Friday, October 14, 2011
Pessimistic Whiteness: It's your privilege catching up to you
Life is getting hard for white people in the United States, and they’re not happy about it. The government is to blame, right? Not so fast.
What happens when white people become class conscious? In other words, what happens when a white family wakes up from the dream of upward mobility to find that they, like all the non-white families around them, aren’t quickly moving up the social ladder?
Apparently, they give up hope for a better life while their nonwhite neighbors believe, with a little time, they’ll be better off than they are today. In my opinion, what we see in this story is a desire for whites to hang on to their whiteness. In order to cling to whiteness, they give up their optimistic looking forward to wealth and general, social upward-mobility. They say, At least I’m white. That statement embodies white pessimism.
The research is proving Lillian Smith’s claim about the bargain poor whites make with wealthy whites about wealth and whiteness. She published Killers of the Dream in 1949. Guess it takes the popular culture 63 years or so to wake up to the reality that when white people realize they aren’t “getting rich,” they become satisfied with their social and economic status and begin relying on whiteness itself to provide its unique and unearned privileges. Others must look forward to the potential for upward mobility in spite of its difficult achievement because they aren’t born privileged, and they know it. They’ve didn’t inherit access to privilege and they realize they must work hard if they’re to have any opportunity to achieve. They can remain, or be seen to remain, hopeful. White people feel it’s owed to them. When they don’t get success, they become (get) pessimistic.
Check out this article from The Atlantic, “Why Whites Are More Pessimistic About Their Future Than Minorities”. The Atlantic doesn’t put it like I did above, but that’s not surprising. I think it’s an operation of white power: we’re encouraged to look at non-white families to see what’s different about white families. Such narratives provide us, as a culture, with the notion that we are integrated. Of course, white people are pessimistic. We are taught to expect (to inherit) privilege. I’m not saying The Atlantic article is racist, so don’t get me wrong. I’m just pointing out that an article (that examines white pessimism) is mostly written about non-white people. White is always in contrast with others. It’s always non-essential to the narratives that describe it. Dig?
Why do white people blame the government? Because the bargain they make with white privilege is that they will never blame wealthy white Capitalists, the actual culprits. SEE ALSO, crass libertarianism, capitalist libertarians, Ron Paul dittoheads. These people have a radical certainty that they, too, have a natural right to achieve the wealth rich folks merely inherit.