Thursday, January 2, 2014

The year of the myth of white victimization

The end of a year brings about thoughts of how to sum up that year. That's essentially what all those year-end lists of the ten worst and ten best are all about. We want to find some short-hand way of thinking about the year just past.

As I think over the last twelve months, I am struck by how often our news was dominated by the idea of the poor, oppressed white person. Especially the poor oppressed white man. Poor oppressed white men like the "Duck Dynasty" guy who had his hand slapped for expressing his homophobic and racist and misogynistic views.

Then, of course, there is Fox News' annual hysteria and hypocrisy regarding what they are pleased to call the "War on Christmas." What they really mean is the war on white Christmas as was made plain by their TV hostess Megyn Kelly's amazing freak-out over the idea that anyone could even imagine that Santa Claus could be anything but white! Because, you know, Santa Claus "just is white." Oh, and, by the way, so is Jesus. Really, it is all just too ridiculous for words.  

But those frivolous stories dominated the news at the end of the year. Earlier in the year, we had a more serious example when a Florida jury acquitted George Zimmerman of murder in the death of a black teenager named Trayvon Martin. The jury accepted Zimmerman's plea of self-defense even though the teenager was unarmed and Zimmerman was carrying a loaded gun. Zimmerman instantly became a cultural hero to some of the paranoid white right and his canonization among those people continues in spite of, or maybe enhanced by, his later legal problems over charges of domestic violence.

There was further hysteria and paranoia over the myth of the so-called "knock-out" game where, allegedly, young black men were going around indiscriminately attacking innocent white pedestrians for no reason. That had its fifteen minutes in the news cycle, although one still hears about it occasionally.

These are just some of the low points in the drum-beating during 2013 to "expose" the victimization of white people. The charge was led, as always it seems, by the Fox News Network, but they were abetted by the right wing inside-the-beltway punditocracy and various members of the tea party/Republican Party, several of them elected representatives from Texas.

This is all a continuation of the right-wing conservative movement's attempts to control the political landscape through the promulgation of what the Republicans have referred to as their "Southern strategy." It is quite simply an ongoing attempt by right wing politicians and their allies in right wing media to inflame the anxieties of white working-class Southerners about racial and economic changes in society. The strategy also extends itself to white "ethnics" in other parts of the country who are susceptible to having their fears played upon by those who are cynical and disreputable enough do that.

Can we dare to hope that 2013 may have seen the last of the dishonesty and cynicism of the "Southern strategy" and the political use of the myth of white victimization? Of course not! It will continue to be used as long as political contests continue to be won using such strategies.

Still, there are a few glimmers of hope that perhaps people are becoming a little less gullible and a bit more inclined to require some proof before falling for the latest outrageous claim on right wing radio and TV. So let us keep hope alive that 2014 may be the year when the divisive myth of white victimization finally breathes its last and common sense sees a revival in our society. It could happen...

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