Open Season on White Christian Men

It never ceases to amaze me that those who are most privileged by how society is organized, whose paycheck when compared to women and people ofO'Reilly color is substantially higher for doing the same job, who are the first hired and last fired, who disproportionately occupy the largest share of power positions in media, business, and politics; often rewrite themselves into the national narrative as the victims.  The creation of the mythology of Christian white men as victims was most recently demonstrated during the April 13th Talking Points Commentary of the O’Reilly Factor on Fox News. Remarking on Hilary Clinton’s announcement of seeking the Democratic nomination for the presidency in 2016, Bill O’Reilly said, “If you are a Christian or a white man in the USA, it is open season on you.”

By recasting oneself as a victim, the victimizer is free from having to deal with how societal structure has been normalized and legitimized to privilege them.  Individuals like O’Reilly refuses to recognize that Euroamericans are the only ones who “belong” in the United States, while others simply live here.  When those on society’s margins attempt to establish a dialogue to investigate how they too can inhabit this country as full and equal citizens, power-holders whose position within society is jeopardized by such assertions begin to cast themselves as the victims, while labeling those seeking dialogue as “playing the race card” or as “race hustlers.”

They see themselves under the “tyranny” of those who have historically been oppressed but who now have greater opportunities to advance but, instead, blame whites for all of their problems. White Christians as victims seek the passage of laws (i.e. Indiana and Arkansas) disguised as protecting religious liberties, but in fact masks bigotry against those who seek to be accepted as fellow citizens. To declare that it’s open season on Christian white men, who continue to hold the reigns on the economic, social, and political power of the nation, becomes coded-racist language warning the privileged of the need to advance legislation that suppresses voting rights for people of color, and dismantles pass progressive legislation designed to create a more just and fairer society.

But in one way, O’Reilly is correct. Christian white men are, indeed, victims, but not victims in the sense O’Reilly intended.  Instead, they are victims of the very structures designed to protect their power and privilege.  Because sexism, racism and ethnic discrimination is interwoven into the very fabric of the history of the United States, everyone, including people of color, is taught their place in society and how they should relate to others.  Since childhood, those of us who resided in the underside of history have been taught to see and interpret reality through the eyes of the dominant culture, specifically white, heterosexual, middle-upper class, male patriarchal eyes.

In most communities the “white” norm is taught as the legitimate way to interact with others.  As this norm is taught, children are forced to suppress their natural inclinations to play and relate with each other at daycare or school.  In kindergarten children naturally play together regardless of race or gender, but by the time they reach high school they have been taught and conditioned to sit in different tables at the school cafeteria.  They learn to mistrust their co-students, because they fear being exiled from their own community.  “You better not date a black man or I’ll disown you,” the parent may verbally or, more likely, non-verbally communicate to the child.  Or children may learn to remain silent or offer up nervous laughter as the usual response to racist jokes, slurs, or abuse.

Euroamericans, seeing themselves as the norm, are, in effect, race-less, that is, everyone else is “colored,” while they have no color.  For example, the dominant culture relatively refers to the black cop, the Hispanic teacher, or the Asian mechanic.  Seldom do they refer to the white cop, the white teacher, or the white mechanic using “white” as an the adjective, mostly because the norm of whiteness makes everyone white unless otherwise stated.  Yet, when children reach adulthood, they must begin to deal with the contradictory racial statements, emotions, and mental states that arise with reconciling the need to belong to their group with how they are taught to deal with those of other groups.[1]

The societal structures that cause oppression are not reducible to a formula where only those who are marginalized are the victims.  Although it is impossible to equate the suffering of those who are disenfranchised with those who are privileged, it is important to note that those at the center of society are also victims of these structures.  They too are indoctrinated to believe they deserve, or earn, or have a right to power and privilege.  They are trapped into living up to the false ideal of superiority, and as such, require the same liberation yearned for by the disenfranchised.  Liberation is for the abused, from death-dealing social structures that denies them of their humanity; and for their abusers whose own humanity is lost through their complicity with these same structures.

Those Christian white men who are not economically privileged, as my PhD mentor John Raines reminds us, are taught to dream upward, aspiring to become wealthy and to associate with the society’s elite, while, they blame downward, accusing those who are marginalized of stealing their jobs and depressing wages, thus preventing them from achieving their rightful place in society.  This is a primary reason why when a black man is elected president, or when a woman runs for the same office, they face such vehement resistance. This also might explain why when a Latino who while wearing a white mask speaks in defense of white privilege decides to also run for president, he is embraced by his Party as the great brown hope.

[1]Thandeka, Learning to be White: Money, Race, and God in America (New York: Continuum, 1999), 11-13.

Miguel A. De La Torre

One thought on “Open Season on White Christian Men

  1. This article is so filled with racism and hate against white man, it leaves me bewildered. Being a white immigrant myself, and I have lived with Spanish and Indian American very closely, and still live among them, some not speaking any English and others barely, I wonder how anyone can expect equal rights under those conditions. White man conquered this land thru war and thru Christianization. Right or wrong, blood was shed on both sides, and horrendous efforts was made in progress to make this land inhabitable to many people coming from a lot of different nations. It boggles my mind what the early settlers did and how we became this Nation. I don’t see anyone honoring what has been done right here, or, why then does everyone want to come and live in the US.? You complain of all that is wrong, no doubt there is, but honor the blood of the million of lives that where shed. White and Indian.. If there would have been another way, maybe God would have told the Spanish in the 15-1600 that there is a better way to escape the forced Christianization of the Jewish people in Spain. Christopher Columbus was a converted Jew. History is full of error, today Christians are full of error, Preachers and Professors alike, You can’t change the past, but you can direct your concerns to the corporative systems, Church-Leaders, Business-Leaders, Government-Leaders, Economics, Trade-Sale, Politics, etc. When all the others, Blacks, Brown, etc. get into the making of the systems, or into Leadership roles, you and they will be a no better person to run this Country, because they/you will be full of hate and revenge. …..
    I am not treated equal, but my hope is that my children will contribute, or make a difference in a way that will earn them the right to be a part of this country, and not just because they were born here.. It is what it is….accept it…..learn…. to do and be better, So far everyone wants instantly what has taking hundreds of years to build and accomplish. You’re always knocking Europeans. I am a proud European, disadvantaged, used and abused, was nearly homeless with no where to turn, reaped inhuman treatments, war destroyed our families and our land, and I am constantly reaping histories baggage and complaints. Nothing I did !. I get sick of everyone’s baggage., Yes, bring the abuses to daylight and change the systems, but not for “instant gratifications” of every foreigner that enters this country…..and then complains and complains…………..White man is good, but taking the blessings for granted corrupts….,and forgetting God and taking him out of this Nation?…….who/he allowed everything to happen and to be. He has revealed himself to us in a fully human form, as well as thru nature, it is up to us to be aware and teach one Generation at a time that God is in human form, and in all things that we destroy (land, nature, animals, water etc.), as though we, and all things are dead, and there is “no tomorrow”.. God will allow calamity to bring Nations to their senses, but takes no pleasure.
    What do all the foreigners bring to America? They bring their past, their present status, and a vision for their life’s or perhaps none. This country is big enough for us all, my European way, your Spanish, Negro etc. heritages. Your article brushes “your night as it were your day”. A struggle thru the dark night in search for the soul of America. Its Founders were Europeans and many have been blessed by it. Just as Christianity’s Founders were Jewish. Accept it. To understand it and what went wrong you have to accept their history and learn their intentions, what it meant etc. perhaps then you might complain less and focus on ways to make the difference to incorporate you Race and People into the Landscape of American Life. An Asset to Gods plan and purpose…..my hope, or harboring revenge?..

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s