My White Male Father
Our Founding Fathers
What Exactly is White Male Privelege
"You'd better learn to swim or you'll sink like a stone" (Bob Dylan)
"May you live in interesting times" (popular proverb)
I don't really remember when the idea of white male privilege came into my consciously. I do recall an American Literature class in college, where a particular vocal teaching assistant would talk about the "poison white" when referring to situations in literature where subjects such as colonialism were a part of the plot and seemed to have a particular disposition on males in general. She often mentioned the "white male" in particular and managed to couple her vocalizations with an adamant sense of antipathy. Her candid displays of her personal distaste made me uncomfortable. I didn't think that her hateful positions belonged in a classroom nor were her views compatible with the pursuit of literature because words were sacrosanct and designed to achieve higher sensations. At least that is how I saw it at that time in my life. It was 1991 and the Los Angeles Riots inspired by the Rodney King verdict, were a year in the future.
What struck me most about her lectures -and I still am not sure why I did not drop the class - was the fact that someone could actually be so public with their hate in an institution of higher learning and that no one seemed to object to it. I would read about a professor who made remarks about a particular ethnic group and was immediately removed from his position. Other teachers may have been insensitive towards certain religious groups and they were usually given reprimands after being humiliated in the public press. Her diatribes were akin to hate often in my opinion and no one in the class spoke up. She happened to be a female of the Caucasian persuasion herself and i wondered often if her displays were inspired by politics or personal experience.
Before I digress too much I want to mention that this was probably a tumultuous time - at least looking back. But in reality, isn't most of life somewhat tremendous - particularly in hindsight? The racial tensions that led to the Civil Rights Movement which led to the rapid integration programs had produced a diversity that was gaining momentum. Women had moved into more public positions, practitioners of religions other than Christianity were becoming more visible, a new wave of gender expression had evolved. Multiculturalism posters adorned campus hallways. So much so that there seemed to be am emphasis on diversity rather than philosophy. Ironically some of these movements seemed to place so much importance on identity that the purpose seemed to be lost. What were you supposed to address someone as? Instead of seeing the girl behind the library desk, she was an African-American. Your student guide was your Muslim campus assistant.
Images of posters supportive of diversity
Do you think White Men Have it Easy
The spring of 1992 will be one of the moments I look back upon and recognize as one of the most visible demonstrations of urban domestic violence. This public upheaval which included the murder of innocent bystanders, the looting of private businesses and the vandalizing of a small section of the second most populous city in the United States took up a good portion of the television airways. The activists who decided to use bricks and Molotov cocktails to present their messages blamed racial tensions and conflicts with the Los Angeles police department - which were in their perception based entirely upon issues of race - as the prime mover. The instructor I had in my American Literature class in 1991 had alluded to the future calamity when the trial had begun just before that year's summer: "Wait and see what happens if this trial doesn't turn out right". The culprit behind everything in her opinion: the white male.
If you are old enough to remember 1992 you will probably remember certain images: Reginald Denny - an innocent trucker who happened to be white pulled from his cabin and beaten nearly to death, Korean business owners with guns, coming out in the open and shooting at looters who were trying to steal goods that did not belong to them, and fires that were being created and people running away from them. If you are too young to remember having lived through this period in American History, the riots will probably just be a phrase you have heard and perhaps some images you have seen on the internet. There was no public internet in 1991. And I don't attribute any of the scenes of violence to persons who were white, or the white male. And I don't believe there is such as thing as white privilege. I only mention the Rodney King Riots because this was a significant event that happened in my early 20s - a time when I identified myself as white and this when I was a student and was being exposed to "new" ideas and "newer" ways of thinking.
Some Scenes from the Los Angeles Riots of 1992
Do You feel there are racial issues of a Serious Nature that our society is facing
Certainly there are disparities that you will find in any group, in all societies: there will always be those who are better off financial, more adept socially, are healthier and have better access to the amenities that make life more pleasant. There is no such thing as true equality, even in the most egalitarian structure. The denizens of such a an environment will always have preferences, cliques and other factions will evolve, and there is always going to be someone or some body in control. The idea that any one group however, is superior to another is one that I see as a fallacy and find loathsome Everyone comes into this world basically the same way, with nothing. The world does not owe you an explanation or any of its riches. Just as well, no one person deserves to be given special treatment or have special benefits other than their own innate or developed talents. Which is another reason I find some of the public resentment against "white male culture" uncalled for and offensive.
My Father was a Noble Man
Maybe I should start off by saying that even though my father was white, my mother was not. Most people who see me guess that I'm just another Mexican or think that I'm middle Eastern or even part black. It amazes me how race conscious our society it and every demographic is guilty of some sort of prejudice. Even though I am not Hispanic, it bothers me when someone calls me "spic". I am equally as offended when I hear disparaging talk about whites. I'm not sure why there is a double standard between the situations because I had always heard that all people are supposed to be treated equally. I have always been proud of my white heritage and it is my observation that this country's European founders helped make this country what it is today.
Certainly there are pockets of our history timeline that are marked with conflicts and despair, but such is the lineage of any country or society in the world. You can look at the age of Rome, tribes in Africa and the indigenous Americas, the countries of ancient Asia and basically you will see the same sorts of activities in their evolution. If you listen to the speeches of some contemporary academics, talk shows, celebrities and street interview programs, you will observe a great level of backlash against white America. You will hear phrases such as male dominance and misogyny, but very rarely do you hear discrimination against whites called racism - the phrase "reverse racism" is used as if to justify it. Rarer still do you ever hear the accusation of misandry, but that is another topic altogether.
I grew up in the 1970's and this probably wasn't an easy time to raise a child - especially a son. There were still shadows of the Vietnam War looming, there was strong backlash against men and narcotics were becoming a greater fear for parents. My father worked a full time job and was always supportive of my mother - his wife. He would clean, work in the yard, always support her hobbies and pursuits, cook, and try to make sure his children behaved properly. He always reinforced the positive and encouraged us to be fair when dealing with other people. Part of this probably came from his strong belief in Catholicism and the fact that he had spent time serving in the Peace Corps - where he met my mother.
I never heard him complain about supporting my mother, in fact he was always willing and happy to do things for her: wash her clothes, clean the bathroom, help create a space for her so she could do her sewing. While I heard women on television new programs talking about the burden of house work or the second shift, I would see my father pursue these duties without question or complaint. He would do this after coming home from a hard days work in D.C. and still find time to work on the car, in the yard or in his tool shed.
Does Hollywood Promote Hate?
Certainly, it can easy be said without argument, that television has a major influence on the modern mind. According to an article in The New York Daily News, "the average American watches more than five hours" of television every day. This means that more than half of our waking lives - while not at work or at school - are spent in front of a screen, watching these pictures that move and produce sound. Many - if not most Americans - are more familiar with the biographies of make believe characters than they are with their neighbors. People will sit in front of a television screen and watch strangers pretend to be people that do not exist.
It must also be noted that among the most popular programs that are available, the ones that are the most entertaining, are the ones that promote the more unflattering or unsavory depictions of the human experience. Listed right behind the news programs or reality television shows you will find programs that are either in the comedy genre or ones involving police and murders. People seem to devour programs of this nature incessantly and with an appetite like a child seeking the McDonald's Happy Meal. Only there is no toy reward.
The unfortunate outcome of so much television consumption is that there are dangers that can affect an entire society. It wasn't long after television became a popular device that the term "idiot box" was coined to describe it. Because television viewing is so ubiquitous the ability for it to influence is almost immeasurable. Certainly most people realize they that some of the programs they are viewing are fictitious, but often the influences from television can affect people on a subconscious level. There are segments of the population as well who are susceptible to the point where they accept statements made by advertisers in particular as fact rather than question or investigate themselves. For example, a recent television commercial stated "studies have shown that children with crooked teeth don't do as well in school and are destined to be in danger of not being hired" - or something to this affect. The commercial was for an orthodontist group and provided braces to teenagers. While there is some truth in the fact that your physical appearance has an influence in your level of success, this attribute should not be singled out as the sole determinant factor in how your life will turn out.
What group isn't the victim of bias?
Well, in all due fairness, all the major ethnic groups, the genders, the religious affiliations, the classes etc. have their stereotypes portrayed in unflattering terms on television or other media. No one is free. What is apparent to the author however, is how badly men and particularly white males have been portrayed in the media. The psychotic character that has a the city under siege is usually a white man, the man always has some ulterior motive when in contact with a female character, whenever there are racial disparities it is usually a white man - rarely a white female - with a bias against someone of color. Rarely are the "minority groups" portrayed as having any sense of racial superiority that isn't justified. If you watch commercials now, men are portrayed as being lazy, juvenile or sexually deviant in some way. And of course, as I mentioned, this could be said of many social groups, but white males seem to have no voice behind them speaking out about these unfair portrayals.
The unfortunate outcome of these scenarios is that there are large audiences ingesting these images and ideas on the screen. They begin to think that it is okay to act degrading toward women or law enforcement officials because of the music video they watched, they begin see pursuing the Underachiever status (Bart Simpson) as something funny and acceptable, they begin to think it is okay to call the someone racist based solely on the color of their skin. It seems that most groups have some sort of support or protection, except for white men.
A Few Words on my "Whiteness"
Well, I really wasn't sure where I was trying to take this: I wanted to say something nice about my father and I want to say something about the overt hostility I see in society today, particularly a lot of the anti-white attitudes I see more and more of. Even though you would never guess it by looking at me, I have always felt more white. And my racial ambiguity is further exacerbated (I have always wanted to use that word ----no, not really) by the fact that most people make the assumption that I am something I am not. People will think Hispanic, Italian, Middle Eastern, even part black. And members from those ethnic groups will even approach me speaking in a language I do not understand. So race for me, has always been a bit of an influence, but something that I've always tried to ignore. In fact, I consider myself to be color-blind, because I see how every ethnic group has some sort of bias and sense of superiority.
What puzzles me most about the race issue is that by placing an emphasis on identity - Chinese American for example - it only contributes to the idea of separatism. If people are just supposed to be seen as people, why is there a need to use any race based adjectives to explain who someone is? It really makes no sense to me. I really do want to see a world where everyone can get along and people are more concerned with someone's character rather than their color (or gender, creed, etc.). But there has been a lot of ambiguity as of late when it comes to treating everyone as equals and all I see this doing is having detrimental affects in the future and holding people back who may offer great social contributions. Someone alive today cannot be held responsible for wrongs of the past any more than you cannot hold all physicians responsible for the lack of professional care provided by someone in that group.
Well I kind of took a left turn, but I hope my points came through clearly. Please take some time and answer my poll. :)
What do you consider your ethnic group to be? (odd question I know)
Have you ever been the victim of bias
Do you agree with of the author's opinions?
Did you Learn anything from this article?
Would you like to see more articles like this?
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