What to Do about ” Angry, White Men?”
Frequently during the past year I have read and heard “white men” mentioned by journalists (and others) as the main supporters of presidential candidate Donald Trump. The word “angry” is often attached to make the reference “angry white men.” A few years ago a friend who lives in a major American city sent me a clipping from that city’s award-winning daily newspaper. The clipping was a column by that newspapers’s feminist African-American editorial page writer inviting “angry white men” to write in and tell her what they are angry about. Needless to say, she received much e-mail and responded in two or three follow up columns.
*The opinions expressed here are my own (or those of the guest writer); I do not speak for any other person, group or organization; nor do I imply that the opinions expressed here reflect those of any other person, group or organization unless I say so specifically. Before commenting read the entire post and the “Note to commenters” at its end.*
Almost no informed, culturally aware American can doubt that there is a phenomenon that might fairly be labeled “angry white men.” Only that phenomenon also includes many women, probably wives of angry white men.
I detect a tendency on the part of more liberal-leaning journalists, news and culture commentator, pundits, culture critics, etc., simply to dismiss this phenomenon as a bunch of red neck, racist and misogynist reactionaries wanting American society to return to a time when white men (and their families) ruled America. There may be much truth in that assessment.
On the other hand, as an American white man with many white male friends, I can report (my own opinion but based on my own observations over many years) that the “angry white men” phenomenon is not solely driven by racism, misogyny and nostalgia.
Many white American men feel that they have been forgotten, left behind, neglected and even abused in what they regard as American culture’s rush to help victims of all kinds: minorities, women, immigrants (legal or non-legal), etc. They have been feeling, rightly or wrongly, that they tend to get blamed for everything wrong with America. They also feel that they get no respect, except from each other, and are even considered dangerous and/or obsolete, redundant, just for being white and male in America.
Many of them cannot make a living salary at any job and find themselves laid off by their long-time employers who then hire younger workers, often females, to replace them. That is their perception. They may be wrong, but it is a widespread perception among them. Perception may not be reality, but it is a part of reality and, when it becomes strong enough among enough people it can shape reality.
Many of these angry, white American men have turned for support to conservative radio talk shows that affirm their anger and even inflame it to the point of strongly hinting there are others who should be blamed for their shrinking status. Then the well-known scapegoating phenomenon begins to rear its ugly head.
But let me say immediately, that I do not think scapegoating is monopolized by angry, white American men or their favorite talk show hosts; it is also common whenever any group feels disenfranchised, marginalized, oppressed, neglected or abused. So why should we be surprised if it happens among angry, white American men (and those who sympathize with them such as their wives)?
So where am I going with this? Out on a limb, onto thin ice…. I think the movers and shakers of American culture need to sit up and take notice of the angry, white men phenomenon (that includes many women) and listen. Listen critically but listen.
If you ask me (and nobody does), one valid complaint of angry, white American men is their increasing difficulty finding and keeping employment that pays a living wage–a wage/salary sufficient to support a family. The tendency, whenever that is mentioned, is to point a finger of blame at the angry, white men themselves and say they are simply not adjusting to a changing American and world economy. They need to re-tool their minds and skills away from traditional men’s jobs, which are simply going away, and become adept at the new kinds of jobs that are available. Many men do that, but not enough. And I do not think that message helps most men. When they hear it, they only “see” another finger of blame pointed at them–again.
In my humble opinion, for what it’s worth, very little public attention is being paid to helping men make those necessary adjustments and transitions. And, seemingly, only ultra-conservative politicians are talking about bringing manufacturing jobs (and other jobs men traditionally have preferred) back to America. We, as a society, have largely simply settled for “outsourcing” and its resulting “downsizing” as a permanent fact of life about which nothing can be done.
Many people are absolutely shocked and dismayed by the candidacy of Donald Trump. I understand their concerns and have said so here. On the other hand (if you don’t expect me to speak “from the other hand” even on controversial subjects you haven’t read me enough!), I happen to think that a lot of Trump’s support represents “the chickens coming home to roost.” What “chickens?” America’s tendency, at top levels where major decisions are made, to ignore the concerns and even the lives of white American men. Almost all public sympathy goes to others and white American men feel left behind. So, out of their feelings of frustration and even anger, they turn to demagogues who they feel, rightly or wrong, will respect them and help them.
Of course, some will think I am “siding” with America’s angry, white men (and the women who agree with them). I am probably the farthest thing from a “redneck” there is. But I hope I am a somewhat astute observer of culture and changes in it. I think it is simply dangerous for everyone, for all Americans and others, to ignore the concerns of white American men (and the women who agree with them)–the phenomenon I have been describing here.
The tendency on the part of liberal-leaning people is simply to dismiss them–the angry, white men–as constituting a dangerous “backlash”–a reactionary backlash against all the great gains minorities and women have achieved over the past half century. I see much truth in that assessment of the phenomenon. What I am saying is that there is a possibly equally dangerous reaction–to ignore the phenomenon entirely and especially simply to relegate those involved in it to some category worthy only of disdain. That will only increase the anger. That really can’t be in anyone’s best interests.
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