The comfortable race traitor

February 16, 2014|By John E. McIntyre | The Baltimore Sun

When I wrote recently about the multi-lingual Coca-Cola commercial, expressing satisfaction that the influence of white racists appears to be on the wane,* reactions were predictable.

A representative specimen from the comment by Blackberry82: "John, you may revel in your smug liberalism now, but your grandchildren and great-grandchildren won't share your amusement when they become the victims of race hatred when they are part of the minority white population in the future USA. They won't understand how you could take such joy in seeing the decline of your own kind and encouraging the onset of their future plight. You will be remembered as a naive fool."

This is classic nativism, as old as the Republic. Benjamin Franklin worried about all those Germans in Pennsylvania insisting on keeping their own language. In the nineteenth century, the Irish were going to overwhelm American culture with their alien religion. And always, of course, the Jews.

Today, what remains of the old white Protestant Establishment has allowed the Irish, and even many Jews, into the club, the bulwark against the rising tide of blacks, Latinos, and Asians threatening to overwhelm and submerge, yada, yada, yada.** 

Wish I could be around with my grandchildren to see, once sufficient numbers of blacks, Latinos, and Asians have been assimilated into the club, where the next threat to American culture is coming from. 

What I did not point out in the original post is that race is by no means to only issue here, that the class issue is cohabiting. This point was brought home in a comment by StateCircle:

"It is consistently the most smugly vociferous (heh) defenders of equalism and multiculturalism, the most happy that European-Americans are shrinking in numbers (if not influence), who already live in, or want to live in, the cleanest, safest, quietest, best-lit neighborhoods, or where the dominant spoken language is English."

Well, yes. I live in a city that is majority African-American, with an African-American mayor, in a mixed neighborhood that is comfortable and reasonably safe (only three homicides in the past half-dozen years). Even despite the year of the [cough]hiatus [cough], I remain comfortably middle-class. My expensively college-educated children are also comfortably middle-class. 

I am, in my small way, privileged. Partly from the luck of having been born white, male, and American. Partly through education and my own exertions. Partly through luck. And I have every reason to think that everyone else who enjoys such privilege, particularly those better off than I am, will exert themselves to maintain that privilege for themselves and their offspring. And I expect that they will generally be successful. 

What I think is worrying Blackberry82 is the loss of that privilege, that status, that sense of dominance. Race is only a part of the reaction to the Coca-Cola ad. Anxiety about status is lurking underneath.  

I should add: Status anxiety has been the norm for the middle class since the eighteenth century, when it had to read novels to learn how to behave. 

*Mind you, I didn't say that it was vanishing. Steve Yelvington commented today on Facebook about the virulence of the reaction to the Michael Dunn verdict yesterday in Florida: "Facebook posts about the Michael Dunn murder trial have been depressing to read: hip-hop isn't music and people who listen to it deserve to be killed, anyone who complains about the hung jury is guilty of 'fanning the flames' and 'racist' and should 'shut up' because 'blacks kill each other all the time,' et cetera. 'Thug' is the new N-word in Redneckistan, where it's 'justified' to murder black teenagers when a white gunslinger feels 'threatened.' Disgusting."

**It's mildly amusing that the "This is America; speak English" crowd fails to recognize that both America and English are mongrels. English, as I have said before, is a slut of a language that retains traces of every language it has every brushed up against. And American culture is, like Kentucky burgoo, a stew of such mixed ingredients that it is not easy to identify all of them. 


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