Thursday, August 23, 2012

White Entitlement and White Rage

I have been much enraged of late. As usual the culprit has been the idiocy of my fellow Americans. But my mature mind is easily dissuaded from giving expression to my outrage. 'Have the wisdom', it says to me, 'to see what little you can change'.

But two items cause me to set pen to paper.

The First Lady met with victims of the Sikh Temple Shooting in Oak Creek, Wisconsin.

Readers will recall that last August 5th a gunman with ties to a white supremacist group strode opened fire at the temple. Six Sikhs were killed and three others injured.

Ms Obama's message was one of condolence and apology.

The second item was
 reading of these advertisements which are posted along the Connecticut commuter lines by Pamela Geller of Atlas Shrugs.

These two photos, placed together, represent one of the (there are many) biggest blind spots which afflict American politics.

A recent article by Priyamvada Gopal in the Manchester Guardian, How Privilege-Blindness Stops Us Understanding The Roots of Terrorism which goes a long way in explaining the origins of this myopia. Here are the money paras:

While mass killing always has a madness to its method, white supremacists are all too often declared to be psychopathic loners, where others are seen as part of organised ideological networks. Instead, there were suggestions that Page had targeted Sikhs "unfairly", alongside irrelevant discussions about Sikhism. Chances are that Representative Peter King will not hold hearings, as he did for Muslims, on the "extent of radicalisation in the American white Christian community and that community's response".

While black and, more recently, Muslim anger are widely seen as the problematic pathologies of our times, and thus subjected to the full weight of sociological, scriptural, political and even economic analysis, declared white rage is routinely relegated to the fringes, written off as the result of individual psychopathy, and eliciting passing interest only after blood is shed.

Supremacists warn that there are "thousands of other angry white men like Page out there, the vast majority of them unknown". Yet as former department of homeland security analyst Daryl Johnson points out, an extensive report on rightwing terrorism, including white extremism, was angrily repudiated by Congress in 2009 and the number of security analysts devoted to domestic non-Islamic terrorism slashed to just one.

This marginalising of the real and present danger of white terrorism at a time when other forms of religious or nationalist militancy are under unprecedented scrutiny has to do with how "whiteness" itself operates.
. . . . .
Sociologists note that in Europe and America, whiteness and the privileges that have accrued to it historically are reliant on invisibility. To have white privilege is to not identify or be identified as racially specific unlike, say, "black athletes", "Asian entrepreneurs" or just an ethnic minority air passenger.

White supremacists make it difficult to uphold the individualist axiom that society is now "post-racial" or "colour blind". By asserting racial affiliation and calling for (the perpetuation of) an endangered white domination, they paradoxically undermine a more quotidian white power which, writes scholar Richard Dyer, "secures its dominance" by remaining ostensibly featureless and general. It can sit aloof from "multiculturalism", which is deemed a special pleading thing that only ethnic minorities do.
No murderer represents a community. But all killers, however psychopathic, act in a context, whether of economic deprivation, racism, militarisation, gun proliferation or lack of mental healthcare. To minimise these social realities in favour of individual psychopathy condemns us all to shooting in the dark.
There is no light at the end of this tunnel.