ANGRY WHITE MEN by Michael Kimmel

This is the first in VOICES4HILLARY'S Series - ANGRY WHITE MEN, exploring and trying to understand this phenomenon of white men supporting Trump against their own economic interest.

America's angry white men may have reasons to be angry, but they are delivering their mail to the wrong address.
In light of polls which show that Trump is attracting support from non-college educated white men, Michael Kimmel, who has written a book called ANGRY WHITE MEN, writes that they should blame the conniving real estate mogul turned reality TV star – who is ultimately the cause of their anger and lower standard of living.


By Michael Kimmel

Several years ago, I appeared on a TV talk show, opposite four white men who believed that they, white men, were the victims of "reverse discrimination" in the workplace (aka affirmative action). The title of that particular show, a quote from one of the men, was "A Black Woman Stole My Job." After the men finished their stories, the host turned to me for comment. I had only one question for these guys. Actually, I said, it was one question about one word in the title. I wanted to know about the word "my." Where did they get the idea that this was their job? Why wasn't the title "A black woman got a job," or the job?

These guys felt that those jobs were "theirs," that they were entitled to them, and that when some "other" person—black, female—got the job, that person was really taking "their" job.

That's what entitlement sounds like, and we've been hearing it a lot lately. Tea Partiers who want to "take our country back," for example. And to whom you want to ask exactly who is the "our" to whom the country belongs. Or those who want to "make America great again" by returning it to some earlier era, before, say, the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act, and Title IX. Or maybe even earlier – before woman suffrage, or the Emancipation Proclamation?


These ideas reflect a nostalgic longing for a past world and explain why, they speak of manhood—or of identity more generally—as something they have to "preserve," or "retrieve," or "restore." To them, something has truly been lost—and it is their job to restore men to their "rightful" place.

That world, now passing into history, is a world in which white men grew up believing they would inevitably take their places somewhere on the economic ladder, simply by working hard and applying themselves. It is the American Dream, the ideal of meritocracy. And when men fail, they are humiliated, with nowhere to place their anger.

Many white men feel that they know why their dream is being deferred. As Carly Fiorina, the former Republican candidate put it nearly a decade ago, "There is no job that is America's God-given right anymore."

It's that "God-given right" that seems to be evaporating. I've called it aggrieved entitlement. It is that sense that those benefits to which you believed yourself entitled have been snatched away from you by unseen forces larger and more powerful. You feel yourself to be the heir to a great promise, the American Dream, which has turned into an impossible fantasy for the very people who were supposed to inherit it.

After talking with hundreds of these white men – from middle-aged anti-feminist men's rights advocates to fathers' rights groups, all the way to White Supremacists and neo-Nazis – I heard many stories of this entitlement, about how those rights and privileges that they grew up assuming were theirs by birthright have been snatched away from them and given to some undeserving "other" – women, African-Americans, immigrants, gays.

And it all happened so fast! I understand that sense of bewilderment, confusion and distress.


My father's world looked very much like Don Draper's. As a baby-boomer, I thought my world would look pretty much like Don Draper's – except it looks nothing at all like that. My 17 year old son, however, has no such expectations. He knows his world will be different – and he's delighted about that.

I heard that same distress from white women in the Tea Party, who are now Trump supporters. Like their husbands, or ex-husbands, they had the same vision: they wanted their husbands to work so that they could stay home and take care of the kids. They spoke not as "women," but as "moms," resentful that they had to now work to make ends meet.

That should give us a hint about the "when" Trump and his supporters have in mind to return to, when life was simple, and great. They want to return to the 1950s world of "Father Knows Best" – when men had jobs that could support families and women could stay home and tend to them.

Midterms 2014, 64% of white men voted Republican. Slate.

It's true that world has gone forever. But our task, in this election, is not to tell them that they are wrong to be angry. (Any good therapist will tell you that you never tell someone their feelings are "wrong." Their feelings are real. They just aren't true – that is, they are not based on an accurate assessment of their situation.)

They are right to be angry! I empathize with those angry white men. I'm angry too. But was it immigrants who issued those predatory loans that lost them their homes? Was it LGBT activists who outsourced their jobs and created deals that let billionaires pay no taxes? Was it feminist women who caused climate change?

Of course not. America's angry white men are right to be angry, but they are delivering their mail to the wrong address. Our task in this election is to help them re-address that mail, and send it to the very people – like conniving real estate moguls turned reality TV star – who are ultimately the cause of their anger.


July 31, 2016

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