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:
Weekend Edition
June 24, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Pilger
A Blow for Peace and Democracy: Why the British Said No to Europe
Pepe Escobar
Goodbye to All That: Why the UK Left the EU
Michael Hudson
Revolts of the Debtors: From Socrates to Ibn Khaldun
Andrew Levine
Summer Spectaculars: Prelude to a Tea Party?
Kshama Sawant
Beyond Bernie: Still Not With Her
Mike Whitney
¡Basta Ya, Brussels! British Voters Reject EU Corporate Slavestate
Tariq Ali
Panic in the House: Brexit as Revolt Against the Political Establishment
Paul Street
Miranda, Obama, and Hamilton: an Orwellian Ménage à Trois for the Neoliberal Age
Ellen Brown
The War on Weed is Winding Down, But Will Monsanto Emerge the Winner?
Gary Leupp
Why God Created the Two-Party System
Conn Hallinan
Brexit Vote: a Very British Affair (But Spain May Rock the Continent)
Ruth Fowler
England, My England
Jeffrey St. Clair
Lines Written on the Occasion of Bernie Sanders’ Announcement of His Intention to Vote for Hillary Clinton
Norman Pollack
Fissures in World Capitalism: the British Vote
Paul Bentley
Mercenary Logic: 12 Dead in Kabul
Binoy Kampmark
Parting Is Such Sweet Joy: Brexit Prevails!
Elliot Sperber
Show Me Your Papers: Supreme Court Legalizes Arbitrary Searches
Jan Oberg
The Brexit Shock: Now It’s All Up in the Air
Nauman Sadiq
Brexit: a Victory for Britain’s Working Class
Brian Cloughley
Murder by Drone: Killing Taxi Drivers in the Name of Freedom
Ramzy Baroud
How Israel Uses Water as a Weapon of War
Brad Evans – Henry Giroux
The Violence of Forgetting
Ben Debney
Homophobia and the Conservative Victim Complex
Margaret Kimberley
The Orlando Massacre and US Foreign Policy
David Rosen
Americans Work Too Long for Too Little
Murray Dobbin
Do We Really Want a War With Russia?
Kathy Kelly
What’s at Stake
Louis Yako
I Have Nothing “Newsworthy” to Report this Week
Pete Dolack
Killing Ourselves With Technology
David Krieger
The 10 Worst Acts of the Nuclear Age
Lamont Lilly
Movement for Black Lives Yields New Targets of the State
Martha Rosenberg
A Hated Industry Fights Back
Robert Fantina
Hillary, Gloria and Jill: a Brief Look at Alternatives
Chris Doyle
No Fireworks: Bicentennial Summer and the Decline of American Ideals
Michael Doliner
Beyond Dangerous: the Politics of Climate
Colin Todhunter
Modi, Monsanto, Bayer and Cargill: Doing Business or Corporate Imperialism?
Steve Church
Brexit: a Rush for the Exits!
Matthew Koehler
Mega Corporation Gobbles Up Slightly Less-Mega Corporation; Chops Jobs to Increase Profits; Blames Enviros. Film at 11.
David Green
Rape Culture, The Hunting Ground, and Amy Goodman: a Critical Perspective
Ed Kemmick
Truckin’: Pro Driver Dispenses Wisdom, Rules of the Road
Alessandro Bianchi
“China Will React if Provoked Again: You Risk the War”: Interview with Andre Vltchek
Christy Rodgers
Biophilia as Extreme Sport
Missy Comley Beattie
At Liberty
Ron Jacobs
Is Everything Permitted?
Cesar Chelala
The Sad Truth About Messi
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail