Preamble: I sometimes think that the Bible has it wrong with that Adam’s rib story in Genesis. It actually went like this: God first created Woman; then he borrowed her anus from which he created Man, who has been an a**hole ever since.
I had to check those two boxes again:
That’s me: “white male,” that places me in a cohort in which I seem to fit less and less comfortably these days. Although I do fit in mine more comfortably than even the President of the United States fits in his: “Trayvon could have been my son.” Moreover, I am sure that all those “non-whites” checking their boxes have that nagging feeling that they playing right into the hands of racists.* There isn’t much any of us can do about it; race and gender are our genetic endowments. I really have had no regrets about it, but I probably wouldn’t mind being reincarnated as a male Mallard duck (if only they had a more interesting diet), although, please, not anywhere near a Chinese restaurant.
But, as usual, I digress. I want to turn again to that perhaps too facile sociology of reality television to address the question of the survival of that once “alpha” category of the human species, the White Male. Now outnumbered among university students by females, seeing their jobs taken by them** (women are proving they can do a lot of what was called “men’s work” and, in some respects, better suited to some forms of “urban work”), and outlived by them as well, their formerly exclusive occupational domains assaulted by affirmative action, and their political clout contaminated by immigration and anti-miscegenation legislation, the American White Male has become a besieged demographic lump that both justly and unjustly has been called to account for a lot of what’s wrong with American political, economic and social life. “White male bashing” it has been called and they won’t get much sympathy from women or males of color over whom they have lorded it for centuries.
White males are certainly not extinct yet—they’re still in the driver’s seat in most areas of American life—but for Mr. Average White Guy their profile appears to be shrinking. At least if we take the cues of reality television. So white males have retreated to where no woman (of any color) would dare to tread, at least without permission. Where is that you ask? The swamp, the treacherous seas of the crab fishery, the ice roads and remote frozen reaches of Alaska, the dangerous forests when men with axes fell giant trees, anywhere where there are gators, sharks, bears, poisonous snakes, anywhere where (often a toothless, cognitively compromised, superannuated) Man can demonstrate with that lethal combination of arrogance and stupidity that He still has the testosterone to lord it over something, anything that is usually part of Mother Nature. For each of these anachronistic, sometimes primitive male-dominated activities there is a reality-cable television program in which guys can be guys, smoking, swearing, spitting, acting fearless, stupid and of course, competitive in Mountain Men, Axe Men, Life Below Zero***, Most Dangerous Catch, Gator Boys, Swamp People, Ice Road Truckers. There are also a host of related shows such as God, Guns and Cars, Top Shot, River Monsters, and others, as long as there are guns, boats, trucks, planes, and dangerous animals and perilous circumstances where white guys can show that they have balls. Toss in several shows that are concerned with “prepping” for apocalyptic scenarios or governmental takeovers in which Men again get to reassert their role as family protector and guardian of the “American way of life” and you get a picture of identity/racial desperation gone viral.
It is perhaps appropriate (and risky?) here to note that African-American males are typically not included in these shows, as they were never included in the historical male sovereignty of this nation, and were long marginalized in slavery and Jim Crow to involuntary servitude and excluded from family and workplace male dominance [Although they do achieve prominence in being the main reason for the success of the collegiate football teams of their (somewhat formerly segregationist) universities in the American South. Hence, most Southern collegiate football today is a hypocritical contest between the descendants of slaves.]
Nothing drives these purveyors and defenders of racial purity**** and gender hegemony more maniacal than that there’s a black guy in the White House. It’s not as easy being a white males as it used to be. As late as the 1940s Whites were able to insist on purity with impunity when WWII produced segregated combat units such as the courageous and highly decorated Tuskegee Airmen and the Nisei 442nd Army Regimental combat team shattered stereotypes and set the stage for the Civil Rights movement at he same time that white guys were coming home to wives and girlfriends who were far less compliant and complacent than they used to be. And so racism is often conjoined with misogyny in the whiteman’s lament. The notion that the white race is just plain superior than to others, better fit to rule and set the standards of society (combined with the way Americans are superior to other nations and Christians are morally superior to other faiths) and that men are superior to women, was not only proving to be wrong and stupid, buy unsupportable and unsustainable. Even though there are counterparts of racism and bigotry among other racial groups, women and other minorities, white supremacists bear the responsibility for most if the continuing racism and misogyny in America. Indeed, even as women and racial minorities advance it appears to compress those attitudes down to an angry resistance that has found its voice in the form of right wing media, Christian fundamentalism and the Tea Party and the Congressional Republican Caucus.
© 2013, James A. Clapp (UrbisMedia Ltd. Pub. 10.13.2013)
See also, in these pages, on the subject of (white) God’s little joke of making people of different pigmentation, 27.4: Swarthy Guy in a Polychrome World, and 52.8: On Being White (about Asian women’s obsession with “bleachieness.”
*Not that it can’t be worse. In some countries an application must be submitted with a color photo of the applicant and, in one country I know of, the form must be filled out by hand so that some “graphoanalyst” can check to see if you cross your Ts with a limp wrist.
**A good part of that problem being that they supposed “friends,” the White captains of American enterprise, have shipped off many of their jobs, automated others, and killed the unions that used to be able to get them a decent wage. But don’t bother to tell them about it because they prefer to blame liberals and, of course, the black guy in the White House.
***Life Below Zero has a couple of women in it, but there is some gender ambiguity about which you could get an argument from me.
**** The non-White “impurity”; if there is even barely discernable non-whitness it is considered an impurity and the person is racially-(self)identified as a “non-white.” Remember the 3/5ths rule?