america’s white male anger problem

August 7, 2019
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America has a white male anger problem. Several tragic mass shootings by young white men over the past few days has underlined the issue that’s been clear to so many since Columbine: white male entitlement and a widespread sense of white existential dread has led to a spate of massacres. This is domestic terrorism, wild attacks meant to protect whiteness and send a message to non-whites to be afraid.  

Why do white men need to send this message now? Because whiteness feels emboldened by Trump; but also because it feels its mortality, it feels the country moving toward a time when whiteness is not supreme and the elite status of whiteness is lost. The Texas shooter, who I will not name, posted a ludicrous manifesto online just before the shooting which described a “Hispanic invasion of Texas,” and warned that white people are being “replaced” through mass immigration. This of course recalls the white supremacist chant from Charlottesville,“You will not replace us, Jews will not replace us.” It borrows from the language Trump and other Republicans have used to describe immigration. It pulls from white supremacist conspiracy theory about “The Great Replacement,” where primacy of whiteness is subverted by immigration — or something like that, I can’t keep their cockamamie shit straight. 

During the 2016 election, many Trump supporters said things like, “This is our last chance,” referring to the fact that the country will become majority-minority within about two decades. A Mexican-American Trump supporter who was on MSNBC, talking to Joy Reid at the time, said, “My culture is a very dominant culture. And it’s imposing, and it’s causing problems. If you don’t do something about it, you’re gonna have taco trucks on every corner.” White people are afraid that they are losing their primacy in American life. 

To be clear, this trend predates Trump. In a country that’s been slowly but increasingly more and more open to Blacks, women, gays, lesbians, and trans folks coming to power and the social spotlight, many white people see such victories as pulling from the pedestals that a white male deserved. A 2011 Harvard University study called “Whites See Racism as a Zero-Sum Game That They Are Now Losing” explained how “decreases in perceived bias against Blacks over the past six decades are associated with increases in perceived bias against Whites… Whites have now come to view anti-White bias as a bigger societal problem than anti-Black bias.” Diversity is scaring the hell out of many white men so much that some of them are picking up arms to defend themselves against unarmed fellow citizens.

That said, Trump is clearly exacerbating all this. The cornerstone of his campaign and his Presidency has been restoring white entitlement, stoking white victimhood, ginning up white fear of a supposed invasion of immigrants from the south, and attacking Black and brown people at every chance whether they’re NFL players, congresspeople, or TV anchors. Whiteness is under attack, Trump seems to be saying, I’m here to save you. All his work — the empty promise to build a wall, policies to ban Muslims, deport immigrants, and cage children who come from Central America — has laid out a clear message: these people are not like us and they don’t even need to be treated like humans. This is the President who led his fans to chant “Send her back” about an American citizen. He’s clearly defined who is and who isn’t a real American, and what should happen to not-real-Americans.

A 2018 study called The Effect of President Trump’s Election on Hate Crimes” shows a surge in such crimes, and that “counties that voted for President Trump by the widest margins in the presidential election also experienced the largest increases in reported hate crimes….We hypothesize that it was not just Trump’s inflammatory rhetoric throughout the political campaign that caused hate crimes to increase. Rather, we argue that it was Trump’s subsequent election as President of the United States that validated this rhetoric in the eyes of perpetrators and fueled the hate crime surge.”

Trump is directly responsible for the rise in hate crimes, the rise of overt racism, and the fear of non-white people that’s now coursing through America’s veins. White people may not realize this, but the only truly unifying feature of whiteness is it’s elite status. I’m not saying all white people are elite, I’m saying whiteness is. The loss of white elite status means the loss of whiteness altogether. 

And I am not afraid. Diversity is scaring the hell out of white people because it’s working. We need more inclusion, and if that terrifies more white men, so be it; but the exclusion of marginalized people is over and the supremacy of whiteness is ending and its final death rattle will be a loud and ugly sound and I, for one, cannot wait to hear it.