Sunday, May 1, 2011

Tim Wise Brings the Ruckus: Cry-Baby Beached White Males Without Jobs and the Pathology of White Privilege

Something to think about on a Sunday...

I demure when outdone. I had written a piece on the Newsweek story from a week or so ago on White men that detailed how they are especially "oppressed" and "disadvantaged" in the time of The Great Recession. After watching Brother Tim Wise do his thing my post goes down the memory well never to be seen again (unless you all revive it back to life).

As my dad, who as long time readers of We Are Respectable Negroes know was a professional musician that played with James Brown among many others said, "sometimes, when someone is hotter on the set you sit back, watch, and are entertained. If you are lucky, perhaps you will learn something. Then you take that lesson and do your thing when you get a turn. Burn it up so folks know they got to follow you and bring it."

Thus, to the goodies that come with white privilege (where a 6 percent unemployment rate for college educated white men is understood to be horrendous). As the great comedian Louis CK says, who wouldn't re-up each year as White with all of the goodies one gets with being a member of that team!

Even when many a white person is out of a job and other folks--people of color in this instance--with the same credentials are significantly more likely to be unemployed, they feel aggrieved. The American Dream has long been exposed as a patent lie to most thinking people. Whiteness allows white folks to believe in it because they don't have the uniquely privileged perspective that comes from seeing the man who is pulling the strings behind the veil or curtain exposed: The Wizard of Oz moment that comes from being the little man behind the stove that the in-group is denied. Talk about the ironies of history.

Here is a telling contrast to the sad state of "Beach White Males" as offered courtesy of The Loop 21:

Overall Unemployment Goes Down, Black Unemployment Goes Up

This past Friday, April 1st, the March 2011 news tickers showed that the overall unemployment went down to the best rate in two years. But, for African Americans, it actually got worst. We wish this was an April Fool’s joke.

The black unemployment rate actually increased during the month of March from 15.3 percent in February to 15.5 percent. There was no improvement for us to celebrate, just less jobs. It’s already bad that as jobless numbers stream in, African American unemployment – especially for black males – is in high double digit territory.

“A true economic recovery cannot be experienced until it is felt by every community in our nation, especially our communities of color,” said Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) in a recent statement following the release of the March unemployment numbers. She’ll be constantly reminding folks of that while lobbying for support of her Emergency Unemployment Compensation Expansion Act of 2011.

In fact, while the recovery is sloooow-moving, you can’t help but recall just how deep a ditch the economy was in regarding job creation (or lack thereof). Check the chart below for a glimpse at how bad. Compared to losing 700,000 jobs per month in the final hours of the Bush Administration, President Obama appears to have done much better with it despite the challenges.

In that sense, it seems as though minority populations have a disproportionately further distance to go than other groups. Yet, the “official line” or overall good news is that this time last year, the black unemployment rate was 20 percent.

Still, as stunning and obvious as that might seem, no one could tell theLoop21 exactly how these numbers came to be.

"All of the statistics show that the less education you have the more the recession hurts you,” said Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD). “People need to keep that in mind when these young people are dropping out of school -- and I'm not saying that's all of it. But that's consistent no matter what your race is."

Cummings, seated in a district that is battling its share of recession redux on a regular basis, regularly holds town halls on foreclosures. A thousand people showed up for the last one.

Another often referenced problem with the “official” unemployment numbers is that they fail to include those who have stopped looking for work. Michigan Congressmen Hansen Clarke and John Conyers are both desperately reaching for explanations regarding their districts’ struggles with unemployment that has reached the high 20s.

Conyers, for his part, seemed more preoccupied with holding hearings on sports-related concussions when he was House Judiciary Committee chair than trying to figure out ways to soften the economic concussion that's hitting Detroit.

And though firebrand Republican Rep. Allen West of Florida doesn't have to confront unemployment numbers that high, he commented on the issue of how jobless numbers are skewed by not counting those who have given up.

"When you look at the real unemployment number of people out there that have just given up -- we have another number of epic proportions," said West, keeping it unusually real and strangely off his Tea Party message in recent weeks.

Congressional Black Caucus Chair Emmanuel Cleaver (D-MO) was a bit less diplomatic about the situation, calling for urgency. "I'm thrilled some Americans are finding jobs but we still have only one person per every five job pursuers who are able to get a job,” Cleaver said. "The time is growing short for the need to focus on African American unemployment.”

The issue of whether President Obama could support targeted help for African American joblessness came up during Cleaver's meeting with the President on March 30th. Whether the President will support a push for legislation that could disproportionately assist a black community dealing with a jobless rate almost double the national average is for a deadlocked jury to decide. Cleaver and other senior black caucus members' talk with Obama allegedly centered on the plight of the so-called “99ers” or those who, in most states, have already exhausted at least 99 weeks of unemployment insurance.

But, when asked about whether or not the meeting produced any real progress on the issue, we got a muffled “Yes, they did come up,” from Rep. Yvette Clarke (D-NY) and a rushed, non-elaborating “[w]e’re working on it” from Lee who really didn’t seem all that happy to talk about it.

Lee is probably mum so as not to put future deals in jeopardy. A meeting on her unemployment benefits extension bill with House Speaker John Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor is already scheduled for this week – actually, a day before the government is scheduled to shut down. Can you say “reschedule?”


annum natalem said...

Thanks for the link to Brother Tim this morning, Chauncey. It was the salve for my soul, and I played it for my unemployed white husband, who dug the message. I drop science on him all the time, though, so he's used to this shit.

I am considering sharing it in my Facebook. There are a few privileged white Libertarian males of my acquaintance who will probably go into a litany of justification and denial as a response to the medicine, but that's the sickness of racism. It bucks when the medicine hits.

chaunceydevega said...

Sorry to hear about your husband. I think Tim handles that question well. This economy is hurting everyone, but it it also an opportunity to reflect on shared difficulties. Sadly, the Great Recession is being used by the GOP to fan division.

Read the whole piece, there is a great line where one of the BMW gets upset and says white men don't have coping skills to deal with life when it gets hard.