need editing in this essay
need editing in this essay
THE ELECTION OF BARACK OBAMA is just the most Startling manifestation of a larger trend: the gradual erosion of^’whiteness” as the touchstone of what it means to be American. If the end of white America is a cultural and demographic inevitability, what will the new mainstream look Uke—and how will white Americans fit into it? What will it mean to be white when whiteness is no longer the norm? And will a post-white America be less racially divided—or more so? STATE o/i/ie UNION ¡ By Hua Hsu ILLUSTRATIONS BY FELIX SOCKWELL iviLizATioN’s GOING TO piECES,”heremarks.Heis in polite company, gatbered witb friends around a bottle of wine in tbe late-afternoon sun, chatting and gossip- ing. “I’ve gotten to be a terrible pessimist about tbings. Have you read The Rise of the Colored Empires by tbis ‘ man Goddard?” Tbey hadn’t “Well, it’s a fine book, and everybody ought to read it. Tbe idea is if we don’t look out the white race will be—will be utterly submerged. It’s all scientific stuff; it’s been proved.” He is Tom Buchanan, a character in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, a book that nearly everyone who passes through the American education system is compelled to read at least once. Although Gatsby doesn’t gloss as a book on racial anxiety—it’s too busy exploring a different set of anxieties entirely—Bucbanan was hardly alone in feeling besieged. The book by “tbis man Goddard” had a real-world analogue: Lothrop Stoddard’s The Rising Tide of Color Against White World-Supremacy, published in 1920, five years before Gatsby. Nine decades later, Stoddard’s polemic remains oddly engrossing. He refers to World War I as the iWhite Civil War” and laments the “cycle of ruin” that may result if the “white I world” continues its infighting. The book features a series of foldout maps depict- ing the distribution of “color” throughout the world and warns, “Colored migra- tion is a universal peril, menacing every part of the white world.” As briefs for racial supremacy go. The Rising Tide of Color is eerily serene. Its tone is scholarly and gentlemanly, its hatred rationalized and, in Buchanan’s term, r 1 “scientific.” And the book was hardly a fringe phenomenon. It was published by Scribner, also Fitzgerald’s publisher, and Stoddard, who received a doctorate in history from Harvard, was a member of many professional academic associations. It was precisely the kind of book tbat a 1920s man of Buchanan’s profile—wealthy. Ivy League-educated, at once pretentious and intellectually insecure—might have been expected to bring up in casual conversation. As white men of comfort and privilege living in an age of limited social mobility, of course, Stoddard and the Buchanans in his audience had nothing literal to fear. Tbeir sense of dread hovered somewhere above the concerns of everyday life. It was linked less to any immediate danger to their class’s political and cultural power than to the perceived fraying of the fixed, monolithic identity of whiteness tbat sewed together the fortunes of tbe fair-skinned. From the hysteria over Eastern European immigration to the vibrant cultural miscegenation of tbe Harlem Renaissance, it is easy to see how this imagined worldwide white kinship migbt bave seemed imperiled in the 1920s. There’s no better example of the era’s insecu- rities than the 1923 Supreme Court case United States v. Bhagat Singh Thind, in which an Indian American veteran of World War I sought to become a naturalized citizen by proving that he was Caucasian. Tbe Court considered new antbropolog- ical studies tbat expanded the definition of tbe Caucasian race to include Indians, and the justices even agreed that traces of “Aryan blood” coursed tbrough Thind’s body. But these technicalities availed bim little. The Court determined that Thind was not white “in accordance with the understanding of the common man” and therefore could be excluded from tbe “statutory category” of wbiteness. Put another way: Thind was white, in tbat be was Caucasian and even Aryan. But he was not white in the way Stoddard or Buchanan were white. Tbe ’20s debate over the definition of whiteness—a legal category? a commonsense understanding? a worldwide civilization?—took place in a society gripped by an acute sense of racial paranoia, and it is easy to regard these epi- sodes as evidence of how far we have come. But consider that these anxieties surfaced wben wbiteness was synonymous with the American mainstream, when threats to its status were largely imaginary. What happens once this is no lon- ger tbe case—when the fears of Lothrop Stoddard and Tom Buchanan are realized, and white people actually become an American minority? Whether you describe it as the dawning of a post-racial age or just the end of white America, we’re approacbing a profound demographic tipping point. Accordingto an August 2008 report by the U.S. Census Bureau, those groups cur- rently categorized as racial minorities—blacks and Hispanics. East Asians and South Asians—will account for a majority of tbe U.S. population by the year 2042. Among Americans under tbe age of 18, tbis shift is projected to take place in 2023, which means that every child born in tbe United States from bere on out will belong to tbe first post-white generation. Obviously, steadily ascending rates of interracial marriage complicate this picture, pointing toward wbat Michael Lind has described as the “beiging” of America. And it’s possible that “beige Americans” will self-identify as “white” in suf- ficient numbers to push the tipping point further into the future tban the Census Bureau projects. But even if they do, whiteness will be a label adopted out of convenience and even indifference, ratber tban aspiration and necessity. For an earlier generation of minorities and immigrants, to be recognized as a “wbite American,” whether you were an Italian or a Pole or a Hungarian, was to enter the mainstream of American life; to be recognized as something else, as the Thind case suggests, was to be permanently excluded. As Bill Imada, head of the IW Group, a prominent Asian American communications and marketing company, puts it: “I think in tbe 1920s. 1930s, and 1940s, [for] anyone wbo immigrated, the aspiration was to blend in and be as American as possible so that white America wouldn’t be intimidated by them. Tbey wanted to imitate wbite America as much as possible: learn English, go to church, go to the same schools.” Today, tbe picture is far more complex. To take the most obvious example, whiteness is no longer a precondition for entry into the bigbest levels of public office. Tbe son of Indian immigrants doesn’t bave to become “white” in order to be elected governor of Louisiana. A half-Kenyan, half-Kansan politician can self-identify as black and be elected president ofthe United States. As a purely demographic matter, tben, the “white America” that Lothrop Stoddard believed in so fervently may cease to exist in 2040,2050, or 2060, or later still. But where the cul- ture is concerned, it’s already all but finished. In.stead of tbe long-standingmodel of assimilation toward a common center, the culture is being remade in tbe image of wbite America’s multietbnic, multicolored heirs. For some, the disappearance of this centrifugal core heralds a future rich with promise. In 1998, President Bill Clinton, in a now-famous address to students at Portland State University, remarked: Today, largely because of immigration, there is no majority race in Hawaii or Houston or NewYork City. Within five years, there will be no majority race in our largest state, California. In a little more than 50 years, there will be no majority race in the United States. No other nation in history has gone through demographic change of this magnitude in so short a time … [These immigrants] are energizing our culture and ! broadening our vision of the world. They are renewing our j most basic values and reminding us all of what it truly means ‘. to be American. : 48 JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2009 THE ATLANTIC Not everyone was so entbused. Clinton’s remarks caugbt the attention of another anxious Buchanan—Pat Buchanan, tbe conservative thinker Revisiting tbe president’s speecb in bis 2001 book. The Death of the West, Buchanan wrote: “Mr. Clinton assured us tbat it will be a better America wben we are all minorities and realize true ‘diversity.’ Well, tbose students [at Portland State] are going to find out, for they will spend their golden years in a Third World America.” Today, tbe arrival of what Bucbanan derided as “Tbird World America” is all but inevitable. What will tbe new mainstream of America look like, and wbat ideas or values might it rally around? What will it mean to be white after “wbiteness” no longer defines tbe mainstream? Will anyone mourn tbe end of wbite America? Will anyone try to pre- serve it? A NOTHER MOMENT FROM The Great Gatsby. as Fitzgerald’s narrator and Gatsby drive across tbe Queensboro Bridge into Manhattan, a car passes them, and Nick Carraway notices that it is a limousine “driven by a wbite cbauf- feur, in which sat tbree modish negroes, two bucks and a girl.” Tbe novelty of tbis topsy-turvy arrangement inspires Carraway to laugb aloud and tbink to himself, “Anytbing can happen now tbat we’ve slid over this bridge, anytbing at all…” For a contemporary embodiment of tbe upheaval tbat tbis scene portended, consider Sean Combs, a bip-bop mogul and one of tbe most famous African Americans on tbe planet. Combs grew up during bip-hop’s late-1970s rise, and he belongs to the first generation tbat could safely make a liv- ing working in the industry—as a plucky young promoter and record-label intern in tbe late 1980s and early 1990s, and as a fasbion designer, artist, and music executive wortb hundreds of millions of dollars a brief decade later. In tbe late 1990s, Combs made a fascinating gesture toward New York’s bigb society. He announced his arrival into tbe circles of tbe rieb and powerful not by crashing tbeir parties, but by inviting tbem into his own spectacularly over- tbe-top world. Combs began to stage elaborate annual par- ties in tbe Hamptons, not far from wbere Fitzgerald’s novel takes place. These “white parties”—attendees are required to wear wbite—quickly became legendary for their opulence (in 2004, Combs sbowcased a 1776 copy of tbe Declaration of Independence) as well as for tbe cultures-colliding qual- ity of Hamptons elites paying tbeir respects to someone so comfortably nouveau riebe. Prospective business partners angled to get close to bim and praised bim as a guru of tbe lucrative “urban” market, wbile grateful partygoers bailed him as a modern-day Gatsby. “Have I read The Great GatsbyT’ Combs said to a London newspaper in 2001. “I am the Great Gatsby.” Yet whereas Gatsby felt pressure to hide bis status as an arriviste, Combs celebrated his position as an outsider- insider—someone wbo appropriates elements of tbe culture be seeks to join without attempting to assimilate outright. In a sense. Combs was imitating tbe old WASP establishment; in another sense, he was subtly provoking it, by over-enunciating its formality and never letting bis guests forget that tbere was something slightly off about his presence. There’s a silent power to throwing parties wbere tbe best-dressed man in the room is also tbe one wbose public profile once consisted primarily of dancing in tbe background of Biggie Smalls vid- eos. (“No one would ever expect a young black man to be coming to a party witb tbe Declaration of Independence, but I got it, and it’s coming with me,” Combs joked at bis 2004 party, as be made tbe rounds witb tbe document, promising not to spill cbampagne on it.) In this regard. Combs is botb a product and a hero of the new cultural mainstream, whicb prizes diversity above all else, and whose ultimate goal is some vague notion of racial tran- scendence, ratber tban subversion or assimilation. Altbougb Combs’s vision is far fi-om representative—not many hip-bop stars vacation in St. Tropez with a parasol-toting manser- vant sbading tbeir every step—bis industry lies at the heart of this new mainstream. Over tbe past 30 years, few changes in American culture bave been as significant as tbe rise of bip-bop. Tbe genre bas radically reshaped tbe way we listen to and consume music, first by opposing tbe pop mainstream and tben by becoming it. From its constant sampling of past styles and eras—old records, fashions, slang, anytbing—to its mytbologization of the self-made black antibero, bip-bop is more tban a musical genre: it’s a philosophy, a political statement, a way of approaching and remaking culture. It’s a lingua franca not just among kids in America, but also among young people worldwide. And its economic impact extends beyond the music industry, to fasbion, advertising, and film. (Consider the producer Russell Simmons—tbe ur-Combs and a music, fasbion, and television mogul—or the rapper 50 Cent, who has parlayed bis rags-to-ricbes story line into extracurricular successes tbat include a clothing line; book, video-game, and film deals; and a startlingly lucrative part- nersbip with the makers of Vitamin Water.) But bip-hop’s deepest impact is symbolic. During popular music’s rise in the 20tb century, wbite artists and producers consistently “mainstreamed” African American innovations. Hip-bop’s ascension bas been different. Eminem notwith- standing, bip-bop never suffered tbrough anything like an Elvis Presley moment in wbich a white artist made a musi- cal form safe for wbite America. Tbis is no dig at Elvis—the constrictive racial logic of the 1950s demanded tbe erasure of rock and roll’s black roots, and if it hadn’t been him, it would have been someone else. But bip-bop—tbe sound of tbe post- civil-rigbts, post-soul generation—found a global audience on its own terms. Today, hip-bop’s colonization of tbe global imagination, from fashion runways in Europe to dance competitions in Asia, is Disney-esque. This transformation bas bred an unprecedented cultural confidence in its black originators. Wbiteness is no longer a threat, or an ideal: it’s kitscb to be appropriated, wbether witb gestures like Combs’s “wbite parties” or tbe trickle-down epidemic of collared sbirts and cuflF links currently afflicting rappers. And an expan- sive multiculturalism is replacing tbe us-against-tbe-world bunker mentality that lent a thrilling edge to hip-bop’s mid- 1990s rise. Peter Rosenberg, a self-proclaimed “nerdy Jewish kid” and radio personality on New York’s Hot 97 FM—and a living THE ATLANTIC JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2009 49 example of how hip-hop has created new identities for its listeners that don’t fall neatly along lines of black and white- shares another example: “I interviewed [the St. Louis rapper] Nelly this morning, and he said it’s now very cool and in to have multicultural friends. Like you’re not really considered hip or ‘you’ve made it’ if you’re rolling with all the same people.” Just as Tiger Woods forever changed the country-club culture of golf, and Will Smith confounded stereotypes about the ideal Hollywood leading man, hip-hop’s rise is helping redefine the American mainstream, which no longer aspires toward a single iconic image of style or class. Successful network-television shows like Lost, Heroes, and Grey’s Anatomy feature wildly diverse casts, and an entire genre of half-hour comedy, from The Colbert Report to The Office, seems dedicated to having fun with the persona of the clueless white male. The youth market is following the same pattern: consider the Cheetah Girls, a multicultural, multiplatinum, multiplatform ^^^^^^ trio of teenyboppers who recently starred in their third movie, or Dora the Explorer. the precocious bilingual 7-year-old Latina adventurer who is arguably the most suc- cessful animated character on children’s television today. In a recent address to the Association of Hispanic Advertising Agencies, Brown Johnson, the Nickelodeon executive who has overseen Dora’s rise, explained the importance of creating a character who does not conform to “the white, middle-class mold.” When Johnson pointed out that Dora’s wares were outsell- ing Barbie’s in France, the crowd hooted in delight. Pop culture today rallies around an ethic of multicultural inclusion that seems to value every identity—except whiteness. “It’s become harder for the blond-haired, blue-eyed commercial actor,” remarks Rochelle Newman-Carrasco, of the Hispanic marketing firm Enlace. “You read casting notices, and they like to cast people with brown hair because they could be Hispanic. The language of casting notices is pretty shocking because it’s so specific: ‘Brown hair, brown eyes, could look Hispanic’ Or, as one notice put it: ‘Ethnically amhiguous.’ ” “I think white people feel like they’re under siege right now—like it’s not okay to be white right now, especially if you’re a white male,” laughs Bill Imada, of the IW Group. Imada and Newman-Carrasco are part of a movement within advertising, marketing, and communications firms to reimag- ine the profile of the typical American consumer. (Tellingly, every person I spoke with from these industries knew the Census Bureau’s projections by heart.) “There’s a lot of fear and a lot of resentment,” Newman- Carrasco observes, describing the flak she caught after writing an article for a trade publication on the need for more-diverse hiring practices. “I got a response from a friend—he’s, like, a 60-something white male, and he’s been involved with multicultural recruiting,” she recalls. “And he said, ‘I really feel like the hunted. It’s a hard time to be a white man in America right now, because I feel like I’m being lumped in with all white males in America, and I’ve tried to do stuff, but it’s a tough time.’ ” “I always tell the white men in the room, ‘We need you,'” Imada says. “We cannot talk about diversity and inclusion and engagement without you at the table. It’s okay to be white! “But people are stressed out about it. ‘We used to be in control! We’re losing control!'” I One sociologist observes that his white students are plagued hy a racial-identity crisis. “They care ahout culture. And to he white is to he culturally hroke.” F THEY’RE RIGHT—if white America is indeed “losing control,” and if the future will belong to people who can successfully navigate a post-racial, multicultural landscape—then it’s no surprise that many white Americans are eager to divest them- selves of their whiteness entirely. For some, this renunciation can take a radical form. In 1994, a young graffiti artist and activist named William “Upski” Wimsatt. the son of a university professor, puhlished Bomb the Suburbs, the spiritual heir to Norman Mailer’s celebratory 1957 essay, “The White Negro.” Wimsatt was deeply committed to hip-hop’s transfor- mative powers, going so far as to embrace the status of the lowly “wigger,” a pejora- tive term popularized in the early 1990s to describe white kids who steep themselves in black culture. Wimsatt viewed the wigger’s immersion in two cultures as an engine for change. “If channeled in the right way,” he wrote, “the wigger can go a long way toward repairing the sickness of race in America.” Wimsatt’s painfully earnest attempts to put his own relationship with whiteness under the microscope coincided with the emergence of an academic discipline known as “whiteness studies.” In colleges and universities across the country, scholars began examining the history of “whiteness” and unpacking its contradic- tions. Why, for example, had the Irish and the Italians fallen beyond the pale at different moments in our history? Were Jewish Americans whiter And, as the historian Matthew Frye Jacobson asked, “Why is it that in the United States, a white woman can have black children but a black woman cannot have white children?” Much like Wimsatt, the whiteness-studies academics- figures such as Jacobson, David Roediger, Eric Lott, and Noel Ignatiev—were attempting to come to terms with their own relationships with whiteness, in its past and present forms. In the early 1990s. Ignatiev, a former labor activist and the author of How the Irish Became White, set out to “abolish” the idea of the white race by starting the New Abolitionist Movement and founding a journal titled Race Traitor. “There is nothing positive about white identity,” he wrote in 1998. “As James Baldwin said, ‘As long as you think you’re white, there’s no hope for you.'” Although most white Americans haven’t read Bomb the Suburbs or Race Traitor, this view of whiteness as some- thing to be interrogated, if not shrugged off completely, has migrated to less academic spheres. The perspective of the 50 JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2009 THE ATLANTIC whiteness-studies academics is commonplace now, even if the language used to express it is different. “I get it: as a straight white male, I’m the worst thing on Earth,” Christian Lander says. Lander is a Canadian-born, Los Angeles-based satirist wbo in January 2008 started a blog called Stuff Wbite People Like (stuffwhitepeoplelike .com), wbich pokes fun at the manners and mores of a spe- cific species of young, hip, upwardly mobile whites. (He has written more than 100 entries about whites’ passion for things like bottled water, “tbe idea of soccer,” and “being tbe only white person around.”) At its best. Lander’s site- wbich formed tbe basis for a recently publisbed book of the same name (reviewed in the October 2008 Atlantic)-s a cunningly precise distillation of the identity crisis plaguing well-meaning, well-off white kids in a post-white world. “Like, I’m aware of all tbe horrible crimes that my demo- graphic has done in the world,” Lander says. “And there’s a bunch of white people who are desperate—tfespera ie—to say, ‘You know what? My skin’s white, but I’m not one of tbe white people who’s destroying the world.’ ” For Lander, whiteness has become a vacuum. The “white identity” he limns on his blog is predicated on the quest for authenticity—usually other people’s authenticity. “As a white person, you’re just desperate to find something else to grab onto. You’re jealous! Pretty mucb every white person I grew up with wished they’d grown up in, you know, an ethnic home that gave them a second language. White culture is Family Ties and Led Zeppelin and Guns N’ Roses—like, this is white culture. This is all we have.” Lander’s “white people” are products of a ver>’ specific historical moment, raised by well-meaning Baby Boomers to reject tbe old ideal of white American gentility and to embrace diversity and fluidity instead. (“It’s strange tbat we are the kids of Baby Boomers, rigbt? How tbe bell do you rebel against that? Like, your parents will march against the World Trade Organization next to you. They’ll have bigger white dreadlocks than you. What do you do?”) But his lighthearted antbropolog}’ suggests that the multicultural harmony they were raised to worship has bred a kind of self-denial. Matt Wray, a sociologist at Temple University who is a fan of Lander’s humor, has observed that many of his white students are plagued by a racial-identity crisis: “They don’t care about socioeconomics; they care about culture. And to be wbite is to be culturally broke. The classic thing white students say when you ask them to talk about wbo they are is, ‘I don’t have a culture.’ They might be privileged, they might be loaded socioeconomically, but tbey feel bankrupt when it comes to culture … Tbey feel disadvantaged, and they feel marginalized. They don’t have a culture that’s cool or oppo- sitional.” Wray says that this feeling of being culturally bereft often prevents students from recognizing what it means to be a child of privilege—a strange irony tbat the first wave of whiteness-studies scholars, in the 1990s, failed to anticipate. Of course, the obvious material advantages that come with being born white—lower infant-mortality rates and easier- to-acquire bank loans, for example—tend to undercut any sympathy tbat this sense of marginalization might generate. And in the right context, cultural-identity crises can turn well- meaning whites into instant punch lines. Consider ego trip’s The (White) Rapper Show, a brilliant and critically acclaimed reality show that VHl debuted in 2007. It depicted 10 (mostly hapless) white rappers living together in a dilapidated house-dubbed “Tha White House”—in the South Bronx. Despite the contestants’ best intentions, each one seemed like a profoundly confused caricature, wbether it was the solemn graduate student committed to fighting racism or the ghetto- obsessed suburbanite wbo had, seemingly by accident, named himself after the abolitionist John Brown. Similarly, Smirnoff struck marketing gold in 2006 with a viral music video titled “Tea Partay,” featuring a trio of strikingly bad, V-neck-sweater-clad white rappers called the Prep Unit. “Haters like to clown our Ivy League educations / But they’re just jealous ’cause our families run the nation,”‘ the trio brayed, as a pair of bottle-blond women in spifly ten- nis whites shimmied behind them. There was no nonironic way to enjoy the video; its entire appeal was in its self-aware lampooning of WASP culture: verdant country clubs, “old money,” croquet, popped collars, and the like. “The best defense is to be constantly pulling the rug out from underneath yourself,” Wray remarks, describing the way self-aware whites contend with their complicated identity. “Beat people to the punch. You’re forced as a white person into a sense of ironic detachment. Irony is wbat fuels a lot of white subcultures. You also see things like Burning Man, when a lot of white people are going into the desert and trj’ing to invent something that is entirely new and not a form of racial mimicrj’. That’s its own kind of flight from whiteness. We’re going through a period where whites are really trying to figure out: Who are we?” T HE “FLIGHT FROM WHITENESS”of Urban, college-educated, liberal wbites isn’t tbe only attempt to answer this question. You can flee info whiteness as well. Tbis can mean pursu- ing tbe autbenticity of an imagined past: think of the deliberately white-bread world of Mormon America, where the ’50s never ended, or the anachronistic WASP enti- tlement flaunted in books like last year’s A Privileged Life: Celebrating WASP Style, a handsome cofl^ee-table book com- piled by Susanna Salk, depicting a world of seersucker blaz- ers, whale pants, and deck shoes. (Wbat tbe book celebrates is the “inabilit>’ to be outdone,” and tbe “self-confidence and security that comes with it,” Salk tells me. “That’s why I call it ‘privilege.’ It’s this privilege of time, of heritage, of being in a place longer tban anybody else.”) But tbese enclaves of preserved-in-amber whiteness are likely to be less important to the American future than the construction of whiteness as a somewhat pissed-off minority culture. This notion of a self-consciously white expression of minority empowerment will be familiar to anyone wbo has come across the comedian Larry the Cable Guy—he of “Farting Jingle Bells”-or witnessed the transformation of Detroit-born-and-bred Kid Rock from teenage rapper into “American Bad Ass” southern-st>’le rocker. The 1990s may have been a decade when multiculturalism advanced dramatically—wben American culture became “colorized.” as the critic Jeff Chang put it-but it was also an era when a very different form of identity politics crystallized. Hip-hop 52 JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2009 THE ATLANTIC may have provided the decade’s soundtrack, but the highest- selling artist of the ’90s was Garth Brooks. Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods may have been the faces of athletic super- stardom, but it was NASCAR that emerged as professional sports’ fastest-gi’owing institution, with ratings second only to the NFL’s. As with the unexpected success of the apocalyptic Left Behind novels, or the Jeff Fox worthy-organized Blue Collar Comedy Tour, the rise of country music and auto racing took place well off the American elite’s radar screen. (None of Christian Lander’s white ^^^^».-M people would be caught dead at a NASCAR race.) These phenomena reflected a growing sense of cultural solidarity among lower- middle-class whites—a solidarity defined by a yearning for American “authenticity,” a folksy realness that rejects the global, the urban, and the effete in favor of nostalgia for “the way things used to be.” Like other forms of identit}’ politics, white solidarity comes complete with its own folk heroes, conspiracy theories (Barack Obama is a secret Muslim! The U.S. is going to merge with Canada and Mexico!), and laundry lists of injustices. The targets and scapegoats vary—from multiculturalism and affirma- tive action to a toss of moral values, from immigration to an economy that no longer guarantees the American worker a fair chance—and so do the political programs they inspire. (Ross Perot and Pat Buchanan both tapped into this white identity politics in the 1990s; today, its tribunes run the ideo- logical gamut, from Jim Webb to Ron Paul to Mike Huckabee to Sarah Palin.) But the core grievance, in each case, has to do with cultural and socioeconomic dislocation—the sense that the system that used to guarantee the white working class some stability has gone off-kilter. Wray is one of the founders of what has been called “white-trash studies,” a field conceived as a response to the perceived elite-liberal marginalization of the white working class. He argues that the economic downturn of the 1970s was the precondition for the formation of an “oppositional” and “defiant” white-working-class sensibility—think of the rugged, ami-everything individualism of 1977’s Smokey and the Bandit. But those anxieties took their shape from the aftershocks of the identity-based movements of the 1960s. “I think that the political space that the civil-rights movement opens up in the mid-1950s and ’60s is the transformative thing,” Wray observes. “Following the black-power move- ment, all of the other minority groups that followed took up various forms of activism, including brown power and yellow power and red power. Of course the problem is, if you try and have a ‘white power’ movement, it doesn’t sound good.” The result is a racial pride that dares not speak its name, and that defines itself through cultural cues instead—a suspicion of intellectual elites and city dwellers, a prefer- ence for folksiness and plainness of speech (whether real or feigned), and the association of a working-class white minority with “the real America.” (In the Scots-Irish helt that runs from Arkansas up through West Virginia, the most One can imagine white identity politics growing more potent and forthright as the soon-to-be white minority’s sense of being besieged and disdained increases. common ethnic label offered to census takers is “American.”) Arguably, this white identity politics helped swing the 2000 and 2004 elections, serving as the powerful counterpunch to urban white liberals, and the McCain-Palin campaign relied on it almost to the point of absurdity (as when a McCain surrogate dismissed Northern Virginia as somehow not part of “the real Virginia”) as a bulwark against the threatening multiculturalism of Barack Obama. Their strategy’ failed, of course, but it’s possible to imagine white identity politics growing more potent and more forthright in its racial identifications in the future, as “the real America” becomes an ever-smaller portion of, well, the real America, and as the soon-to-be white minority’s sense of heing besieged and disdained by a multicultural majority grows apace. This vision of the aggrieved white man lost in a world that no longer values him was given its most vivid expression in the 1993 film Falling Down. Michael Douglas plays Bill Foster, a downsized defense worker with a buzz cut and a pocket protector who rampages through a Los Angeles overrun by greedy Korean shop-owners and Hispanic gangsters, railing against the eclipse of the America he used to know. (The film came out just eight years before California became the nation’s first majority-minority state.) Falling Down ends with a soulful police officer apprehending Foster on the Santa Monica Pier, at which point the middle-class vigilante asks, almost inno- cently: “I’m the bad guy?” B UT THIS IS a nightmare vision. Of course most of America’s Bill Fosters aren’t the bad guys- just as civilization is not, in the words of Tom Buchanan, “going to pieces” and America is not, in the phrasing of Pat Buchanan, going “Third World.” The coming white minority does not mean that the racial hierarchy of American culture will suddenly become inverted, as in 1995’s White Man’s Burden, an awful thought experiment of a film, starring John Travolta, that envisions an upside-down world in which whites are subjugated to their high-class black oppressors. There will be dislocations and resentments along the way, but the demographic shifts of the next 40 years are likely to reduce the power of racial hier- archies over everyone’s lives, producing a culture that’s more likely than any before to treat its inhabitants as individuals, rather than members of a caste or identit>’ group. Consider the world of advertising and marketing, indus- tries that set out to mold our desires at a subconscious level. Advertising strategy once assumed a “general market”—”a code word for ‘white people,'” jokes one ad executive—and smaller, mutually exclusive, satellite “ethnic markets.” In recent years, though, advertisers have begun revising their assumptions and strategies in anticipation of profound demographic shifts. Instead of herding consumers toward a discrete center, the goal today is to create versatile images and campaigns that can be adapted to highly individualized tastes. (Think of the dancing silhouettes in Apple’s iPod campaign, Si JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2009 THE ATLANTIC which emphasizes individuality and diversity without privileg- ing—or even representing—any specific group.) At the moment, we can call this the triumph of multicultur- alism, or post-racialism. But just as whiteness has no inherent meaning—it is a vessel we fill witb our hopes and anxieties— these terms may prove equally empty in the long run. Does being post-racial mean tbat we are past race completely, or merely that race is no longer essential to how we identify ourselves? Karl Carter, of Atlanta’s youth-oriented GTM Inc. (Guerrilla Tactics Media), suggests that marketers and advertisers would be better off focusing on matrices like “life- style” or “culture” rather than race or ethnicity. “You’ll have crazy in-depth studies ofthe wbite consumer or tbe Latino consumer,” he complains. “But how do skaters feel? How do hip-hoppers feel?” The logic of online social networking points in a simi- lar direction. The New York University sociologist Dalton Conley has written of a “net- work nation,” in wbich appli- cations like Facebook and MySpace create “crosscutting social groups” and new, flex- ible identities that only vaguely overlap with racial identities. Perhaps this is where the future . of identity after whiteness lies—in a dramatic departure from the racial logic tbat has defined American culture from the very beginning. Wbat Conley, Carter, and otbers are describing isn’t merely the displacement of whiteness from our cultural center; they’re describing a social structure that treats race as just one of a seemingly infinite number of possible self-identifications. The problem of tbe 20tb century, W. E. B. DuBoís famously predicted, would be tbe problem ofthe color line. Will this continue to be tbe case in the 21st century, when a black pres- ident will govern a country whose social networks increas- ingly cut across every conceivable line of identification? The ruling of United States v. Bhagat Singh Thind no longer holds weight, but its echoes have heen inescapable: we aspire to be post-racial, but we still live within tbe structures of privilege, injustice, and racial categorization tbat we inherited from an older order. We can talk about defining ourselves by life- style rather than skin color, but our lifestyle cboices are still GALLERY TRANSPLANT byGuyBiUout G racially coded. We know, more or less, that race is a fiction that often does more harm than good, and yet it is something we cling to without fully understanding why—as a social and legal fact, a vague sense of belonging and place that we make solid through culture and speech. But maybe this is merely how it used to be—maybe tbis is already an outdated way of looking at things. “You have a lot of young adults going into a more diverse world,” Carter remarks. For the young Americans born in the 1980s and 1990s, culture is something to he taken apart and remade in their own image. “We came along in a generation that didn’t have to follow that path of race,” he goes on. “We saw something different:’ This moment was not the end of white America; it was not the end of anything. It was a bridge, and we crossed it Bl Hua Hsu teaches at Vassar College. THE ATLANTIC JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2009 S5
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English 11 2, College Composition 2 Fall 20 20 , Kristin Vogt Essay # 1, Analysis & Evaluation Essay First draft due: Wednesd ay , 9/30 , before class starts. W e will wor kshop during class. Final draft d ue: Tuesday, 10 /13 , 11:59 pm (non -class day due date) Value: 150 points –a rubric is posted to Canvas Introduction: For this assignment you will write an essay about one of the course readings listed below , and describe, analyze, and evaluate the argument made in it, including both the substance of the position and the rhetorical elements used to convince the intended audience of the points being made . Choices of Readings from the Syllabus : • “Craving the Other,” Soleil Ho • “The End of White America, ” Hua Hsu • “Gin, Television, and Social Surplus, ” Clay Shirky Assignment : Compose an essay in which you include a brief summar y of the article , identifying its thesis and any important su btopics — just enough information to give context to your discussion . Also describe your understanding of their rhetorical situation including the intended audience and context ( the “ conversation ” they are taking part in) . Then write an analysis and evaluation: take the article apart and describe in detail how the author makes and supports their argument, including the rhetorical metho ds such as ethos, logos, and pathos, to convince us of the ir point(s) . As you analyze the article, you will respond to it with your own opinion. You should include an evaluation of the strengths and weaknesses of both the argument being presented and of the rhetoric and evidence used to c onvinc e us of that argument — was the author’s article successful and why or why not? Your essay should include the following: • An effective introduction that includes a clear and strong thesis statement . • Unified and coherent body paragraphs that develop your thesis . • Relevant and specific details in the form of quotes, paraphrases, and summaries from the essay you are writing about (i.e., evidence) . • Your own reasoning and evidence in response to the article . • A conclusion that synthesizes and shows the significance of your thesis and makes a good f inal impression . English 11 2, Fall 20 20 , Kristin Vogt Essay # 1, Analysis & Evaluation Page 2 • Proper grammar and style . • St andard MLA format college essays, including in -text citations and Works Cited. A template is posted in the Module on Canvas , and information is available at Purdue OWL. Additional o utside sources are NOT required, but if you use them, you must cite them both in your text and in a list of works cited . • 900 -1200 words of t ext (see the rubric for grade requ irements) Points to keep in mind while yo u are planning and writing this essay: • Audience : Your context is academic and y our audience is fairly general and would include college students and teachers , friends , and others who are interested in the subject of the essay. • Purpose : Your purpose will be to communicate to your audience your understanding, analysis, and viewpoint about the topic and the argument being made by the article’s author . • Stance : You may choose an essay with which you agree, or one which which you dis agree. But you must take a stance and explain your position on the topi c, which shou ld be developed with reasoning , logic, and ac curate evidence. • Organization and Style : This is a thesis -driven essay in which you state your position about the author’s argument. You will develop your own argument and support your thesis with evidence consisting of examples and reasoning . Your essay should be written in a college -level academic style , with proper MLA format , including in -text citations and W orks Cited .
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Shakeel 6 Ahmed Shakeel Prof. Vote ENG 111 October 8, 2020 Article – The End of White America Hua Hsu is an American writer who wrote the article titled “The End of White America.” As I read the article, I felt what content was in the article in that Hua Hsu is trying to show his perception of the erosion of “whiteness” in the United States. The main idea was to eliminate racism and promote freedom and justice to all American residents without bias based on race, religion, and other backgrounds. Hua Hsu continues to challenge the White Americans to fit in the new lifestyle even if they believe in being culturally broke (Fazio & Hsu, 2019). According to Hua Hsu, at the end of white America, respect for culture should be an inevitable practice for all American residents despite an individual’s race. However, there are several issues I cannot understand regarding the article. What will it mean to be white when whiteness no longer exists? Does it mean that the United States to be will be less racially divided? The article’s impact on readers is to familiarize them with the importance of the end of whiteness in America. Politics will be done on a fair platform in that a black American can serve leadership positions in the United States. Also, music artists got the chance to develop their talents such that African hip hop crackers enjoyed the trend of their produced music. The election of Barrack Obama is a manifestation of a larger trend of erosion of whiteness in America. I support Hua Hsu’s idea because creating equal opportunities among individuals helps boost economic growth. The symbolic impact behind hip-hop music can demonstrate economic growth in the United States. Hip-hop’s colonization and involvement of African artists, including Eminem, led to the rise of dancing competitions in Asia that enabled specific individuals to earn a living, eradicating poverty in the United States (Fazio & Hsu, 2019). Besides, the transformation o music led to the build of cultural confidence among black Americans, making them feel that whiteness is no longer a threat to them. Hua Hsu wrote this article to convince the Americans to adopt the idea. He proved that it is a suitable method of bringing positive change in Whites’ lifestyle. The erosion of whiteness will attract people from diverse communities into the country, aiming to develop their entrepreneurial skills, thus boosting economic growth. The idea is not based on any political or racial bias, even if Hua Hsu is a Chinese immigrant in America (Fazio & Hsu, 2019). Also, the writer’s field of specialization shows no interest in becoming a politician in the future. The main agenda is to promote equality among all residents in the United States. The article informs the readers on certain events that happened in the 1920s when whiteness was embraced in the United States. There was the rise of pop music that brought a few changes in the American culture. The Americans were radically reshaped in the way the listen to and consume music. Generally, hip-hop was not just a musical genre but rather a philosophy, a political statement, and also a way of approaching and remarking culture. It led to increased economic growth in the United States due to increased fashion, advertising, and film work. The content in the article is well organized and easily understood by most readers. It means that Hua Hsu reaches the target audience to this article since when they read it, they immediately capture the idea being suggested. The target audience includes professionals who understand the importance of equality. Eventually, there can be campaigns to advocate for enabling black people to enjoy equal opportunities with Whites. Also, students are the target audience because they are part of the country’s young, intelligent generation who will act as tomorrow’s leaders. Hua Hsu uses art to illustrate concepts in the article symbolically. A good example that is not easy to interpret is the gallery transplant by Guy Billout (Fazio & Hsu, 2019). It requires a reader with a high level of intelligence quotient to understand. Hua Hsu has great authority and influence as a writer of this article because his career and work show that he is an expert in the written content. He is a tenured associate professor of English and director of American Studies at Vassar College. Therefore, he has adequate communication skills to deliver information to any target audience. Also, he works with the departments dealing with immigrant culture in the United States and the public view of diversity and multiculturalism. This article’s timeline is timeless because it continues to bring a positive transformation in America each day. The latest trend that supported Hua’s idea is Barack Obama’s win in the 2008 presidential elections in the United States. Despite being a black American, he defeated Mitt Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts. The article covers the topic comprehensively, including the history behind the end of white in America. Indeed, the piece is of great significance to the immigrants in the United States because it sensitizes them to respect the black originators who campaigned to erosion whiteness. Today, the United States immigrants are treated fairly; hence feel safe to live in any state and become American citizens either through marriage or naturalization. Besides, the article is a scholarly journal. It contains high quality research that has been written and reviewed by experts in the field prior to publication including Hua Hsu and Felix Sockwell (Fazio & Hsu, 2019). For this reason, it is very comprehensive to the readers. Hua Hsu’s tone in this article is very critical that demands readers to be very keen to understand what he really means with the idea of erosion of whiteness. The application of the critical thinking skills by the readers will help them make the best decision regarding the idea because they have both its positive and negative impacts. The tools and techniques of analysis and evaluation of an article have been used in this paper. Evaluation techniques include purpose of the article, organization of the content, existence of any type of bias, and also the usefulness of the article to the readers. The tools of analysis included are how I have felt Hua Hsu’s idea and the information that has not been clearly understood. Lastly, I formulated my own opinion on the subject matter and in this case, I supported Hua Hsu’s idea. Work Cited Fazio, M., & Hsu, H. (2019). Taking Action: Writing To End White Supremacy. Radical Teacher, 115, 85-87. https://doi.org/10.5195/rt.2019.683
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