Pride & Prejudice: Angry white voter edition

Photo credit: DonkeyHotey via / CC BY-SA

Today on Twitter, Juliana Pache said "White people think pro-blackness is anti-white because pro-whiteness is rooted in racism & is synonymous with white supremacy & violence."
The statement alone is true enough and is about the differences between "white pride" and "black pride" or "Native pride" or "LGBT pride" or "male pride" vs. "female pride".  Obviously, with "white pride" there's an association with the white supremacist movement. Obviously there is a difference in power; white males still hold the overwhelming majority of wealth and power in much of the world but beyond that I think that there is a difference in the type of "pride" we're talking about.

Pride that lifts you up is a good thing, pride that forces others down so that you can feel superior is not.

It is, for example, fine and true to say "America is a great country". It is problematic to say "America is the "greatest country" because in order to believe that, and to sustain that belief, all other countries have to be less great than America. I believe that the latter statement could shed some light on why there are a large number of increasingly angry voters in politics on the right and the left, not just in America but throughout the Western world.

The belief that whites and males are superior is deeply ingrained and is still being reinforced by groups like the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

It was also easy, following WWII for American (and Canadians as well) to switch their thinking from "great country" to "greatest country". The United States and Canada were western, developed countries with strong social welfare systems in place as a result of the great depression. North American industry had also been almost entirely untouched by the most destructive war the world has ever seen.

While North American factories were fully staffed and running three shifts, and the natural resources sector was booming to try to keep up with demand much of the world was not as fortunate. The UK, Germany, Italy, Japan and most of Eastern and Western Europe had gone from being potential competitors in the marketplace to significant importers of products as they began to rebuild.

According to the white, male conservative these were the "good old days". If you were a white, male in North America who had survived the war your economic success was almost guaranteed. Education was provided under the GI Bill, but it wasn't really necessary. Companies madly trying to meet the demand generated by the war, the baby boom and the spending spree that came after the end of rationing (remember, this followed the depression, Americans hadn't properly gone shopping since the late 1920s.) Any worker with a pulse could be put to work, with generous wages.

Then, many, many things began happening within a short period of time. The civil rights movement swept through the US and segregation ended. The black civil rights movement was echoed by women, Latinos, Native Americans, the gay community and others. Europe and Asia recovered from the war and began to compete again, countries that had been considered part of the "third world" began to develop, to compete in the global marketplace and to better manage the exploitation of their resources.

If you were a 25 year old white male returning from the war, the world had seemingly been turned on its head by the time you retired in 1985. Whites had turned out not to be so superior after all, males had turned out not to be so superior after all and the "Greatest country on Earth" turned out to have some serious competition.

It is also not exclusive to "the greatest generation", the disillusionment can be seen in their grand-children and great-grandchildren. Any white-male American can look back at recent history and see that things used to be "better" for people like them. Any other group (women, people of colour, LGBT, etc) does not have the same view. Things, for people like them, have been improving. Sure the improvements have come slowly, by fits and starts but for all of those groups, things are better than they were in 1953.

For white men, pride turned into superiority and what was a temporary, social and economic illusion, unlikely to ever repeat itself, came to be seen as an entitlement. It is little wonder then that anger is what defines the white male voter in 2016.

On the left they are angry at the wealthy and big business because they want the jobs and social safety net enjoyed by previous generations. (Note: It was largely the Baby Boomers, trying to maintain the lifestyles of their parents that eroded the social programs - buying into Reaganomics and tax cuts at the expense of government programs.)

On the right they are angry at people who are "other" including but not limited to immigrants, Muslims, black people, latinos, women, Asian factory workers and really anyone who has dared challenge white-male-American superiority.

I'm sure the whole rise-in-conspiracy-theory-beliefs ... thing fits in with this phenomenon as well. How else, after all, could everything that was "true" a half-century ago be "false" today? Surely someone is behind it all?

A similar story can be written about white-males in much of the western world, hence the rise in xenophobia throughout Europe. It is an anger about what was lost, without any clear understanding of how it was gained or why it has been slipping away.

So, be proud of yourself, whoever you are, but make it a pride based in reality, based on an understanding of the world and never dependant on keeping others down to prop yourself up.

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