Its About More Than Racism

The following post has been adapted from a comment that I made on social media (Google+), where I responded to someone who was expressing justified anger at the racist elements of the current campaign and how they perceived it impacting the white vote.  After writing it, I realized that it encapsulated my thinking on the origins of the Alt-Right (White Nationalist) movement.


I agree that racism is a part of the problem, but to lay all this at the door step of racism is inaccurate.  There were a variety of factors that played into white men turning out to vote for Trump.  Ultimately it revolves around the question of power; you see we have for decades promulgated the myth that expanding the power of one group, by enfranchising them or protecting their rights, does not cost other groups much of anything.  This is clearly false.


Power is a finite resource and for a century we have been equalizing the distribution of that resource.  Of course, the problem is that if we were to turn back the clock by a hundred years power was monopolized by white men.  So it is that as when we gave women the vote we lessened their power.  When we passed the Civil Rights Act we lessened their power.  The abolition of Jim Crow segregation lessened their prestige and their power.  It continued, when their wives left the home and started working for their own goals and advancement, again lessening their power.  Even if we had stopped there, the resentment would have been sufficient to cause a problem, but we did not.  We gave LGBT people the right to marry, started prosecuting people who discriminated against them, and thereby lessened the power of straight white men once again.


In short, for a century they have fought against the gradual erosion of the power and prestige in society.  They have raged quietly, and not so quietly about it, to anyone who would listen and most of all in whispers amongst themselves.  Each generation of white straight men inundating the next with a century of resentment, bile, and barely restrained anger.  Time and again they felt they were denied a voice and that no one represented them.  In their mind a country that was once exclusively theirs has been stolen from them while their hands were tied.


It does not end there, however, we can blame the white man, but there is plenty to go around. The white woman voted for Trump by greater margins than anyone predicted.  They chose to share in the angst their husbands felt rather than championing the cause of Hillary Clinton and feminism.  They too have felt the sting of losing power and place within society.  The list could go one for quite some time, and in the end we could lay blame at the door of each and every demographic.


In the end, it doesn’t matter that straight white men and women are the most privileged people in our society.  Their power has been eroded by each new minority or sliver of society that has cried out for justice and had their concerns addressed.  They see only the loss, feel the sting of diminished status, and hunger for more.  It is my view that this election was not lost because of racism, that is too simple an answer, this election was lost because of greed.  It was lost because one group was unwilling to share power with all the others and so it used the last gasps of its once great strength to seize one particular moment.  It is either the rebirth of straight white male power in America; or it is the dying gasp of a reprehensible movement.  It is up to us what happens next.


Patrick Writes Added Apr 20, 2017 - 8:45pm
Interesting post. I feel that the simplest explanation is Hillary was the worst candidate on planet earth. And that's why she lost. 
As to the other points, the author has part of a point. But seems locked in a late 20th century mindset that blinds him / her to some simply realities. 
In 1900, the only nation in the world that had given women the right to vote was New Zealand (and that only a few years previously). The average Joe probably had bigger problems in life like would he get killed on the job tomorrow (or would your husband or brother or son get killed) in the unsafe working conditions. Or would he keel over at age 37 from working 18 hour days. 
Women were barred from much employment but I imagine they didn't care much because 90% of women already had a job, running a household. Infant mortality was improving but it still wasn't uncommon for probably 25% or more of your children to never reach age 5. There wasn't electricity for most folks or running water or refrigerators. Making one big meal took half a day (stop by the butcher to get some meat, the market to get veggies, start making the food, do some laundry by hand, sweep, mop, care for your toddlers, etc...). 
As the suffrage movement gained steam across the Western world, America followed suit. England gave women the right to vote in 1918, the Netherlands 1919, the U.S.A. 1920. 
There wasn't much resistance as I understand it (big social changes always encounter some resistance, but I know of no riots in the USA like England had). 
I'd argue there isn't a conspiracy of white people here. 

In the 1920's, the KKK saw it's ranks swell across the country. But I'd argue that was on the heels of the first movie blockbuster of all time, Birth of a Nation, in 1916. By the 1920's a significant, significant amount of white people were first, second, or third generation immigrants who weren't even in the country at the time of the Civil War and never even been to the South. They were ignorant of much of what the movie portrayed, which was nonsense of course.
But to show they were good Americans went and joined a chapter of the KKK. (And by the end of the 1920's when a national KKK figure was convicted of brutal rape and murder of a white woman, left the KKK and it's numbers dropped fast again so that by the late 1930's it was all but dead as a national organization). 
I'd argue, no conspiracy of white people here. 
Lyndon Johnson's social changes of the 1960's did encounter social resistance. Riots weren't uncommon. That was some explosive stuff, there is where your half of a point comes in. 
But women in the workforce beginning in the 1970's? Where was the social resistance? Riots? Old, idiot GI Generation guys did give young women a bit of a hard time in that decade, as I understand. But those old guys retired and by the 80's nobody cared anymore. 
No conspiracy of white people, again. 
Actually when it came to the election of Obama, he got in off a massive vote of white people in his favor. (Many, yes, voted simply because they thought it'd be nice to have a black guy as president--Obama himself admitted this at different points, that he was probably helped more by being black than it hurt him.)
No conspiracy of white people, yet again. 
Patrick Writes Added Apr 20, 2017 - 8:54pm
I'd argue that there definitely are white men who feel exactly as the author has portrayed all white people. And they are vocal, they love attention. But they are an extremely small percentage of people and therefore practically meaningless in terms of who is elected president.
Patrick Writes Added Apr 20, 2017 - 9:02pm
(Last comment I promise). I'd further argue that there are a lot of not awesomely educated white people who used to have middle class jobs and don't anymore. And during the Obama years, saw a presidency that talked about different demographic groups and how they needed help and he felt their pain (didn't actually do anything for them). But white men were always left off the list.
And a government that institutes policies that help the uber-rich. Then sits back and does nothing to help the largest demographic group in the country (middle class white people). And this was a pattern for years and they got very angry.

The anger is real. I'd agree. There was a real perception that the government was helping other demographic groups and leaving white people off the list. This was simply a perception though and not based in the reality I'd argue. Obama's policies didn't help anybody really. They just created a perception. 
Among the rabid Trump supporters, I'd seen and heard a racial element to their political desires. But again, most of the people who voted for Trump weren't his rabid followers. They help their nose and voted for economic reasons (he promised them their jobs back!). 

Back to my original statement, Hillary lost because she was a terrible, terrible candidate. 
A Ravenson Added Apr 20, 2017 - 9:27pm
I appreciate your feedback on the above essay, but I'd like to address a few points that you make.  First, the author is a white male who grew up in the rural South.  When I speak of what is said in whispers passing from one generation of white men to another, I am not speaking in the abstract or in terms of speculation.  I am, rather, relating my precise experience in the schools, churches, and random country stores of my childhood in the 1990s. These are the same comments I have heard this very year from my students in public high schools in the South.  Perhaps, there are places where the comments are not shared so openly, but having lived in every region of the country I can affirm that the South isn't the only place they are made
Second,  I'm not sure where you arrived at the idea that I was suggesting some form of white people conspiracy.  That would be absurd.  My essay was about power dynamics, building resentment, and tensions that go beyond racism.  To be honest, in my mind this essay is far more about the fact that power is a finite resource, and that people resent losing power as they would losing anything that they feel is taken from them.  
I think there is a beautiful innocence in your comment about the Alt-Right being a small minority.  You're right, of course, that the ones we see on television, or read about in the news, are a tiny minority.  Most people would never be that brazen or extreme, and yet the seeds of their beliefs are spread widely enough in society that the ideas are familiar to all of my students.  To give you a real world example, a student in a biology class at my school asked in all seriousness, "If two different species can't have babies, how come white people and black people can have babies." The racism is there, it is quite real, and it is widespread.  
There is another point in your response where you try and say that women only got push back from an old guard of men when they joined the work force, but that by and large they were welcomed with open arms.  That simply wasn't, and isn't, the case.  We have only to look as far as this weeks headlines to realize that misogyny and resistance to fully equal treatment of women in the work force is something we are still working toward.
Perhaps, I am not the best communicator, but I was attempting to convey the idea that some white men feel as if the past century has been an attack on their position in society. This is because power and privilege are finite resources; there is not an infinite amount of either, when we increase the power or prestige of different groups as we have clearly done in the last hundred years, then the power and prestige they receive has to come from somewhere. It is natural that when something is continually taken from people (in this case power and prestige) they will resent it.  White men, in many places, feel as if something has been taken from them and their position in society has been lessened.  They are not wrong, but their (perhaps I shoud say our) position in society one or two hundred years ago came unjustifiably at the expense of other people; namely racial minorities, women, and LGBT persons.  I don't think we can truthfully deny that this resentment played a role in this election; especially given the evidence that has presented itself since election day.  There have been numerous stories about increased racial, religious, and anti-lgbt discrimination.
wsucram15 Added Apr 20, 2017 - 9:28pm
Ive been saying this "In the end, it doesn’t matter that straight white men and women are the most privileged people in our society.  Their power has been eroded by each new minority or sliver of society that has cried out for justice and had their concerns addressed.  They see only the loss, feel the sting of diminished status, and hunger for more.  It is my view that this election was not lost because of racism, that is too simple an answer, this election was lost because of greed.  It was lost because one group was unwilling to share power with all the others and so it used the last gasps of its once great strength to seize one particular moment"  
all along.  Glad you wrote it..and not me.  But I will add that there are certain sectors that fed into this and made white privilege and bias become something "just a little bit more" and while not everyone bought a ticket for that show, many did attend.
A Ravenson Added Apr 20, 2017 - 9:33pm
Side note: I never discussed Hillary in my original essay; but you seem quite focused on her.  Hillary was, in my opinion, a flawed candidate who lost for numerous reasons.  She lost because she wasn't considered trustworthy by the American people; that was partially her own fault because she made a series of poor decisions and it is partially attributable to a well designed smear campaign by the Republicans who started attacking her in 2012 in preparation for 2016.
In addition, she was a poor communicator who selected her issues poorly and was out of step with the American people.  She also suffered from massive electoral interference by a foreign power, a bumbling FBI director who revealed some investigations but not others (i.e. the investigation ongoing against Trump), and a host of other problems. We could debate all day about why she lost, we could find a million reasons, but ultimately none of them would detract from my original point.
Patrick Writes Added Apr 20, 2017 - 9:41pm
What are you referring to with respect to women not having equal treatment in the work force? In the U.S.A.?
In salary, unmarried women (in 20's) earn more than their male counterparts. Only in their 30's when marriage and family comes into the picture do women start to lag behind men. - Argues that when you filter the data 'better', single women in 20's earn only "the same" as men - Women who negotiate only salary often get the same pay as men. 
Could you confirm what you're referring to regarding women and equality in the workplace? 
A Ravenson Added Apr 20, 2017 - 9:57pm
My friend, while there is evidence that the pay gap is closing, though when we take into account all women there is still a significant gap.  There are a number of reasons for the slow closing of the gap, some of these reasons (such as women graduating from college in greater numbers than men amongst certain demographics) will be problems for another generation.
That having been said, equality in the work place is about a lot more than money.  For example, women are still very underrepresented in management positions in most industries.  In addition, women are far more likely to face sexual harassment, sexual discrimination (in hiring, retention, etc.), and further they often they face far more subtle discrimination and are largely cultural in origin.  For example, men will often speak over women without even thinking about it.
We could go on for days about the types of discrimination and difficulties women face in the workplace.  Money and pay is only one dimension of the problem.
A Ravenson Added Apr 20, 2017 - 9:59pm
edit:  ...further they often face far more subtle discrimination that is largely cultural in origin.
Shane Dean Added Apr 20, 2017 - 10:18pm
White men turning out for Trump would not be enough for him to have won.  Until the Democrats are willing to listen to the members of their own party, they are going to fail.  The party elite kept changing the rules anyway they could to make sure Bernie Sanders lost.  (I still don't understand why Democrats think they need superdelegates.  The Republicans don't.)  It wasn't so much a matter of Donald Trump winning.  It was much more a matter of Hillary Clinton losing.  Instead of trying to check off a box for history, the Democrats should first and foremost find a candidate that is worthwhile, regardless of genitalia.  
The Democrats need to start looking outside the elite.  I would recommend they court Tulsi Gabbard to run.   Or someone else who is worthwhile that actually cares about the people who elect her.  I typically vote Republican (though almost all Libertarian last election) but I would vote for Tulsi Gabbard in a second.
Patrick Writes Added Apr 21, 2017 - 12:55am
If the author thinks it's a serious problem that all of the women working have a lower average salary than all of the men working, regardless of the type of job, then I guess we disagree about how much of a problem that is. 
If Momma's baby just started school and after some years out of the workforce mother takes a new job while hubby is supporting the family with his job, those two salaries are going to be dramatically different. And there is no inequality there. There is no problem there.
Women have babies. Actually somebody staying home and bonding with the baby is the best thing to happen for the child than chucking him / her into daycare at 12 weeks old. It doesn't have to be the mother but that's usually what couples decide. 
Your employee of the month trophy can't give you a hug as you approach retirement. You can't leave your estate to your shareholders. Family is important. And it's important to most women and men. But the side effect of that is in the average salary of all the women working. 
Doug Plumb Added Apr 21, 2017 - 5:54am
Fundamentally you have made an error. When you look at white men in society, you must look at Christians and Jews separately. Then you find white Christians grossly under represented and Jews grossly over represented. White Christian men are in no way privileged in society.
  The Judeo Christian ethic is also a contradictory term Its a society of Christians led by Jews, but Jews and Christians share no common value and do not worship the same God.
  If people are truly concerned about discrimination, look at the power structure and see how all non Jews are being betrayed, lied to and will eventually be betrayed in the biggest possible way they can imagine. Its why every single one of our institutions are being destroyed.
Dino Manalis Added Apr 21, 2017 - 12:46pm
We should avoid generalizations and treat people individually, not by race or gender, that's wrong!