly
Norman Pollack
Political Castration of State: Militarization of Government
Kenneth Surin
Inside Dharavi, a Mumbai Slum
Lawrence Davidson
Truth vs. Trump
Binoy Kampmark
The Extradition Saga of Kim Dotcom
Robert Fisk
Why a Victory Over ISIS in Mosul Might Spell Defeat in Deir Ezzor
David Swanson
Open Guantanamo!
Ted Rall
The Republicans May Impeach Trump
Lawrence Wittner
Why Should Trump―or Anyone―Be Able to Launch a Nuclear War?
Andrew Stewart
Down with Obamacare, Up with Single Payer!
Colin Todhunter
Message to John Beddington and the Oxford Martin Commission
David Macaray
UFOs: The Myth That Won’t Die?
Weekend Edition
February 24, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Exxon’s End Game Theory
Pierre M. Sprey - Franklin “Chuck” Spinney
Sleepwalking Into a Nuclear Arms Race with Russia
Paul Street
Liberal Hypocrisy, “Late-Shaming,” and Russia-Blaming in the Age of Trump
Ajamu Baraka
Malcolm X and Human Rights in the Time of Trumpism: Transcending the Master’s Tools
John Laforge
Did Obama Pave the Way for More Torture?
Mike Whitney
McMaster Takes Charge: Trump Relinquishes Control of Foreign Policy 
Patrick Cockburn
The Coming Decline of US and UK Power
Louisa Willcox
The Endangered Species Act: a Critical Safety Net Now Threatened by Congress and Trump
Vijay Prashad
A Foreign Policy of Cruel Populism
John Chuckman
Israel’s Terrible Problem: Two States or One?
Matthew Stevenson
The Parallax View of Donald Trump
Norman Pollack
Drumbeat of Fascism: Find, Arrest, Deport
Stan Cox
Can the Climate Survive Electoral Democracy? Maybe. Can It Survive Capitalism? No.
Ramzy Baroud
The Trump-Netanyahu Circus: Now, No One Can Save Israel from Itself
Edward Hunt
The United States of Permanent War
David Morgan
Trump and the Left: a Case of Mass Hysteria?
Pete Dolack
The Bait and Switch of Public-Private Partnerships
Mike Miller
What Kind of Movement Moment Are We In? 
Elliot Sperber
Why Resistance is Insufficient
Brian Cloughley
What are You Going to Do About Afghanistan, President Trump?
Binoy Kampmark
Warring in the Oncology Ward
Yves Engler
Remembering the Coup in Ghana
Jeremy Brecher
“Climate Kids” v. Trump: Trial of the Century Pits Trump Climate Denialism Against Right to a Climate System Capable of Sustaining Human Life”
Jonathan Taylor
Hate Trump? You Should Have Voted for Ron Paul
Franklin Lamb
Another Small Step for Syrian Refugee Children in Beirut’s “Aleppo Park”
Ron Jacobs
The Realist: Irreverence Was Their Only Sacred Cow
Andre Vltchek
Lock up England in Jail or an Insane Asylum!
Rev. William Alberts
Grandiose Marketing of Spirituality
Paul DeRienzo
Three Years Since the Kitty Litter Disaster at Waste Isolation Pilot Plant
Eric Sommer
Organize Workers Immigrant Defense Committees!
Steve Cooper
A Progressive Agenda
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail