What does it mean to be a man? Why are so many white men in the United States apparently so "angry"? Is white masculinity in crisis? How does gun culture and violence become central to the political and social identities of "angry white men"?
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These are very important questions in the Age of Obama where white identity politics have mated with a sense of economic imperilment to create a broken politics that manifests itself in a do nothing obstructionist Republican Congress, a "War on Women", and a rise in white domestic terrorism and hate groups.
In the first episode of Season 2.5 of the podcast series here on We Are Respectable Negroes, I was lucky to speak with Professor Michael Kimmel. He is a nationally known expert on masculinity and identity who has written more than 20 books, given more than 300 talks on the subject, and has appeared on major news programs such as the Tavis Smiley Show.
His most recent book is called Angry White Men, and has been featured by Salon, C-SPAN, and other media outlets.
Our conversation was recorded several weeks before the recent Elliot Rodger mass murder spree in California. It is eerie and disturbing that a dialogue about gun violence and masculinity has become so necessary, and the occasions and need for the conversation all too frequent.
Dr. Kimmel does some great sharing and storytelling during the podcast. I learned a great deal; I do think that you will find our conversation valuable and useful as we try to make sense of aggrieved white masculinity--and its long shadow--in the Age of Obama.
01:55 How and why did you become a scholar and activist who specializes in gender and identity politics?
04:30 Why don't more men and white folks choose to explore these issues personally or professionally? How do systems of privilege play into this dynamic?
07:00 Are academics and other experts who study racism, white supremacy, sexism, and other types of social inequality doing a poor job of communicating their findings to the general public? How is the media complicit in denying the deep and empirically verifiable fact that race still over-determines life chances in the Age of Obama and the post civil rights era?
10:54 Based on your work for the book Angry White Men, what are the white men you talked to scared of? White men are the most privileged group of people in the United States, why are they so angry?
14:14 Why are so many angry white men resistant to finding common alliance on issues of economic inequality with people of color? What is keeping them from seeing that class matters for all Americans?
16:15 Were you afraid or nervous when you interviewed overt white supremacists, militia types, and other angry white men?
18:23 Why are angry white men so obsessed with guns? Why are guns so central to their sense of self and power?
22:07 What are your thoughts on the resistance in the mass media, and among many in the white American public, to talking about white men who commit mass shootings and other acts of domestic terrorism?
26:15 Isn't it in the self-interest of white folks to confront why young white men are committing mass shootings?
27:58 If you were giving advice to the Democrats about how to reach angry white men, what would it be?
30:10 Is masculinity in the United States in crisis? When you talk to young men and college age students, how are they thinking about "what it means to be a man?" Are you hopeful or pessimistic for the future?