The White Guy Problem

Before you start limbering up your fingers to write NOT ALL WHITE GUYS before you even read the article, lemme just say this: I KNOW. The only reason I’m able to track the performative phenomenon I’m about to discuss is because it only occurs in a small subset of white guys. Since most white guys are NOT doing this, but a solid and vocal minority are, it’s been easy to spot, track, and wonder about.

Earlier this week a friend of mine posted Cera Byer’s Salon article, “To My White Male Facebook Friends.” The article, originally a facebook post that was reposted so many times Salon asked Byer for permission to publish, has a basic thesis: White guys, don’t immediately get defensive when women or people of color tell you about their experiences. Listen and believe them.

Like everything ever in the history of ever, the reaction to that article proved the need for it repeatedly, thoroughly, and with no room for doubt.

In one thread of which I was a part– a public post (I know, I know, I usually know better)– a young Latina grad student was commenting in support of the article and about her experiences with white men as a queer woman of color, and one man– let’s call him “Jake”– posted this in response to her:

“Ah yes, the fiery Latina, hot in the sack, but not much going on upstairs if you catch my drift, and that temper? Yikes. It’s cool if you’ve nothing substantial to contribute, I’m good at ignoring. Just let me know if you’re going to slap those bongos of yours, ’cause I’d like to watch. “

He was immediately called out for his racism and misogyny, of course, by a healthy percentage of the people still actively participating in the thread, many of whom were white guy allies. Shocked, and, quite frankly, exhausted by the public racism and misogyny we’ve seen so much of in recent weeks, I copied and pasted the above into a status of my own and told people where to find the public thread.

His response to the censure he received for such open racism and misogyny was enormously telling, and, as it dawned on me that I was seeing a predictable pattern, the impetus for this article.

For the past few decades, our cultural norm in cases where someone has been caught in public making a racist or sexist comment has been some kind of apologetic (or half-assedly apologetic) performance. “I never intended to offend anyone” is a popular (half-assed) performance in these cases. Think Mel Gibson. Think Michael Richards. Think Donald Sterling and Bruce Levenson. Think Paula Deen. Public racism, in particular, has been long considered the kind of activity that can ruin a business, get someone fired, destroy reputations. But something has changed, and quickly, spearheaded by a small but vocal minority of white men.

When “Jake’s” comment was first posted and subsequently called out, I fully expected, given the egregious nature of the comment and the fact that it was in a public thread (and thus viewable by his boss, clients, whoever), some kind of, “While I disagree with you and the article, I should not have said what I said. It was inappropriate and I apologize.” Standard American CYA behavior.

Instead, he opted for a new pattern of behavior I’ve since begun to think of (after Byer’s article) as “the Defensive White Guy performance.” While I realize this has always been happening *privately*, I’m seeing a new, widespread willingness to behave this way *publicly*.

This Defensive White Guy performance is particular and predictable the moment it begins. Of course I understand that a LOT of human behavior is predictable, for all types of people– I live in Berkeley and can predict a knee-jerk liberal reaction to the letter and the link– but this DWG phenomenon is representative of a widespread willingness to perform and then defend racism and misogyny publicly.

It’s a very particular performance I’m seeing more and more of, and it’s always the same: the Defensive White Guy makes a racist or misogynistic statement, is called out for it, then immediately begins claiming he’s the victim, either in the discussion, in American culture, or both. He claims that he is not racist or sexist. He labels any oppositional commentary, no matter how bland, as an attack, often conflating the commenter with entire groups, such as “liberals,” “feminists,” or “SJWs.” Often he will double down on the original racist/misogynistic statement by posting more of the same, even while claiming not to be racist or sexist. His attacks are filled with horrible insults. He claims perfect entitlement to the usage of those terms because he is being “attacked,” or because the people who disagree with him “deserve” it.

In this particular case, “Jake” responded with accusations of slander (playing the victim) and responses to women like, “Don’t you have dishes to do?” (doubling down), in addition to a wide variety of attacks of various types. While attacking me publicly, he came to me privately, begging me to take the status down, claiming he was receiving “threats” from my “friends.” I hid the status and then asked him for specifics, stating that, if that were true, it’s not OK, and I would speak with those friends and personally ask them to stop. In response, he accused me of being a (somehow anonymous) participant in these supposed “threats,” said he would give my name to “the authorities,” and blocked me, forcing me to conclude this was just another “playing the victim” performance. Despite the fact that he was almost certainly lying, I reopened the thread and posted a request for people to leave him alone, left it up for 24 hours, and then re-hid the thread.

So what’s happening here? Why would a guy be all bluster, racism, and misogyny in public, then come privately to me and ask me to protect him from the consequences of attacking me (and others) and expect me to comply? Why couldn’t he just man up and sincerely– or even somewhat sincerely– apologize to the woman he originally attacked, utilizing the same CYA performance that’s been the standard for the past several decades?

Again, just to head off the inevitable YOU’RE BEING RACIST AGAINST WHITE MEN reactions, most white guys are great. Most white guys are empathetic people trying to understand the lives of others. But the entire nation is currently being dragged down by a small group of people whose reaction to the pain of others is MY PAIN IS MORE IMPORTANT, whose reaction to racism and the role of their own privilege in that is LALALA I CAN’T HEAR YOU, or worse, PRIVILEGE IS MADE UP BECAUSE MY LIFE IS HARD.

Here’s what I think is happening:

We all see ourselves as the “good guy” in the narrative of our lives, and these Defensive White Guys are no different. They believe in their hearts that they understand racism, and believe they understand the experiences of others. They believe in their hearts they are not racist or sexist, and that assertion is almost always a loud component of the DWG performance. They BELIEVE it. They grew up with Free To Be You and Me and learned in school about the many laws and customs we once had that barred women from participating in public life– voting, higher education, certain kinds of employment. They learned about the income disparity. And they said to themselves, “I am not that.” And they believed it. In school they learned about lynchings and listened as their teacher played “Strange Fruit” or read to them about Emmett Till. They saw pictures in their grade school textbooks of drinking fountains marked “WHITES ONLY,” they learned about the 1963 Birmingham church bombing, they learned about brave little Ruby Bridges, they learned about racism and they said, “I am not that.” And they believed it.

As they grew up, they demonstrated this by talking about how little they cared that their co-workers were Black, or their boss was a woman. They voted for women or people of color. They didn’t see anything wrong with interracial marriage. They BELIEVED they were not sexist or racist, and for that, they believed they were one of the “good guys.”

As our culture progressed, however, and became more and more willing to study racism and misogyny, and how they both operate systemically within our culture, we articulated the concept of privilege, we studied it and created a mountain of statistics to show its existence, we began to examine the myriad ways in which racism and misogyny are encoded into our culture. We realized the problem was deeper and wider than we thought.

And the definition of “good guy” changed. It was no longer just a public declaration that you weren’t bigoted and a lack of active oppression of women and people of color. Being a “good guy” now meant engaging in a difficult and complex process of understanding privilege, including your own privilege, acknowledging that, and understanding how racism and misogyny are created and disseminated, how much of that we’ve internalized, and how we work to end that. Suddenly a stated belief in “equality” and a simple lack of active oppression– both relatively easy to understand and believe you can accomplish (despite the fact the we now know this is much more complex than originally thought)– were no longer enough. Many white people had the courage and/or resources to meet these new challenges head on. Many had to slowly come to understanding. Most of us are still struggling with these issues and our place within them every day. But some white people, including these men I’m discussing, whose personal narratives and self-conceptions, like all of us, rely on being “the good guy,” are LIVID. The definition of “good guy” changed. It requires understanding and accepting something they do not have the will and/or ability to understand, and they are angry. They feel betrayed that “good guy” went from easy to difficult, was taken away from them while they weren’t looking, and is something to which they feel entitled, but is in reality something they now have to earn.

In addition to the fact that the qualification for “good guy” status has changed, the culture is changing all around them. While white men still hold almost all of the positions of power in our culture, and control almost all of the wealth, demographically their numbers are shrinking, and the culture is changing slowly to reflect that. The entire shape of the economy slowly changed since the Reagan Revolution, tipping the nation’s wealth to the hands of a few families, shutting people without wealth out of the political process, and almost entirely ending the American Dream of upward mobility. Many white men are hurting economically. Since all white American-born men have lived their entire lives in a culture that always put their needs first and was structured around their narratives, the idea that someone else’s narrative could be just as important, or, possibly, for even just a moment, more urgent and important, is, for some white men, literally impossible to understand. This subset of white men cannot comprehend that idea as anything but a MASSIVE injustice against them. They’ve been first in line for so long THEY NEVER EVEN KNEW THE LINE EXISTED, and they believe that being asked to wait in line like everyone else is bigotry against them. This subset of white men cannot comprehend that ending street harassment is a more urgent issue than their desire to approach women whenever and however they like; that actual rape is a more urgent issue than their fear that one day someone might possibly accuse them of rape; that the killing of unarmed Black men (and BOYS) is a more urgent issue than their fear of Black “thugs”; that the killing of unarmed Black men is a more urgent issue than a few broken windows.

This subset of white men cannot comprehend that the expression of the pain and anger of a long-oppressed group of people is a more urgent issue than their need to be seen as “a good guy.” It takes a truly mind-blowing amount of self-absorption, entitlement, and privilege to answer “White people are hurting us; please help make it stop” with “NOT ALL WHITE PEOPLE.” What this response is saying is: “My need to be seen as a ‘good guy’ is more important than your pain. Please direct your attention to that and confirm that I am ‘good’ before I will consent to recognize your pain.” It’s the social equivalent of demanding that someone compliment your bitchin’ Camaro before you agree to roll it off their foot. OR HEAD.

In the face of the changing culture, and the changing job description of “good guy,” this subset of white guys, these Defensive White Guys, have sunk into their anger and resentment and are filling the culture with a level of unapologetic, overt racism and misogyny that we haven’t seen in decades. And while I don’t have the answer, I suspect it’s because they resented having to make room in their social concept for women and people of color to begin with– they were only playing along so they could secure the title of “good guy” and be liked, not because they truly believed it was the right thing to do. And now that the culture has progressed and these DWGs have discovered that they are no longer the “good guy” without a little more work and direct engagement, they’ve reached a “fuck it” moment. They are reasonably sure– and they’re right, at least for now– that the culture at large will protect them in some way because it always has.

So when they express their resentment, anger, and feelings of betrayal by making these public racist and misogynistic statements, and are inevitably called out for them, they cry victim because they BELIEVE they’re the victims– the victims of a culture that changed behind their backs and deprived them of being the well-liked “good guy” without meeting new qualifications; the victims of a culture that deprived them of the American Dream; the victims of a culture that tricked them with social issues that everyone knew were inevitably lost into voting for conservative politicians who had no intent of doing anything but further distancing that American Dream from everyone but the wealthy; the victims of a culture that suddenly “doesn’t care” about their issues because the issues of other groups are starting to be seen as equally important; the victims of a culture that no longer posits “white guy” as the one human in constant possession of the benefit of the doubt.

These DWG performances reek with fear, desperation, panic, and the hatred those three inevitably create. The world is changing, and their role in that world is changing, HAS changed, and there’s precisely nothing they can do about it. The panic is as thick as tear gas.

Most white guys are up for the challenge the new America presents, especially the rising generation. Eventually this DWG phenomenon will die down, just as anything succumbs to cultural inevitability. They’ve already lost the battle they think they’re fighting– a battle best represented by the ultimately meaningless slogan “Take Back America!” The knowledge of the loss is, of course, what’s driving much of the anger.

But I think it’s important that these guys are so pissed in part because they believe they’re “good guys,” and believe the culture betrayed that by changing the terms of the agreement. They’re attacking and attempting to discredit everything and everyone they can find that represents, disseminates, or even just discusses the new “good guy” job description. I have to believe, despite everything, that there’s hope in that “good guy” self-image. I have to believe that eventually, at least some of these guys will come to an understanding of the truth, and put in the work required to really be good guys– good citizens of a diverse America– because (again, I have to believe) they honestly want to be. Maybe that’s naive, and my internalized white privilege is making me give these guys too much of the benefit of the doubt even as I condemn their actions. But I do. I still do. I have to have hope for change.

(NOTE: This is my personal blog. I am under no obligation to approve any particular comment. Racist, sexist, or threatening comments will be trashed.)

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61 thoughts on “The White Guy Problem

  1. Daryl Hrdlicka says:

    Very well stated.

  2. Dav says:

    “…performances reek with fear, desperation, panic, and the hatred those three inevitably create…” THIS, has been an opinion of mine for some time. When faced with loosing any position of power, privilege, superiority or the like, a nascent fear kicks in. Then follows a desperate attempt to hold on to whatever conceived sense of power there was. Rather than see this as a natural progression or perhaps seek out ways of sharing power or developing other strengths, a stronger push to hold on lashes out, oft times with (emotionally, spiritually, mental, physical) violence. Yours is a well stated and spelled out observation. thank you for this.

    • Miguel Sanchez says:

      I just discovered this site, read this article, and many of the comments. I can’t help buy notice the unanimous support of this anti-white narrative in the comments. my conclusion is that this is either an echo chamber site or the mods take down dissenting comments. either way, I’m out. just remember this: say what you want about me, even hate me because of the color of my skin, but if you come to make a move against me, i’ll take as many of you out as I can before you do me in.

  3. David says:

    I saw bits of the original thread via a friend. I would like to say it was truly astounding, but, sadly, it was all too predictable. Your response here is fantastic, Thank you for sharing it.

  4. Karen says:

    Nailed it BG and thank you.

  5. Cassidy says:

    Once Again, You said what needed saying, and quite well. Thank you.

  6. You may be giving the Defensive White Guy too much credit by overanalyzing the situation. At the core of the problem is someone like “Jake” who has always gotten away with being a bully. As anyone knows, the minute you take the wind out of a bully’s sails, he tends to show his true colors as a coward (and sometimes a very scared albeit adult crybaby).

    His assumption was that he would always hold the power in any encounter and could therefore do whatever he wanted. When confronted by someone (especially a woman) who is publicly and loudly calling him on his shit, he doesn’t know how to handle the pushback and freaks out (“I’m the victim here….”). In some cases, he’ll go running to a mother figure (like the one who used to protect him) without understanding that even that woman has no interest in buying into any of his bullshit.

    Bottom line? It’s all about power.

  7. Spot on. Plus, not just “Jake,” there are white “Janes” who are acting exactly the same as well

    • Christian Dorn says:

      It’s easy to assume gender on the internet. If what you are talking about is white privilege, you should talk about defensive white people. Otherwise, you are leveraging stereotypes and giving a pass to forms of white privilege that don’t fit those stereotypes.

      • SAJ says:

        What OP is talking about is the intersection of male and white privilege that causes white men to react to the tribulations of WoC with incredulity, sexism, and racism.

        Holiday was referring to the fact that there are white women, without male privilege, that react in turn with their “white guy” counterparts, inexplicably spouting the same sexism and racism despite their shared trials with WoC.

        So, no. Nobody’s doing that. Jake and Jane are both assholes, but they aren’t assholes for the same reasons.

  8. earthedangel says:

    Having literally JUST had a DWG situation blow up on a mutual friend’s FB post *yesterday*, I am inclined to agree with George Heymont because I am less willing to give that jerk any benefit of the doubt. I’m also less willing to believe it’s a “small but vocal minority”. It’s….amazing, and saddening, that this behavior can be predicted with such accuracy. Repeated by him (and his white guy friends, of course, though not our mutual female friend) was that I was “attacking” him by disagreeing (really civilliy and rationally, I might add). That I was the REAL sexist here. And though I avoided talking about race until the very end, he kept invoking the profound “unfairness” of equal opportunity (as it applies to race) to support his sexism. Eventually, he tagged in his buddies who were explicit in their desire to chase me away with grossly offensive MRA and similar such memes.
    Anyways. A new friend gained from that exchange shared this link with me, and I feel better for having found several other people who “get it”, but continue to feel depressed and puzzled about how we’re supposed to continue at this point. Do we write them off entirely? Do we continue to try to reason with them? Do we publicly shame them? What effects the fastest change? What leaves us as still good people when it’s done?

  9. mire says:

    “Jake” sounds like an insecure asshole who feels the need to maintain a swaggering persona in public – like some other comments have said, a typical bully.

    But I disagree with your statement about the definition of “good guy” changing. I think it’s more like a set of people started using that new definition amongst themselves in the echo chamber of social media, started treating anyone who disagreed with their view as contemptible, and started getting upset when people who spend less time thinking about these issues dismiss them as “SJWs”. Meanwhile, people outside that group see this apparent army of angry liberals yelling and screaming about “privilege” and mobbing anyone who dares to speak out against them on twitter.

    In the words of perhaps the whitest dude of them all: http://imgur.com/gallery/40Idny0. Which is to say, tone matters, regardless of how often it’s used as a derailing tactic in arguments. Telling someone they’re a bad person is rarely going to be met with a positive response, even if they’re being demonstrably bad. If you doubt this, try confronting a shoplifter, or some asshole urinating in public some time. You wouldn’t believe how offended they get. And that’s for things that are recognized as actual crimes in our society, not just refusing to take someone’s perspective into account in their social interactions.

  10. Doyle Gaines says:

    “For the past few decades, our cultural norm in cases where someone has been caught in public making a racist or sexist comment has been some kind of apologetic (or half-assedly apologetic) performance. “I never intended to offend anyone” is a popular (half-assed) performance in these cases. Think Mel Gibson. Think Michael Richards. Think Donald Sterling and Bruce Levenson. Think Paula Deen. Public racism, in particular, has been long considered the kind of activity that can ruin a business, get someone fired, destroy reputations. But something has changed, and quickly, spearheaded by a small but vocal minority of white men.”

    As a white guy with 3 black children, I think you’re all wet. Your race-slanted bias is showing….Think Al Sharpton. Think Jesse Jackson. Think Spike Lee. Think Sheila Jackson Lee. Think Louis Farrakhan. All proven racists and all black skinned.

    All of this American angst over “racism” is the result of a false utopian vision of humanity promoted by dewy-eyed progressives and their ilk. As long as this planet is populated by humans we will have to deal with the problems of racism. Fortunately we have laws IN PLACE to correct injustice. There will always be problems and there will always be a need to use those laws to correct injustice.This current brouhaha is simply the result of evil politicians and ignorant or evil people exploiting human discontent for the purpose of selfish gain.

    Once more for those who have reading comprehension problems, I did NOT deny the existence of “racist” behavior in our country….

    • Elijah says:

      I’m somewhat confused. Yeah, racism isn’t just going to stop one day. We’ll always have to deal with some form of discrimination.

      I just fail to understand how that was in question. I also suppose I’m somewhat ignorant of the Utopian thinking you’re describing. I’m not even really sure where to direct my questions. By your own admission racism exists and will continue to exist so how can all modern bruhaha be contributed to a single source. You were probably being hyperbolic but it just seems like a contradiction.

    • MM says:

      What does “black skinned” racists have to do with this article? No one is denying that anyone can be racist, although most people would deny that everyone on your list is a “black skinned” racist. As a matter of fact, research shows that sadly blacks are more racist towards other blacks, not towards whites.Racism is an injustice no matter who practices it. BUT the difference is that racism against black people is systematic and so deeply entrenched that it greatly affects their daily lives. Whereas if a black person is racist against whites, it does not affect whites because it comes from an individual not a system. Then again, that’s not what this article is about. Instead this article provided insight into a particular group of men. It helped me to understand what others are feeling. I’m grateful for it.

    • Seeing as how racism is actually a recent (in terms of the length of human history )social construct, what makes you think that it will always be around? Ethnocentrism maybe, but even that is declining with the newfound ability for the average person to connect with people from around the world. Saying that it will never go away is a defeatist attitude and will do nothing to help your kids. Essentially you’re saying that at least half of who they are will always be looked down upon.

    • Rickey says:

      Having children with a woman of color does not mean you are not racist. Plenty of slave owners slept with the help. Funny how you named all black
      Men who fought for black equality.

    • witchsistah says:

      I pray for your children (if they even exist & if they’re even Black).

    • witchsistah says:

      And look at you proving the author’s point!

  11. Having recently enjoyed the excellent TheatreWorks production of ‘Peter and the Starcatcher,” I can’t help but wonder if all these DWGs are the “lost boys” of our generation. I’ve found that I can’t even listen to the voices of Bill O”Reilly and Chris Matthews on cable television because their approach to dominating any discussion consists of (a) talking over the other person’s voice, (b) talking louder and more dismissively than the other person, and (c) always needing to be “right.” The truth is that they’re merely pompous assholes in desperate need of a “Wendy bird” to make them realize that they could be better people if they ever wanted to be.

    Several years ago I noticed that an extremely intelligent but slightly boorish friend had a very strange way of conversing. He may have been looking you right in the eye but he wasn’t really listening to what you were saying because he was too busy thinking about what he wanted to say next. A lot of this is gleaned from watching cable television and modeling one’s behavior on the angry voices of conservative blowhards. Plus a total lack of skill at truly listening to what other people are saying before attacking them. Bottom line? Hulk smash.

  12. Laurent Colvin says:

    Being a white guy who was raised in a family that was intimately involved in the civil rights struggle, anti war demonstrations, and my personal cause to champion single payer mission, I think what you are describing is a denial of guilt reaction, just pure defensive behavior. These types of people while intellectually intelligent just can’t come to terms with the fact that racesism or sexism is a thing and they can not believe they are guilty. They believe other people’s skin is just too thin and they can’t conceive of any harm words can provide. So, they attemp to prove that words are just words by double downing on the original insult unaware of the fact that they are actually perpetuating the many fascited double standards that exist in our cultur. They honestly don’t intend harm, they are trying to prevent harm to their own fragile ego.

    • Tess says:

      I agree, with much of the article and with the above. I also have to point out the parenting factor in this, because the structures are even wider than OP had time to point out. Neoliberalism makes parenting impossible. Having to leave your children at daycare to go to work and then expecting them to learn appropriate behaviour and language from other children is completely without reason. Consumerism walks hand in hand with oppression; it necessitates a culture of varied but reliable oppression of both marginalized peoples (and these peoples will necessarily become larger and larger while the 1% becomes .1% and even more wealthy) and of a pillaged earth – the only home we have. And it creates a culture in which parents cannot parent in a community, with support and compassion and nonviolent communication and all the other things small children need to learn from adults. And so these babies/toddlers/children grow up to be defensive adults. They grow up without attachment (40% of babies don’t have secure attachment) and this leads to insecurity, aggressiveness, bullying and even violent behavior later on. I don’t want to go on (because I really, really could), but the links below offer some very accessible soundbites for anyone seeking clarification or deepening of this topic. It is also just my personal experience. Of course this is the experience of many; we’re just taught contradictory ideologies so that we believe that ‘the way it is’ has to remain the status quo. https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=why+capitalism+makes+us+sick, http://www.thestar.com/opinion/commentary/2014/11/04/jian_ghomeshi_and_the_problem_of_narcissistic_male_rage.html

  13. “Think Al Sharpton. Think Jesse Jackson. Think Spike Lee. Think Sheila Jackson Lee. Think Louis Farrakhan. All proven racists and all black skinned.”

    Who issues the Certificates of Proven Racism?

    Putting aside your dubious selections and assertions for just a moment: I venture to suggest that while it’s true individuals can be prejudiced, even on behalf of or against members of their own groups, it’s systemic racism that’s most problematic. In our time, as for our entire history, the systems of these United States support white supremacy. This isn’t an aberration or hyperbole: this is the rotten truth that we like to think we’re past now because, I don’t know, we passed a few laws, murdered some civil rights leaders, and deified the caricature of one of them.

    “Fortunately we have laws IN PLACE to correct injustice.”

    They don’t seem to be working very effectively.

    “This current brouhaha is simply the result of evil politicians and ignorant or evil people exploiting human discontent for the purpose of selfish gain.”

    I think you may need to be more specific. From where I sit, this “current brouhaha” is due to social media making public the brutal means by which the criminal justice system continues to repress minorities, particularly young men, and is completely unaccountable to the public it purports to serve.

  14. LJ says:

    You are a wonderful person

  15. wlanni says:

    Yes. Yes yes yes yes yes. We need more articles like this. I’ve been noticing this too (much to my own dismay), and… What you say at the end: “they’ve already lost the battle they think they’re fighting” is spot on if you’re a fan of Ghandi:
    “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.”

    Also, your metaphor of the Camaro is brilliant.

  16. tomfornow says:

    Some parts I agree with, some parts I don’t. First of all, you see the primary motivator as an erosion of social status. Particular groups which used to be at the “top of the heap” due to factors such as race and gender are no longer at the top of the heap, and those recognizing the changing reality are angry and frightened; this, I can get behind. I’ve experienced it in others and myself, and it’s a real thing.

    Also, your discussion of the internalized narrative — this I agree with, too. We ALL see ourselves as the “good guy.” We ALL want to see ourselves as the victim of (rather than perpetrator of) oppression. This is one of the biggest reasons that changing hearts and minds is so hard — anyone who asks us to re-examine our most cherished beliefs is seen as an attacker, and promptly put into the “bad guy” column. And “bad guys” can be safely ignored — they’re crazy, or bigoted, or some other category that means “don’t pay attention.” Thus a message that could benefit us is lost.

    I’m one of the people in the “I’m not actively oppressing anyone” category, and for the record, I’m a white guy. I’m sure that — due to these comments and the mechanisms just described, I’ve immediately gone into the “bad guy” column and been written off by a portion of the few people reading this. So for the few remaining, let me continue…

    Part of the problem is that there are two, contradictory narratives at play here. One — we shouldn’t “see” skin color, or gender, or sexual orientation, or religion, or… etc. We should treat all people as “people” when making important decisions. The other narrative is that we SHOULD see it, but only if you’re white and male. This second narrative argues that since straight white males have all the privilege in society, we should put our thumb on the scales — to balance things out, we should tip the scales affirmatively back towards, well, anything EXCEPT straight white males.

    Privilege is real, but it’s situational. There is racial privilege, gender privilege, orientation privilege, religious privilege. A Christian is highly privileged in a Christian church, but extremely disempowered in a mosque. But when we try to boil it down to a simple equation (“you’re more privileged than me”) and make important decisions based upon this, we fail — because privilege can not be so simply conceived. Thus I reject the *blanket* notion of privilege, while accepting that it’s real — just situational, and complex. I have tried to explain this to friends, and generally I get frozen out or ignored (or worse, insulted and yes, threatened) so… mostly I just don’t talk about it any more.

    There’s a conformity of opinion that is frustrating. I suspect that many of the “free to be you and me” folks grew up when freedom of expression was valued more than conformity of sensitivity. That doesn’t excuse their behavior, but it helps explain it and contextualize it (for the record, I believe you explained this, more succinctly than I).

    The final point I’ll make is that I think that there are a couple of groups of “racist” people you’ll run into. The first group is the cretin with his comments about the Latina woman; he’s just a troll. In other words, there’s no way he could be UNaware that his comment would be inflammatory (considering how thickly he piled it on) — he had to be TRYING to be offensive. What identifies him as a troll above and beyond this is the fact that, as you saw, he immediately crumpled and tried to hide when called out. In other words, he wanted attention, but when he realized that it was going to be predominantly BAD attention, he went and hid. Trolls suck, but I also think we need to be cautious about drawing big conclusions from their behavior on the internet; the behavior was racist and inflammatory, but the fact that one troll jumped in and ranted loudly does not a majority make.

    The second group, like me — and I’m calling myself “racist” not because I AM, but because I’ll surely be called that — is frustrated at the conformity of the debate. Shades of grey, complexity, none of this is to be tolerated if it contradicts the core narrative. Worse, anyone who DOES contradict the narrative, no matter how valid or insightful their point is, is branded with very hurtful, derogatory names. It doesn’t take too long for someone like me to begin to adopt the term as a sort of defense mechanism because I recognize that it’s thrown around willy-nilly without learning the context or understanding the speaker — and NOBODY will back down from it! — so why should I be too upset at another person not bothering to read or understand and just hitting the mental “speed dial” key that throws out labels of bigotry?

    I applaud at least the ATTEMPT to understand the mindset of those who disagree with you, to afford them at least the basic common human need to feel like the “good guy.” But I think you need to dig deeper, dig past the trolls who are always on the forefront hurling insults — but don’t really matter much — and start to see how alienating the very people whose behavior you want to change, defaulting to seeing them as racists and bigots (or, at the very least, as “privileged” elites whose every action and speech it subject to close scrutiny for impropriety), is not a winning strategy. If you truly want to make this an “us vs. them” war with white guys as the bad guys and everyone else the good guys, fine — let’s just have the guts, as a society, to come out and say it. Don’t expect much sympathy and change from the people branded as villains because of their skin color or gender, however.

    I’m not a racist, a sexist, a homophobe, a xenophobe, or anything. How do I know? Because I have internal definitions of these things (mostly seeing someone as “less than” due to something they cannot control) and I’ve introspected deeply on my own beliefs and actions. Some of my racist tendencies that I’ve picked up from society (for instance, a tendency to see Black men as “scary”) I’m well aware of an actively attempt to counterbalance in my own psyche. But the important thing to me is that *I KNOW* I’m not a racist or sexist (etc.) You agreeing with me is nice, but I know it’s not true. I think that the most vociferous, most indignant “DWG” is the one who’s not entirely sure if he is or isn’t because *the definition keeps seeming to change, from day to day*. The only advice I can give these DWG’s is this: stop reading 🙂 Pay attention to your dialog and beliefs. If you unintentionally offend someone, apologize and try to see why it was offensive and don’t do it again. If you’re a troll and are INTENTIONALLY offending people, die in a fire (well, or get intensive therapy, either way). But the WORST thing you can do, DWG’s, is let OTHERS define for you what it means to be a “good person.”

    I get defensive talking about this because of my own issues (I get defensive, bottom line) and from past experience — I know that when you question or go against the most accepted memes of the social group you associate with, the vitriol is thick. The most hated outsider isn’t the unbeliever, but the apostate. But ultimately, after years of thinking about topics like this, I’ve found a place of centeredness. I know I’m a good guy, despite all the epithets. I’ll listen to interesting counterarguments, and if I hear something that leads me to believe I’m truly doing something WRONG, I’ll adopt it and change my behavior. But I’m not going to let a blog post make me question my core beliefs about my own “goodness.”

    Now, let’s play the “assumption game” from MY perspective:

    1) At least one person will call me a racist or a bigot of SOME flavor (natch).
    2) At least one person will say — either directly or implicitly — “well, you have all the privilege, so you wouldn’t understand.” (A pat-sounding argument that is as valid or invalid as saying “well, you’re a woman, so you wouldn’t understand.” Discuss.)
    3) I may get some engagement, but the people engaging will quickly become frustrated when I don’t immediately say “oh my god, you were right and I was wrong, I completely agree!” — a problem I have when discussing this. I think people sometimes assume that others disagree only from ill thought-out or nefarious reasons. I’ve thought this through CAREFULLY, over a long, long time, so your arguments would need to be novel and persuasive to move me.

    I would like to be proved wrong. 🙂

    • Tom Cottone says:

      Now this is the real response. Very well put. The only thing I would add is that the whole “privilege” thing is exactly as racist and sexist as any other generalized statement based on race or gender directed at an individual.

      As to the blog article’s author’s contention that we have changed the definition of “good guy”, I reject that completely. He states certain things as if they are fact:

      “As our culture progressed, however, and became more and more willing to study racism and misogyny, and how they both operate systemically within our culture, we articulated the concept of privilege, we studied it and created a mountain of statistics to show its existence, we began to examine the myriad ways in which racism and misogyny are encoded into our culture. We realized the problem was deeper and wider than we thought.”

      The problem is that the whole statement is a highly biased expression of opinion, not factual at all. The “statistics” he mentions are at best questionable, if not out right fabrications from sources with a distinct agenda. Thomas Sowell points this out quite clearly and often. His book, “Civil Rights: Rhetoric or Reality” is excellent at pointing out the dishonest statistical methods in the “Social Justice” debate.

      The reality is that the only definition of “good guy” is still the timeless one of someone who treats others as they expect to be treated. Expecting someone to attenuate their behavior beyond that to account for some nebulous perceived “privilege” that the individual actually never had is as repugnantly racist as Jim Crow laws,

      So, no, I will not bow down to some repressive trivialization of my status based on racism instead of my individual actions. I will also not cave in to this abandonment of personal responsibility which is the actual aim of the whole “privilege” movement. Because that is also basic human nature, the desire to blame our failures and problems on outside conditions as opposed to the life decisions we made.

      • AdaMae says:

        The author is a woman. Please don’t assume authors are all male.

        Here is a wonderful article on white privilege. http://amptoons.com/blog/files/mcintosh.html

      • essenseofebony says:

        2 things:
        1. The author is a female , so if you are going to insult and discredit her, use the proper pronouns.
        2. (My biggest personal pet peeve of all these discussions when the “accountability” card is played) I have yet to see anyone denying personal responsibility or accountability when any of these topics are discussed by people of color. It is possible to be simultaneously disappointed that Michael Brown committed petty theft and that he was denied due process and a jury of his peers (and even “Failure to comply” is a fine or jail time, not being shot and killed). For the last time, these articles are not saying for people to assume that “Straight able bodied White male= spoiled pricks who had the whole world handed to them on a silver platter, and processed to destroy it”. It is just a different perspective.

    • ASDFJKL says:

      My short response is: TL; DR. See: “mansplaining.”

      My slightly longer response is this: maybe if you spent less time formulating your own personal understanding of racism/ privilege and more time *listening* (particularly to those who are articulating your so-called “conformist narrative”) with a truly open heart, you might get somewhere when you do express your views.

      • witchsistah says:

        Mansplaining and Whitesplaining, “Lemme tell you culluds, chicks and queers what REAL racism, misogyny and queerphobia are.”

        Sometimes, not engaging folk isn’t a sign of “closed mindedness.” Sometimes it’s about mental self-preservation. Sometimes, it’s not a sign that the non-engagers have “lost” but that we don’t see the point in engaging in the same bullshit merry-go-round all about how we’re not really human.

    • “I’m not a racist, a sexist, a homophobe, a xenophobe, or anything”

      How would you know? Serious question. Bias presents in surprising and subtle ways. You might find taking a test measuring implicit biases an interesting experience. Personally, I doubt there’s a human alive free from bias; it seems to be a fundamental attribute of our psychology, albeit one that appears to be increasingly maladaptive, and unjust in any case.

      Taking you at your word though, bully for you. Hooray. But you presumably still benefit from the systems that privilege you. Are you working to use your privilege on behalf of others? I don’t think it’s sufficient to not have, or not act on, internal prejudices, while remaining indifferent to biased systems.

      “I know I’m a good guy, despite all the epithets”

      How nice that you can tell yourself that. But if you’re consistently on the receiving end of epithets from members of marginalized groups, you might want to reconsider if their critique has some validity.

    • LaurelG. says:

      You’d like to be proven wrong, huh? Well, *I’D* like to not have every conversation about privilege dominated by butthurt white boys who don’t get it, but I don’t get what I want, so neither do you.

      You are a racist and bigoted, but in a milquetoast, quasi-examined sort of way. And that’s even worse, in some ways, than overt racism and bigotry which at least is out in the open for examination. Ugh.

      You are CLEARLY speaking from a position of privilege and demonstrably do not understand. I could have smelled “white boy” all over this post because of what you said without any need to identify on your part.

      Furthermore, you’re putting out your own self-assessment (“I’ve thought about this hard, so I KNOW I’M RIGHT.”) as though we’re all going to just take your word on it when the actual points you make demonstrate that you clearly haven’t thought about this nearly enough or well enough.

      “…but the people engaging will quickly become frustrated when I don’t immediately say “oh my god, you were right and I was wrong, I completely agree!” — a problem I have when discussing this.”

      See, here’s the thing about being open-minded: it’s impossible to do when you are already certain that nothing anyone can say to you will ever get you to do an about-face on an issue. And you’ve just declared exactly that in this sentence. Ass.

  17. Throughout this discussion we’ve seen the terms “white privilege” and “male privilege” bandied about. But I think it’s time for us to consider a new term: “pseudointellectual privilege.” Let me explain:

    We live in an age of anti-intellectualism. If you watch the mechanism of right-wing/cable media you’ll see a daily list of carefully crafted talking points which then get bounced around an echo chamber. Anyone watching, reading, and listening to the dynamics of that echo chamber who identifies with what is being said (perhaps because it aligns with their own insecurities) is going to swallow these arguments verbatim. After all, there’s safety in numbers “Everybody’s saying it”), which leads to a rather smug sense of self-satisfaction.

    When someone disagrees with what they have ingested and learned by rote through the echo chamber, they tend to react with a great deal of noise and vitriol along the lines of “How DARE you challenge me? You’re attacking ME for my (insert “political,” “religious,” whatever) freedom!”

    They will then try to shout down or silence the challenger with little regard for the nature of the challenge simply because it’s easier to attack the messenger than to think about the message.

    In such situations, introspection is usually in short supply.

  18. bmwolny says:

    Thank you for articulating this so well. I deal with this nearly every day, and it has been increasingly distressing. You see, I thought they were “good guys”, too – until they failed to stand up for what was right, and let the loudest voice in the room win instead; until they failed to listen when I spoke, stridently refusing to hear me; until I heard them continue to tell everyone how great they were, when they weren’t DOING anything at all – mere bystanders on a stage.

  19. It’s all about asshats who do not know that they are asshats because they have been stuck in a bubble with other asshats who think like they do.

    When they talk to people outside of that bubble, they assume that people will agree with their asshatery. Why not? All of the asshats in their bubble agree with them.

    Unfortunately, humanity has been dealing with asshats in bubbles from time immemorial. All we can do is call them out on their asshatery and hope they crawl back into their bubbles.

    It takes a moment of deep self-reflection to shake that off.

  20. wendy coyle says:

    YES. You are right on. However, just as I learned in India, and other cultures where men rule and have the power and treat women just as obnoxiously with the sense of automatic privilige, one also has to look at the mothers who raised these “boys” – who allowed them to exercise theri shallow “acts” of good guys, to have these sorry ass attitudes and to never call them out on it when they could.

    • Lia says:

      You’re accusing oppressed women of being complicit in a culture that oppresses women. That’s like blaming a victim of domestic violence when her husband hits their children.

    • DJ says:

      Right. Because adults aren’t intelligent and responsible enough to claim responsibility for their own actions. It’s actually their mother’s (women) faults for not raising them better, rather than their responsibility for not doing the work to have the self awareness to act like good humans. How can we possibly expect men raised in a patriarchal culture to be accountable for their own actions? /SARCASM

  21. While we’re talking about defensive white guys, I’d like to ask how one should handle a defensive white woman who may be (a) brainwashed by conservative media, or (b) tone deaf to another woman’s perspective. I present the following as an example:

    http://mediamatters.org/video/2014/12/11/watch-this-cnn-hosts-incredulous-response-to-gu/201845

  22. Lia says:

    You put into words a concept that I’ve been trying to understand and I thank you for that. While I agree with you on nearly everything, I’m going to challenge your definition of a “nice guy”. Let me explain that. When someone says “racist”, we think of the men in the white hoods burning a cross. But those men had families and jobs and if you met one on the street, you probably would have thought they were perfectly normal, pleasant people. It’s like how Hannah Arendt wrote about the banality of evil. To me it’s the true horror of evil that most of us (hopefully) never experience: that ordinary, “nice” people can be monsters. I’m not saying DWG’s are monsters, but I am saying that they can do monstrous things.

    I’m going to challenge your assertion that we have advanced, or that racism isn’t as bad as it used to be. I don’t see much difference between DWG’s and, say, a bus driver who didn’t permit black people to sit at the front. If you asked this Archie Bunker of his age, he probably would have given you any number of justifications why segregation was the right, proper thing. The truth is, he didn’t have the power to make that decision, beyond the power he had as a white male citizen. He may never have lynched anyone or used the n-word or treated a black person overtly poorly. But I see no difference between his lack of action, his belief that this was the proper order of things, and the DWG’s cry of reverse racism.

  23. Sam says:

    I think this article lumps together a few different kinds of people. One kind consists of white people who have probably benefited from a societal or cultural advantage, but find it really uncomfortable when other groups are saying things like “You don’t know how good you have it” or “You’re successful because you’re white”. No one wants to hear that, even if it is partially true. Another kind of person is the down-and-out white person, who keeps hearing about all the privilege and advantage of being white, but their life still sucks. They are probably the most resentful. But some of the people are just psychologically damaged — the narcissists and the sociopaths, angry at the world and lacking any moral compass. My guess is that “Jake” is one of these people. And it doesn’t take very many of them to make life miserable for everyone.

    I would also note that anonymous discussions online totally enable this anti-social behavior. But there is also a disturbing lack of shame these days. I read an article recently (I wish I could find the link) that discussed this phenomenon — for example, the soldiers at Abu Ghraib who took photos of themselves tormenting prisoners. It could be an outgrowth of our ultra-individualistic culture, in which you’re told you don’t have to conform to any norms, even the good ones!

  24. Dan says:

    This is a very well-written article, and I really can’t dispute any points made- it seems spot on. I would, however, like to see a follow-up article with a tangible plan of action. While this one explains things ideologically as they may be, it’s likely preaching to the choir (everyone who’s not a DWG) and infuriating the rest (DWG’s). I’d be interested to see an empathetic attempt to show them the way (whether they deserve empathy or not), much like Emma Watson did with feminism when she recently spoke at the UN.

  25. revjohn says:

    I hope the hope that you hope. But my fear is that, given the widespread nature of the DWG syndrome, it could coalesce into fascism. Indeed, if we look at us (the US, that is) through Third World eyes, our foreign policy is already DWGS on a massive scale. How else do we become the victims of ISIS or Monsanto becomes the victim of Salvadoran farmers who plant free seeds to grow the corn they’ve grown for centuries? I think we are dangerously near to making DWGS the law of the land and suppressing all other narratives.

  26. Kelley Dane says:

    I applaud the author’s power of perception and insight into very disturbed psyche’s of white males, and even some of the insight provided by other posters– some of which were DWG’s themselves. Every false accusation they make is a confession.

    There are a few things I have yet to see anyone point out thus far, however. This racist narrative is killing us all. Not just the racists themselves peddling mental illness, but the intended remedy for racism being rebranded racism hanging Susan B Anthony from a tree for the crimes of the Klan. There is no such thing as white privilege. There are privileges conferred upon people based more on multi-generational cultivated wealth than any other color you could name. Green trumps all colors. Green trumps all creeds & tales of sovereign supremacy. Green is power and how much power can be acquired determines how much freedom one may experience in a capitalistic economic system. Can’t you just hear those freedom isn’t free jingoism’s already. Poor pay for it with their blood & treasure and rich pay for it with someone else’s treasure while congress is in session. What was intrinsic “inalienable rights” morphed into a toll taker from hell imposing odious terms and conditions of existence upon all sentient life. Not just limited to our own species.

    The isms all require the same manipulations devaluing huge swaths of the population to enable a privileged minority to enjoy concentrations of resources. Misogyny trumps racism throughout recorded history in all cultures and creeds. We need to view it all from the long view of history as an ethical evolution our species has struggled with and get away from subgroup categories that all too often devolve into a false cultural identity predicated on diminishing the worth of another subgroup. No one on the planet seems to know how to make an honest living that doesn’t require someone else losing for them to win. We need to solve capitalism’s sickness by creating better economic models that serve all equally. Not a privileged minority of predators, which appears the reliable source of merit rewards crossing all cultures/ creeds/ races.

    The bullying behavior George Heymont referenced is obligatory socialized lesson the great white hope is forced to carry around by virtue of a y chromosome. They are obliged to be the protectors in society and as such have a world view based on zero sum games and dominion. As Hitler realized, these ethics are easily exploited when institutions can be hijacked for nefarious purposes. (Shut up with Godwins law retorts please). Listen hard to the sales pitch NRA directs at the insecurities of males and you will better understand the rabid right male dementia. Equal time for criticism, why should it take propping up a white guy (much as I adore Lawrence O’Donnell) to be a mouthpiece for what we (all the rest of us who fail to be white males) know to be true?

  27. Angela Riechers says:

    Thank you for writing this. You really nailed it.

  28. Robert White says:

    Utterly incorrect. Once someone says “white people are hurting us” they’ve lost all credibility just as thoroughly as if they’d said “black people are hurting us”; and the smack-down response of “not all white people” is just as valid as “not all black people”.

    Unqualified statements are improper in reasoned discourse, and people making unqualified statements pretty much deserve to be served up a heaping plate full of shut-the-hell-up.

    A qualified statement like “white people who unilaterally support the police without checking into the facts are hindering social justice” are reasonable. And you don’t even need the word “white” a that point since any person who does that promotes that result.

    Specificity. It seems to be dead, but communicating only in Glittering Generalities results in no effective communications at all.

    Any attempt to conflate real stories with broad categories is wrong.

    If I started a sentiment with any of the following, how would you respond?

    — Black guys always…
    — Women just never…
    — Christians are only…

    If you are named by any of those broad categories and you _don’t_ match the “…” allegation you _will_ respond defensively. Period.

    So this fanciful ideal that “white guys should just suck it up and let the generality go by uncorrected” is “crap”.

    I _know_ white privilege exists.
    I _know_ male privilege exists.
    I enjoy the benefits of both of those every day.
    I also know bigotry exists. As a straight-acting gay dude I got to listen to an uncensored fees of what was said about “my kind” on a daily basis growing up along with all manner of bigotry. It was the seventies and the south, what can I say? I was like a spy behind enemy lines.

    But I was also acutely aware of the unspoken majority and their subtle and growing disapproval of the outspoken idiots.

    If you start with “white people are…” you are just begging your audience to view you as “just another” whatever it is that you identify yourself with.

    Generalities _kill_. They end discourse and they endanger reason. And on occasion they produce so much social scar tissue that it can end a life.

    Use qualifiers, and really think about the qualifiers you use. Cut your sets down to the bone before making your assertions.

    Communicate effectively. Then you won’t just experience the world as an un-ending stream of apparent defensiveness.

    You have to stop attacking your allies and focus your outrage on the perpetrators. It’s not a “white guy problem” until _after_ you’ve lumped all the white guys together in your accusation.

  29. BitOBear says:

    TL;DR? Try this..

    Women, don’t get defensive when your male friends tell you about how all women are just (inflammatory statement here). Just listen to and believe them…

    No?

    Not reasonable for me to make a comment about All Women? How about just White Woment? All Black Women? How about all black people?

    Still no?

    You just experienced the same fundamental human reaction a white guy is going to feel if you make an “all white guys are just…” comment.

    Why _should_ he “just believe” when he’s a member of the disparaged class and he knows he, as an individual, is not guilty of the action or behavior?

    Sorry, but if you want to cry out for empathy you have to demonstrate you have some first.

    I know all about white and male privilege, I don’t dispute its existence, but if you are not going to be just as careful of tarring others with a broad brush, you don’t deserve to be heard out.

    Before you make _any_ statement about _any_ class of people you should spend a little time contemplating Dunbar’s Number and Glittering Generalities.

    Physician, heal thyself.

  30. BitOBear says:

    (The long version that got eaten) Utterly incorrect. Once someone says “white people are hurting us” they’ve lost all credibility just as thoroughly as if they’d said “black people are hurting us”; and the smack-down response of “not all white people” is just as valid as “not all black people”.

    Unqualified statements are improper in reasoned discourse, and people making unqualified statements pretty much deserve to be served up a heaping plate full of shut-the-hell-up.

    A qualified statement like “white people who unilaterally support the police without checking into the facts are hindering social justice” are reasonable. And you don’t even need the word “white” a that point since any person who does that promotes that result.

    Specificity. It seems to be dead, but communicating only in Glittering Generalities results in no effective communications at all.

    Any attempt to conflate real stories with broad categories is wrong.

    If I started a sentiment with any of the following, how would you respond?

    — Black guys always…
    — Women just never…
    — Christians are only…

    If you are named by any of those broad categories and you _don’t_ match the “…” allegation you _will_ respond defensively. Period.

    So this fanciful ideal that “white guys should just suck it up and let the generality go by uncorrected” is “crap”.

    I _know_ white privilege exists.
    I _know_ male privilege exists.
    I enjoy the benefits of both of those every day.
    I also know bigotry exists. As a straight-acting gay dude I got to listen to an uncensored fees of what was said about “my kind” on a daily basis growing up along with all manner of bigotry. It was the seventies and the south, what can I say? I was like a spy behind enemy lines.

    But I was also acutely aware of the unspoken majority and their subtle and growing disapproval of the outspoken idiots.

    If you start with “white people are…” you are just begging your audience to view you as “just another” whatever it is that you identify yourself with.

    Generalities _kill_. They end discourse and they endanger reason. And on occasion they produce so much social scar tissue that it can end a life.

    Use qualifiers, and really think about the qualifiers you use. Cut your sets down to the bone before making your assertions.

    Communicate effectively. Then you won’t just experience the world as an un-ending stream of apparent defensiveness.

    You have to stop attacking your allies and focus your outrage on the perpetrators. It’s not a “white guy problem” until _after_ you’ve lumped all the white guys together in your accusation.

  31. decisions says:

    I don’t think the definition of “good guy” changed. I think that “good guys” are just annoyed that being a “good guy” is no longer considered sufficient in the larger social contract.

    It was a LONG time ago that I was chewed out by Rosa Parks for my misperception of what it takes to *really* not be racist. I learned the hard way that what I thought was being a “good guy” was really just being more subtly prejudiced.

    Not being a bigot has *always* required self-examination and hauling yourself up short if you find yourself engaging in bigoted thoughts or actions. It has *always* required *listening* to the oppressed group’s lived experience, *respecting* their perceptions, and adjusting your own behaviors and thoughts accordingly.

    The “good guy” isn’t trying to not be a bigot, he’s doing the bare minimum required to keep him in a position of comfort. The “good guy” is comfortable with a world that gives him an automatic spot at the head of the table.

    What bothers the “good guys” is that their standard is no longer broadly socially acceptable – there are people hinting that the rectangular table needs to be replaced with a round one. This is a problem, because it means their seat will lose its social power.

    Invariably, these people turn out to have severe inferiority complexes – so the thought of *actually* being inferior is terrifying. They cope with their fear of inferiority by inventing excuses for why the “other” must be inferior to them. They build themselves up by climbing upon the rubble they’ve created from the lives of others. They’re lashing out because if they’re required to live in a society that is ACTUALLY a meritocracy, they fear their likely place in pile of rubble.

    They can see a threat to the power they were granted simply because of the genetic accident of a low melanocyte level combined with pretending not to be a bigot in polite company.

    They don’t want to give that power up anymore than a toddler wants to give up a shiny toy when bed time arrives. They don’t want it to be bed time for their place in the power structure, so they’re throwing a tantrum.

  32. Posting my comment on reddit. In brief I argue that science has studied this problem and has a lot to say about the scientific research on the causes of denial, identifying denial, and overcoming denial. I like to some good practical advice and workshops that should help. http://www.reddit.com/r/racism/comments/3azpps/the_white_guy_problem/

  33. I have saved this on my phone. I have read and re read this post too many times to count. This is one of the best pieces I have ever read on the internet. I have returned to this explanation in some of the darkest times of my career lately as a female mechanic in a predominantly white male atmosphere. It is MISERABLE. The blatant sexism, and mysogyny has been too much for me to bear lately. Even my mere existence threatens their manhood. I work in one of the largest airplane manufacturer in the world. I have struggled and fought for 7 years against this crap. “Not all men” is becoming harder and harder for me to swallow when 99 percent of them are actively benefitted, condoned, and or endorsed such horrible behavior. HR is a joke, and only brings more social punishment. I hate them. I really do. In world War 2 women proved more than capable of building them ourselves, yet when “they came home” women were forced to leave. It’s not fair.

  34. What the fuck says:

    I’m a white ‘priviledged’ male. Who has no experience of ‘white privilege’. I had to fight like a dog to get to where I am from the white ghetto trailer parks in Kentucky where I grew up. I have plenty of my own stories of police abuse against myself (over use of force). During the years when I should have been in college I was working. My ‘white privileged’ ass couldn’t afford to pay for it and no one would give my ‘privileged’ ass a loan (they would only offer me 40% and I couldn’t come up with the 60%).. So please forgive my ‘privileged’ 7th grade writing ability. I’ve taught myself everything I know to get to where I am.

    My ancestors WERE slaves and fought AGAINST slavery for 100s of years. The English thought it was their GOD GIVEN RIGHT to rob, rape, pillage and steal from my ancestors. My ancestors also assisted in the underground railroad in Kentucky helping people get across the river into Ohio. No one in my family’s known history has ever been involved in, owned, or contributed to slavery in any way shape or form. Do I blame the english? No. Was it right? No. Do the people who are alive now owe me reparations? No.

    I have zero guilt because I know my own history. So when I see someone talk as divisively as you, the guy who made the comment your article is based on or treat me negatively due to assumptions of my history. I have no qualms about telling them to go fuck themselves.

    You know what would make me happy? If black people stop rioting every time a black kid who the majority of the time deserved to be shot by police gets shot by police. Sick and tired of seeing mothers on TV saying “how good of a boy” her son was. Almost every mother would say “their kid was a good boy”. I saw a video recently of a ‘white privileged’ kid get shot by police after using his car as a weapon and attempting to flee (in the same scenario I’ve seen black people shot). There were no “white lives matter” comments on the news articles. There were no riots. Do you know why? BECAUSE THE STUPID FUCK DESERVED IT AND EVERYONE KNOWS IT!

    Pablo Escobar’s mom thought he was a “good boy” too. He blew up airplanes and killed thousands of people. The world of a mother is worthless.

    If you want to end racism 2 things need to happen.

    #1) Black communities need to recognize that ‘gangsters’ and the ‘gangster culture’ promotes bad behavior, criminality, and generally nothing at all positive for society.

    –FYI I enjoy hip hop and rap music. I pick and choose and don’t listen to bullshit about bitches n’ hoes, keys and bustin caps and other bullshit. I find Eminem to be inspiration and his music typically motivates me to do even more. That doesn’t mean I’m going to walk around with guns, selling drugs, destroying communities, trying to ‘make a fat stack’.

    #2) Black communities need to stop self-segregation and actually integrate into society. Once people realize the only thing stopping them is themselves they will be able to start to improve their own lives.

    I was born and raised in Kentucky. Which most would consider stereo-typically a state full of rednecks, bigots and racists. The area in which I lived had almost no black or hispanic people even though the cost of living was the same as the area where the black and hispanic community self-segregates themselves. What we do have though are plenty of muslim, asian and indian immigrants. There are instances of racism but no where near the level you’d expect. I’m married to a woman who is not white and have a mixed race daughter. None of us have experienced any racism at all. The black communities however are the largest areas of crime, murders, drug dealing, etc, etc, etc, etc. They’ve rioted on occasion and destroyed entire areas of the city. Why? Are they incapable of paying the exact same rental rates they do now but in an area with a school that is one of the best in the state and country? Are they incapable of not dressing like gangster or using english the way english was meant to be use so they can obtain a good paying job?

    http://themattwalshblog.com/2014/08/07/im-lazy-put-effort-dont-care-job-walmart-pay-money-anyway/

    Reminds of the article above that i forced my brother to read and it changed his world. He thought similarly there was nothing he could do and the world was stacked against him. When in reality, the only thing stopping him was himself. When I got to him he was living in his car. After having beat all of his nonsensical belief structure out of him; 3 years later he now owns his own house and is making 65K a year as the GM of a restaurant. How did he get that job? By starting entry level as a cook and then separating himself from the pack by not being a whiny lazy incompetent fool. Want to get ahead in life? You start by acting like an adult instead of a child.

    FYI, I’m now a business owner at age 33 with multiple employees and pull in a decent 6 figure a year income. My wife doesn’t need to work so she can raise our child properly instead of leaving the television and the state to raise our child (Something she agreed to and we discussed extensively prior to having a PLANNED child. And, if you want to go all misogynistic on me, if she could make as much as I do — I would happily be the one to stay at home and care for my daughter while she works.). My business is IT related and I never meet my clients face to face. They don’t know if I’m white, black, red, purple, blue or gray. Anyone of any color can do what I have done. Take that ‘white privilege’ and shove it up your ass. All you need to improve yourself is the internet so you can teach yourself (available FREELY at any public library, most cities, and most cafes), a basic command of the english language (7th – 8th grade level has proved to be enough for me) and some drive to become more than what you are.

  35. Myself says:

    Yes, white men have reached the “fuck it” moment because many of them are waking up to the reality that no matter what they do, no matter how they act, vote, the way they spend their money, treat people, monitor their speech and actions: it will never ever ever never ever ever ever ever never ever be enough. Until you are literally on your knees, groveling and flagellating yourself for the mistake of your very existence you will not have satisfied people like yourself.

    Even then it likely would not be enough. For as you are wont to point out, their transgression goes beyond their individual actions: it is deeply and systematically programmed into the culture, and no matter what they do they can never UNdo that reality. They are eternal sinners, committing the original sins of whiteness, straightness, and maleness. For which they must eternally atone. Neurotically, obsessively analyzing their every thought and action. Policing their language–verbal and physical. Proselytizing the good word of social justice and taking the daily sacrament of privilege checking. And always always always making amends for things they never did, and have almost zero control over.

    They must do all of this, and still “man up” (a tasty bit of sexism on your part) do their jobs, and pay into a system that is LITERALLY systematically designed to disadvantage them regardless of their ability, or the abilities of their competitors.

    White men are waking up to the reality of this double standard. Which is is glaringly, painfully, hideously obvious. It’s smash you across the face with a cherry red clothing iron, obvious.

    Why should they be in favor of a social and economic systems designed to limit their existences and destroy their culture? It’s not that they still want to be “good guys,” it’s that they being told they will never be good, no matter what they do. And yet they look around them and their personal narrative informs them that most of their managers are women, that affirmative action programs are giving opportunities to people they are more qualified than, and that the culture at large is beginning to regard them as the dangerous “other.” The boogeyman of patriarchy and white supremacy incarnite, whose painful and unfortunate existence is finally, thankfully, coming to an end.

    They wonder to themselves when this magic turning point is supposed to occur. Where we are all finally “equal” and we can finally end the actual, literal institutionalized racism and sexism that extends from federal hiring practices, to corporate America’s commitment to “diversity.” Diversity, which they are realizing is a code word that means: if you’re white, straight, and male, you are not welcome here–please go away and die so the WE can finally run the show.

    This is the reality of white men, no matter how much you want to blather about how uncomfortable it is for someone to hit on you in public (gasp), or point to some pointless study about black people supposedly getting worse interest rates on loans–this has to be the worst thing ever, I mean it’s almost as bad as having your spot at a university being handed to an underperforming student because they have a different skin color than you–er I mean actually that’s ok, I guess.

    So yes this the “fuck it” moment. The moment when you start to lose the societal privileges your victim claiming bought you at the cost of our guilt. Go ahead and call me a racist, sexist, bigot, misogynist–I don’t care anymore. We are starting to not care anymore.

    • mikerentas says:

      The pattern I’ve been noticing more and more with this divide is that it’s all fueled by assuming the worst about people who disagree with you.

      Trump supporters aren’t uneasy with the push for globalism and completely fed up with business in usual in Washington, they’re racist, sexist, homophobic, islamophobic deplorables. Everything is interpreted in the worst possible light, and it’s assumed that everyone is lying about their motives or just too stupid to understand the *real* issues.

      Hillary supporters didn’t actually like her platform and think her negatives weren’t that big a deal, they were just voting for her because she’s a woman and they’re too brainwashed by the mainstream media to see that she’s the most corrupt politician ever and they don’t even want to know the truth about Benghazi and also they’re all shills working for the CTR superpac.

      Likewise, catcalling is interpreted as harassing and belittling and a reminder that women are vulnerable to sexual assault, rather than just some guy who’s a little douchey thinking he’s giving someone a compliment. Drunken sexual encounters between college freshmen are being recontextualized as rape rather than two kids who have basically zero experience with sex or alcohol working out the mechanics of romance and consent and regretting impulsive decisions. And on the other side, people arguing that men need to be more aware of the implications of their words and actions are accused of being authoritarian feminists who just want to control everything.

      We all need to take a step back and take a deep fucking breath and start trying to see the best in people instead of the worst.

  36. JEM says:

    Thank you for presenting a well articulated theory. I disagree with the conclusion that you reached about the cause for defensiveness, but agree the tendency to get defensive when confronted is damaging to progress.

    I like that you address the fact that most people see themselves as “good guys”, but I think a lot of the defensive reaction is from people who believe they are being treated like the “bad guys” when they don’t feel it’s justified. (Not like the Jake fellow, he’s a douchebag troll). And there’s a natural tendency, when you feel like someone is treating you as if you’re their enemy, to eventually start acting like it. The Atlantic did an article where they quoted Lincoln’s words on the phenomenon, I’d copy it but I’m on my phone.

    Regardless, I wanted to commend you on a well and we’ll written article.

  37. Mas says:

    Jesus dude, why do people feel the need to just lay into white people for all their shortcomings? Has it ever occurred to you, that maybe, just maybe, the reason that darker skinned people were subjugated is because their civilizations happened to not make the right choices? You seem to forget that everyone screwed over everyone for all of time. Everyone was racing to be top dog, and realistically, it’s the Africans that shoul’ve been dominant. They had the most resource rich land in terms of raw materials used to advance a society, and they squandered it. I say that because if they had made full use of the land, trade, and diplomatic agreements, beating back outsiders would’ve been a total cake walk. Look at Japan and China, they retained their autonomy through careful use of resources, manpower, and political effort. The peoples that have retained their independence for most/all of history are the ones that tried very hard, and wanted to be better than the others. So to continuously blame white people for your own lot in life is complete ignorance of your own peoples past. I will give you that starting around the colonial era and the founding of America, whites started to subjugate and discriminate more, but look at every nation in history, and the group initially in power tends to do this to ones that aren’t. It happens EVERWHERE, with EVERYBODY. It’s human nature, it needs to change, but that’s what it is. So to point at us and say that we are why everything is bad for you is just wrong and unfair. Had history been different, YOU would be the one writing this comment, and whites would be the ones bitching about how you’re all just racist pieces of crap and everything is unfair. It’s the way the cards fell, get over it. You can’t change the past, but you CAN affect the future. We NEED to get over this secular bullshit and learn to love and respect each other. If we don’t do that, and everyone just repeats history, then in the end we’re all as good as irradiated ash, or possibly extra terrestrial slaves (if they’re put there). That’s our fate if we keep blaming each other for how things are. We need to just let it go, forgive, and trust each other, and things will start to change for the better. There will always be supremacists, but we can’t change those small groups. Everyone just stop with the hate speech FFS.

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