I’ve never thought of whiteness as a malady, something that I’d better take care of – and soon – before it kills me. Jonathan M. Metzl, the author of “Dying of Whiteness: How the Politics of Racial Resentment is Killing America’s Heartland,” has penned an op-ed in the Washington Post warning us “it’s time to talk about being white in America” which can be viewed here.
Metzl, who is white, was touting his latest work at a Washington bookstore on Saturday when he was “interrupted by a group of white nationalists.” They paraded through the store chanting, “This land is our land.” He was quite shaken up afterward and sat down to write his op-ed. He began:
For too long, many white Americans have avoided this conversation, and we’ve done so for a reason: We don’t have to see the color white. Race scholars often argue that white privilege broadly means not needing to reflect on whiteness. White is the default setting, the assumed norm. A white American does not have to think about being white when walking down the street — while people marked as not-white are often noticed and surveilled. White people have the superpower of invisibility.
He tells us he has spent eight years studying how “politics of racial resentment have profound negative consequences for working-class white communities.” Imagine spending eight years of your life studying the politics of racial resentment.
During his research, Metzl “saw countless examples of white Americans in the reddest of red counties who were proud of their conservative values but also understood their moral obligation to immigrants and citizens of color. In other words, they were willing to see their privilege and to begin the work of dismantling it.”
He’s even coined a new term, “insecure whiteness,” which he doesn’t quite define. But from his discussion of the “rise of President Trump’s brand of resentment politics” in the preceding paragraph, I think it just means you support Trump.
He ruminates on ways to “reach these voters and wonders what a political appeal to their concerns would even look like.” After all, the 2020 election depends on it.
To refute Trump-style politics, white Americans of conscience have to “see” what their whiteness means. It’s not enough for well-meaning whites to #resist specific policies. They need to contest his very definition of whiteness.
Such a reckoning may not be comfortable. But it is necessary, not just for a more equitable country but also for defeating the politics of racial resentment at the polls.
Interestingly, not once does Metzl consider moderating his position, possibly compromising on any of these issues. He’s trying to find ways to make Trump supporters somehow see the light. We’re the ones who are flawed and need to do the work. What a condescending, spineless, arrogant little urchin.
Then, as Obama often did, he presents us with straw men. Metzl writes:
My research suggests that constantly blaming “others” masks ways that the GOP platform depends on rendering even its working-class white supporters expendable. White Americans are literally dying from Trump’s brand of identity politics. But if whiteness is sick, what’s the cure?
The cure would be to open our hearts to illegal immigrants, hand over our guns to the government and support increased funding for education, transit and health-care delivery systems.
That’s the dilemma facing white Americans who recoil from Trump’s cruel politics — and Democratic politicians who wish to speak to conservative white voters. They, too, are often hampered by not seeing whiteness. What’s needed is a language to promote different ways of being white.
And finally, he presents his solution:
Equitable societies are healthier for everyone, and alliances among groups with common socioeconomic interests (rather than identities) are more successful in achieving shared objectives. A white Kansan has more in common with his Hispanic neighbor than with a white Tennessean.
Everything he’s written is a smokescreen. He wants to sell books and to guilt us into voting Democratic next year.
I think I’ll stick with my insecure whiteness, thanks.
Here are some of the responses to Metzl’s op-ed:
It’s time to talk about the left’’s sick obsession w/ identity politics and how they divide America more and more each day. Give it a rest!
— Emmy Wolfe (@emmywolfe) April 30, 2019
You make the assumption that "White" automatically equals "Racist". You don't allow for any debate, any evidence to the contrary, you just make it as a blanket "statement of fact".
And you wonder WHY Mark Levin refers to your newspaper as "Compost"?
— Steve Johnson 💎 (@Grizzly_Stevens) April 30, 2019
As a Hispanic, I’m warning you white liberals to stop with this shit. https://t.co/AyzbLyN3Nd
— RBe (@RBPundit) April 30, 2019
I'm white, I'm fat, I'm Christian and I'm sick about it? Is that my proper reaction?
— Cracker Jack (@cantrellr) April 30, 2019
Can I be white in American and not be counted with these people?
Asking for millions of Americans.
— Komrad Iron, Dethroner of God (@Komrad_Iron) April 30, 2019