Friday, August 1, 2008

focus on "race" by focusing on non-white people, as if white people don't have a race

This is a guest post by Chauncey DeVega, a member of the blogging collective We Are Respectable Negroes, which is where this reversal of the dominant racial lens also appears.

What If?
White in America
The Never to Be Made Television Documentary

The fallout continues from CNN's Black in America news special. In my conversations with friends and colleagues, there is a recurring question: What would a White version of Black in America look like? A hypothetical question, yes, but one that is still interesting and useful to work through.

In the spirit of Black in America, we present to you our pitch for the never to be produced television news special, White in America.

Segment 1
White Teenagers: Out of Control and at Risk

At a time when young people should be comfortably protected by their parents while also moving forward with their lives into adulthood, white teenagers are exhibiting self-destructive behaviors which threaten to undermine the fabric of white communities. White teens and young adults are most likely to binge drink, smoke, and at the college age, have multiple sexual partners. STI's such as chlamydia, syphilis, genital herpes, and HPV are increasingly common among college age white women. As seen in the recent pregnancy cult in Gloucester, Massachusetts where at least 17 white teenage girls endeavored to become pregnant at one time, white teenagers are exhibiting sexual behaviors that border on the pathological--in the above case having unprotected sex with strangers, including random homeless men, in order to become pregnant. The casual nature with which white teens approach sex and sexuality is mirrored through the "new" dating conventions of "hooking up," where normal, suburban, white teens--young people from healthy homes--have multiple casual and short-term sexual relationships. Contributing to this crisis is the sexualization of young white women through beauty pageants, popular music and film, and the beauty industry, an early sexualization which is reinforced through peer pressure and has created a minefield for young white women, where many ultimately have to struggle with mental health issues such as anorexia, bulimia and body dysmorphic condition.

How can we help young white people? How have white parents let things get so bad? Where are white young people learning these lessons? What can responsible, white parents do?

Segment 2
A Plague Upon the Land: White Men, Workplace Violence, School Shootings, Hate Crimes, and Dead Wives

White men have long struggled with a culture of violence. While the culture of violence which afflicts white men has been moderated over time, American society is still struggling with this pathological behavior. White men have long held a near monopoly on being serial killers (the BTK killer, Ted Bundy, Jeffrey Dahmer, and domestic terrorists, e.g. the KKK, Timothy McVeigh, and the UnaBomber), but the violence seems to be shifting its focus to schools and the workplace.

During the last decade or so, from Columbine, to Northern Illinois University, to Springfield, Oregon, to a high school in Minnesota, young white men have killed dozens of people, and wounded many more in murderous rampages. Workplace violence has also seen a marked increase, where it has risen several orders of magnitude during the past few decades. This has been attributed by some critics to a tumultuous economy and the pressures felt by white workers:

Other critics would point to a dangerous populism brought about by the vitriol-laced, "angry white male" narratives which underlie right-wing talk radio and television. Most recently, the shotgun wielding attack on a Unitarian church by Jim David Adkisson--the assailant blamed "liberals" for all of his problems--and his penchant for right wing propaganda, would seem to support this hypothesis.

Family members are often the first victims of violence. White women and children have been imperiled by the violence of white men. Daily, it seems that there are reports of white women and/or children being kidnapped or murdered (we label this the "Peterson" syndrome), often by their spouses.

These cases of white men engaging in murderous behavior are not confined to the United States; in Finland, a high school age boy went on a murder-shooting spree at his local school. Most notably, in Austria, Josef Fritzl was arrested after imprisoning his children in an underground bunker where he ritually abused them, and in a shocking twist, impregnated his own daughter.

Is white male violence a global crisis? What can be done to stop this open season on white women and white children? What is fueling this culture of violence? Who is to blame?

Segment 3

School is No Longer a Place for Just the ABC's: Female Teachers Are Preying upon Their Male Students

Teachers have a sacred trust. They prepare the next generation for life and are tasked with broadening their minds and intellect. However, this sacred trust has been betrayed in High Schools and Middle Schools across the United States. In dozens of known cases--the actual count is suspected of being much higher--white female teachers are having sex with their male students. As noted here, out of the dozens and dozens of reported incidents, and with rare exceptions, most of these teacher rapists are white women in their 30s and 40s. Beyond mere experimentation or moments of weakness, these sexually exploitative relationships develop and continue over long periods of time, and subsequently do irreparable psychological harm to the young male victims they involve. In some cases, the relationships involve group sex with multiple boys, or develop into "love relationships" where the teacher steals away to a foreign country in order to continue the illicit and illegal relationship.

Why are white women pursuing teenage boys? Is this criminal behavior a result of a culture which focuses too much on the sexual desirability of young women? Are older white women feeling neglected and left out? Is this recent fetishizing of white women in their 30s, 40s, and 50s--the Sex and the City phenomenon--to blame? Are white women feeling an unhealthy pressure to become either a MILF or a Cougar?

What can schools do to protect young boys from these predators? What are the warning signs that your son is being abused by a female teacher?

Segment 4

What are White Women to do? White Men, Down-low Culture, Cruising, Sex Cults, and To Catch a Predator

White men are indulging in sexually high risk and deviant behavior. While a cottage industry has been generated by the hysteria surrounding black men on "the down low," white men and white women have also been struggling with issues of sex, intimacy, and trust. In such high profile cases as the polygamist cult raid in El Dorado, Texas, where 534 children were removed because their safety was at risk, to the lesser known bestiality and zoophilia cases in Oregon (where a man died from having sex with a horse), many white males have been exhibiting pathological sexual behavior.

Not confined to the masses, white male sexual deviancy is particularly jarring and disconcerting when one examines the behavior of white male elites. In a litany of high profile cases, white politicians (Larry Craig and many others), religious figures, and businessmen have confessed to living double-lives in which they maintain relationships with men and women, and often involve prostitutes. Most troubling, many of these men, such as Ted Haggard, are extremely homophobic and have made careers and fortunes based upon their outspoken crusades against gay people. These white men on the DL have committed a double breach of trust with their hypocrisy: they have betrayed the public as well as their families. White men on the DL are also pursuing high-risk sex in locations such as public rest rooms and internet chat rooms. As the television show To Catch a Predator has repeatedly revealed, white men on the DL, a definition which we expand to include those men who seek out under-age boys and girls, are willing to risk their health and livelihood, and that of their partners:

These internet predators also include pillars of the community such as doctors, teachers, and religious leaders:

What can white women do? How can they know if their partner is on the down low? What are the health risks? If you find out your husband is cruising for sex in public bathrooms or on the internet, how should you intervene? Should you stay in the relationship or should you go?

Segment 5

No End in Sight: The Methamphetamine Plague that is Destroying White Communities

Methamphetamine is destroying the fabric of Red State America. This easy to obtain, highly addictive drug is tearing apart families and communities. An estimated 1.4 million people suffer from this addiction, almost all of them white, suburban and/or rural. In fact, meth is no longer confined to rural America, its reach is expanding to include every part of the United States. The rural culture of drugs is so pervasive that not even Amish communities are immune from its grasp. No longer will the suburbs offer protection from the perils of this dangerous drug, as it has already has, or will shortly be, making inroads into what were once safe, white, suburban communities. Just as some parts of the United States were almost destroyed by the crack epidemic of the 1980s, entire communities in the South and Midwest are been torn asunder by this cheap and easily obtained drug.

How should you protect your family? What are the signs your child is on meth? What should the government do? Should drugs be legalized and regulated? If you live in a meth-infested area, what are you doing to protect your children and family? What is your day to day life like? How do you struggle through it?

[hat-tip to kit @ keep it trill]


  1. wow. this is potent.

    this piece demonstrates my issues with the series quite well actually. and I'd imagine that it wasn't difficult to come up with the examples and material for this never-to-be-produced special.

    well done.

  2. I hear all of that. I didn't read the whole post, but it looks good.

  3. ha! thanks for this. exactly my sentiments. that series did nothing but to perpetuate "answers" to stereotypical questions that people who don't know any black people might ask. at the same time, they don't want any of those people made uncomfortable by watching the series. i believe they spent more time talking about the "crack epidemic" than slavery. supposedly black in america had 13 million viewers and was the most watched cable documentary ever. so there are a lot of still-misinformed people out there.

  4. spectacular. thanks.

  5. Clever topic.

    I have a suggestion. It may or may not make a good post and maybe you already did it: do a post on the first time you realized you were white.

  6. Thanks for the suggestion, abagond. I've actually been considering a post along those lines, even though I don't know exactly which early realization about race was also a realization that I was white. I think when I encountered black kids in my early "mixed" neighborhood (before my folks rode their whiteness out to the burbs, when I was ten), I was more aware of them being "black" than I was of myself being "white." I do remember people saying "That's mighty white of you!" as a way of saying thanks for something, but even with that example, it took me awhile to realize that "white" in that phrase was about whiteness in a racial sense.

    I'll keep working on it.

  7. wow...a well written post. Its funny how these "problems" within the white community never outshine its own image.

    Continue the good work...I enjoy your perspective

  8. white america has the privilege (and sometimes the burden) of being transparent. as such the acts of white america are the norm against which the rest of societ is cast against. thus deviations from the norm within white america is seen as INDIVIDUALIZED rather than patterns. so if a white female teacher takes advantage of teenage boy it is seen as one instance of behavior not a pattern of behavior throughout a culture. the opposite is true for blacks where one instance of behavior may immediately be cast as look at what THEY are doing now. you would never ask or expect one white person to be able to speak for all of white america. but whites in my experience.. look to their one black friend, colleague or media representation as being characteristic of all blacks. it is a problem on both ends one that hopefully given exposure (such as this enlightening post) will be actively remedied.

  9. Awesome. I think this is the best way of illustrating the white=norm that I've ever seen.

  10. Thanks all, and thanks to Macon D and Trill for circulating this piece.

    I am glad you enjoyed it.

    As we all know talking about whiteness in the abstract is so difficult precisely because neo-liberal colorblindness has robbed us of the language to talk about race (I am working on an article on this point so it is stuck in my head), but a visual narrative and one tied to the CNN special seemed like a perfect opportunity to talk about "White America."

  11. I read this whole post and laughed the whole way through. Extremely amazing and informative!!

    I'd totally make this series.

  12. Excellent outline, but one ironic inclusion (given the preceding post): the shooter in the Red Lake, Minnesota high school was an Ojibwa teenager.

  13. I would love to spot like your blog in mind; will that be ok with you? Brilliant topic and great execution on the matter.

  14. I love the spirit of this piece but have one issue with it.
    The use of the term 'down low' to mean not only affairs with adults but also 'affairs' [which are actually abusive relationships] with children is very problematic especially because we live in a culture where homosexuals are often conflated with same-sex pedophiles. There's a big difference between cheating on your wife and raping a child...

  15. could this documentary ever be made? has it?


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