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Monday, January 26, 2009

The "Plight" of the White Male

This past weekend I overheard, but did not participate in, conversations by white males about how hard it is for white males in America and how President Obama is going to make it worse by giving all the jobs to blacks and other minorities.

Growing up in a very blue collar family in a relatively blue collar city, I've heard this argument countless times. Some whites feel slighted and discriminated against because of affirmative action. A lot of them feel that AA is outdated and not relevant anymore because racism doesn't matter these days.

This is a very complicated issue, one which I'm not 100% sure about where I stand on it, but I am positive that when I hear a bunch of employed, white males sitting around talking about how hard they have it because of their skin color, I want to laugh and shake them violently.

I think back to when I grew up in Worcester and went to school in the inner city at a private, albeit extremely diverse catholic school; I worked my ass off and never felt slighted when a person of color got something over me. I think about how some of the kids I knew growing up lived, whether white, black, hispanic, mixed race, asian or whatever... some of us had it harder than others. I'm happy as hell if one of my friends ever got called up for a special program because of their story.

So many "conservatives" talk about pulling yourself up by the boot-straps and making your way no matter what your circumstances. So, I simply pose to them; why didn't you over-perform and get whatever you were going after? Was it impossible? Could you not overcome your circumstances?


Anonymous said...

Interesting. Why do you put story in quotation marks when referring to your friend's recounts of growing up disadvantaged? Is it incredulous?
I think white males who are worried about Obama making it hard for them may have a pretty narrow view of what that may actually mean.
If they are worried about their taxes going up, then it's a class issue - and not a "race" issue. Also, they are not the only ones who have to worry about their taxes going up.
Also, I think the whole AA debate is becoming "dated." If people are still complaining that AA only allows unfair advantages, then they need to do their homework. Just b/c there is a black president in the white house doesn't mean there aren't companies/employers practicing unfair hiring techniques.

JR Moreau said...

First point- I meant no incredulousness in my putting quotations around "story." Story, to me, sounds like something meant for an audience or something that is entertaining or contains a moral. How you grew up, especially if you were disadvantaged, isn't a story told for fun or benefit. I find identity in growing up in a low income situation, but it also alienates me. The paradigm of what these stories are and what they mean to different people perplexes and fascinates me. I hesitate to use "story" straight up because I'm not entirely sure what I want to call it. I understand the impression it made on you though. In retrospect, I should have remembered my creative writing classes better in using quotations. I may just have to correct that now. Thank you for pointing that out :-)

Second point- Absolutely. Unfair hiring practices, class and race issues... all of the above! I work in an extremely racially under-represented office in Boston, a city famous for its subversive discrimination. It is simply so hard to have that conversation and poignantly point out to the "plighted white males" (there's your incredulousness) that the system isn't in fact working against them, but quite the opposite. I'm a relatively well educated, open minded person and even still, confronting bigotry or whatever you'd call a conversation like this still is uncomfortable for me. Normally I do partake in such a discussion and put in my two cents, but the audience and circumstances weren't good at all for that. Either way, you make excellent points.