Thursday, June 5, 2014

Understanding 'Angry White Men' in the Era of Elliot Rodger and Adam Lanza: A Conversation with Dr. Michael Kimmel About Masculinity, Race, and Identity

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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With begging bowl and hand open, if you can, and are willing, do throw some change into into the pile so that we can keep producing and offering a diverse range of content here on the site.

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.

00:14 Introduction
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?


Myshkin the Idiot said...

Still listening, just want to say: Is it possible most white people cannot believe they are privileged because we only believe that wealth is important in society? And then because some of us think that wealth is earned only by hard work, then it is not a privilege to be wealthy, it is just your reward for hard work.

Myshkin the Idiot said...

Great conversation/interview. One of my best men at my wedding was a woman. She's been one of few people from my teens to keep in contact and remain close as a friend.

KissedByTheSun said...

Great podcast. Unfortunately another shooting just happened down in Georgia court house. Guy had guns, bombs and allegedly wanted to take hostages. He was killed before he could get inside.

chauncey devega said...

We are a sick society. Dr. Kimmel was very kind to take the time to chat. It is always great when folks w. his expertise and profile take the time to sit down and chat. I have some surprises in store for next season. I will be remastering and putting the podcasts on Itunes and Soundcloud. But, right now I am going to talk to a friend about how to improve the audio quality. Things are okay but could be better. I have done my best w. Audacity and other programs. How did it sound to your ears?

chauncey devega said...

I think that first paragraph is spot on! Yes, that is the trap. And too many white folks don't see how that lie traps them too! Very smart. I think I am borrowing your formulation. There is actually empirical research on political psychology and public opinion which shows that conservatives/authoritarians are of course much more inclined to that type of reasoning.

chauncey devega said...

Thanks. Better than my talk on COWS :)

I want to improve the audio for Itunes. How did it sound to your ears?

Myshkin the Idiot said...

After listening this morning, news made my way of a double murder/suicide about 20 miles from here. Man stabbed his wife and step son, then shot himself. Then later found out about a shooting on a campus in Seattle.

Just the other day a man in army fatigues and heavily armed killed three Royal Canadian Mounted Police and they were still looking for him the next day. They got him today.

Myshkin the Idiot said...

It was a little scratchy, but overall it was fine. I connect my laptop to a small Bose stereo which has great quality. The laptop speakers are awful.

chauncey devega said...

Recording over a phone is tricky. You can clean it up but only so much. I listen to it on my pc speakers and things are acceptable. On the ipod, not very good.

Myshkin the Idiot said...

Thanks. I love when my intuition is reflected by solid empirical research.

Thanks for the feature. I would have loved to have a conversation with someone on this subject, but alas.. no time, and only a two year old around, I don't think he would be able to hold it down, yet :)

KissedByTheSun said...

It sounded a bit tinny. However I was able to make out everything pretty fine.

skilletblonde said...

I just can't excuse Elliott Rodger's massacre as resulting from loneliness or mental illness. He was basically following the solutions our culture dictates when solving problems. When it was a British Colony until its formation as America, this nation has been on a perpetual killing spree. How many millions have been removed from this earth because of our genocide, slavery, wars, conflicts, and occupations? Haven't we bombed every nation on earth?

Our solutions to problems are bullying, humiliation, intolerance and violence. No wonder we have 10 year-old suicides and 14 year-old mass shooters. This is the message we are inundated through that devil's dung we call the Mainstream Media. Rodger is a white supremacist misogynist because that's who run the culture. As a matter of fact, that's who run the world. Though I cannot remember the woman's name or quote her exactly, in the documentary "Eyes on the Prize" she said sometime like "Whatever monsters America has, America created."

Courtney H. said...

@ skilletblonde:

Here is a good article: