The 2009 Beer Summit

What are the big headlines from the Whitehouse today? Healthcare reform? The economy? North Korea, Iran, Iraq, or Afghanistan? Not quite. Everyone seems to be buzzing about Obama and beer.

In a pseudo-issue almost less relevant than the great dog mystery, major news outlets scrambled to discover what beer President Obama would drink at his meeting today with Professor Henry Gates and Police Sergeant James Crowley. Mr. Obama is meeting with the two men in an attempt to quell racial tensions cause by Prof. Gates’ arrest at his Cambridge, MA home and Mr. Obama’s subsequent comments on the affair.

The media covered the impact of the beer choices from every conceivable angle. The implications of who beer manufacturers were tied to, class issues, and prohibition demonstrations are just a small sampling of some topics covered.

In the end Prof. Gates chose Red Stripe, Sergeant Crowley Blue Moon, and President Obama will go with Bud Light. At the risk of sounding elitist I must say Mr. President, that is just nasty.

One People, One Constitution, and One Country – The Fourteenth Amendment and the Struggle for Equality

“You cannot subvert your neighbor’s rights without striking a dangerous blow at your own.”
Carl Schurz

“To live anywhere in the world today and be against equality because of race or color is like living in Alaska and being against snow.”
William Faulkner

The Fourteenth Amendment is possibly one of the most heavily debated parts of the Constitution. Even today, politicians dispute its application. In Plessy v Ferguson, the Supreme Court stated Southern segregation laws did not label African Americans as unequal, just separate. Therefore segregation did not violate the Fourteenth Amendment. Would the original Framers of the Fourteenth Amendment have agreed? What did the Framers of the Fourteenth Amendment really indented for the Amendment to mean? What did they hope to accomplish with the Fourteenth Amendment? Was there agreement between all of the Framers on its meaning?

After the Civil War had ended a great question loomed over America. What would be done about the former Confederate States? Some wanted immediate readmission. Others worried that the South would try to regain the power of the United States Government it once held during the antebellum period. The Union had fought to destroy the South’s grip on the nation. Many, including Framer Thaddeus Stevens, did not want to “fumble away the gains of the struggle just past.”

With Andrew Johnson as president there was cause for worry. Though Johnson began with a tough stance on Southern Reconstruction, he soon caved. Johnson gave amnesty to almost any southerner who came asking. He gave out 7,000 pardons in the first year of his program. Johnson, who had long despised the planter elite, began to drop his old hostility. Lastly, Johnson still held states rights about the rights of the federal government. Johnson’s softening of Reconstruction “[sowed] the burned earth of the South with serpent’s teeth.” Northerners had no doubt that a new Slave Power would sprout from those seeds.

The Fourteenth Amendment rose to combat the rising new Slave Power. The rule of the Slave Power went directly against the principles of republicanism. The Constitution, stated John Bingham, formed the basic requirement of any republic: the legal guarantee of equality for all of its citizens. Not only did the antebellum South function on slave labor, but the censorship it placed on the federal mail system to prevent anti-slavery publications in it’s borders violated freedoms all across the United States.

John Bingham’s Bill of Rights provided the basis for the First Section of the Fourteenth Amendment. The First Section states that no state government is allowed to make any law that infringes on any citizen’s Civil Rights. Many believe that Congress proposed this Section to back up Trumbull’s Civil Rights Bill. Trumbull’s Bill outline’s what civil rights the federal government protected and courses of action that could be taken to those who violated those rights. The Fourteenth merely pushed the government’s power over states even further.

The Second Section declared that any state who denied any male citizen above the age of twenty-one the right to vote would lose congressional representation equal to that of the population not allowed to voted. The Republicans knew that if the Federal Government readmitted Southern states with the 3/5s clause still intact, the Slave Power would maintain it’s hold on Congress. No one wanted the South to claim “representation for the freed slaves while denying them the vote.” That vote, Frederick Douglass had said, would form “a wall of fire for every loyal citizen’s protection.” The Second section directly supports this.

The more radical Framers wished to give blacks the vote, but knew that public opinion would not allow that to happen. Most Northern states at the time did not even allow blacks to vote. Instead, Southern states would be forced to allow ex slaves to vote or face losing seats in the house. If they did allow blacks to vote freely, chances were good the ex slaves would not vote their former masters into power.

The Third Section banned anyone who took an oath to any Federal or State government office to uphold the Constitution and then broke that oath by participating in the Confederate “insurrection” from serving in Congress or the Electoral College. The Third Section punished those who had been part of the antebellum Slave Power in government. All Senators from seceding states left Congress except Andrew Johnson. These Senators, and other officials who had presumably been part of the Southern Slave Power, would be barred from government. Thus the Third Section further curtailed the return of the Slave Power.

The Confederate States had borrowed large sums of money during the war. Much of that money had come from the planter elites in each Southern state. Also the Emancipation Proclamation had cost Southern planters their property. Southerners believed, “the gov’ment won’t take away all our niggers for nothin’. The Cons’tution makes niggers prop’ty and gov’ment is bound to pay for them.” The Fourth Section declares the Federal government will not adsorb any of the former Confederate State’s debts nor will the losses incurred by Emancipation be repaid. When the Confederate States seceded, they forfeited any powers they had as states under the federal government. “Dead States” Thaddeus Stevens called them. The federal government thus held no responsibility for any debts incurred why the former Confederate States were in rebellion.

Lastly Section Five gives Congress “power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.”

Each of the Framers of the Fourteenth Amendment had different hopes for the document. Thaddeus Stephens and Charles Sumner represented the more radical views of the Framers. Stephens’s chief motivation was equality for all, a “model republic”. His idealistic view of the republic and his cynical view of man spurred his commitment to Southern Reconstruction and the Fourteenth Amendment. Stevens believed that black enfranchisement, “joined with just white men, would greatly modify, if it did not entirely prevent, the injustice of majorities.”

Charles Sumner held beliefs even more radical than Stevens did. Stevens wanted black suffrage and equality to fulfill his vision of the “model republic”. Sumner instead stood behind the principle that “black and white Americans should be equal in all things, whether education, politics, or social relations”. Steadfast in his convictions, Sumner even resolved to kill the Amendment when the section, which later became Section Two, was changed. The change stated that though representation could be limited for disfranchising blacks taxes could still be collected on those citizens. Sumner stated this change recognized “the power of states to disfranchise racial minorities, [which violated] American rule against taxation without representation.”

William Pitt Fessenden and John A Bingham held more moderate opinions that Stevens and Sumner. Fessenden politics were much more rational than the radicals. Though he shared many person beliefs with the radical Framers, Fessenden kept those separate from his politics. Fessenden felt confronting the Southern Slave Power head on was the only way to equality for all.

Men love political power…Having a little, they are ready to grasp more. If this is the case, have we not done something if this amendment is passed, to say to men, ‘Your political power shall be in exact proportion to your action in the right direction?’

John Bingham strongly stood behind the Constitution as a document promising equality. Equality was the “rock on which the Constitution [rested]” Like Fessenden, Bingham looked on the Slave Power as a direct threat to the “Founder’s Republic”. Thus Bingham wanted to give Congress the power to “force the states to live by the rules of republicanism and to write those rules into the Constitution.”

Democrats and Southerners brought up to points to attack the Fourteenth Amendment. One of these questioned who exactly civil rights would extend to. Many argued that if blacks were given civil rights they would soon be unequal to whites. The implementation of “Black Codes” in the south, which effectively made blacks slaves again, gave that argument no weight. Others were concerned about the Chinese and Gypsies in America.

Chinese, argued a Congressmen from California, were a pagan race and could not be made into good citizens. Gypsies, argued another Congressmen from Pennsylvania, contributed nothing to the United States. The Gypsies recognized no government but their own, paid no taxes, pretended to own no land, never performed military service, and did nothing “which becomes the citizen”. However, it was assured that only children of the Chinese would be counted as citizens and that Gypsies were not, nor would they ever be, a threat to the United States.

When questioning the Fourteenth Amendment some wonder how this applied to women. Some thought this would help defeat the bill. James Brooks and others truly did not care if women were able to vote, they just wanted to prevent blacks from being able to vote. Women were not granted the vote in any state, but were still counted in censuses and their numbers used to base representation. When Brooks was asked if he was in favor of extending the vote to blacks and women he replied, “I am in favor of my own color in preference to any other color, and I prefer the white women of my country to the negro.” Brooks and the Democrats were trying to rally anti-black support. This gambit failed however. The Republican majority in the House pushed the Amendment through on June 8th 1866. A few days later on June 13th the Senate voted 120 to 32 in favor of the Amendment.

In 1896, Justice Henry Billings Brown declared in the Plessy v Fergusson rulling, “We consider the underlying fallacy of the plaintiff’s argument to consist in the assumption that the enforced separation of the two races stamps the colored race with a badge of inferiority. If this be so, it is not by reason of anything found in the act, but solely because the colored race chooses to put that construction upon it.” Even though segregation kept blacks and whites separate, the treatment of both was equal and not in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment. Justice Brown’s assumptions were wrong. The framers would have agreed. When people are legally separated based on race, religion, or anything it is stating that people are not equal. In the true republic that the framers of the Fourteenth Amendment envisioned equality was paramount. When legally separated, the law is stating, even if conditions are truly equal, you do not belong together because of differences.

The Framers of the Fourteenth Amendment called for true equality. Their visionary document was ahead of its time. Americans of their generation were not ready to accept its true meaning. Nor could they truly grasp it. They would have been pleased to see the progress made by the Civil Rights leaders of the 1960s. The Framers would also be pleased with the progress of things today. We haven’t yet completely fulfilled their vision. We are yet to be “one people, one Constitution, and one country.”

Myth and Manipulation – The Dehumanization of Imperial Japan

“(Nationalism is) a set of beliefs taught to each generation in which the Motherland or the Fatherland is an object of veneration and becomes a burning cause for which one becomes willing to kill the children of other Motherlands or Fatherlands”

Howard Zinn

“The warrior doesn’t care if he’s called a beast or a dog; the main thing is winning.”

Asakura Norikage

During the 1920s and 30s, Japan rose to become the leading nation in Asia. Emulating England, Germany, and other Western powers, Japan built up a powerful military, economy, and imperialistic desires. Though Japan claimed to be bringing great prosperity to those they colonized, they instead brought great death and destruction. Many factors drove Imperial Japan to commit the atrocities that it did. First we must look at the rise of the National Reconstruction Movement and the debate over Great versus Lesser Japan. Next we will analyze the Japanese expansion in China, looking at the influence of nationalism, the Japanese media, and Japanese feelings of racial superiority. After discussing the Manchurian incident, we will examine the treatment of Chinese citizens in Manchukuo and the rape of Nanjing. Lastly, some reasons for how the Japanese could dehumanize other nations, and ultimately themselves will be given. The soldiers at Guadalcanal, the Battle of Leyte Gulf, and kamikazes will be used for examples.

Japan defeated Russia in autumn of 1905. This marked the first time an East Asian nation defeated a Western Power. Japan now felt that it had earned a place on the world stage. This was not the case. The Western Powers continued to patronize Japan. After the First World War, Japan attended to the Versailles conference with the other Western Powers. Japan did not receive the racial equality it wished, but the Western Powers consented to their land claims in the Pacific and China. This, and the Washington Conference of 1921-22 which limited Japanese naval power, fed the growing anti-Western sentiments in Japan.

Movements began within Japan to combat what they saw as a weak and corrupt government. The movements were comprised at first of civilians and then junior military officers. These right-wing groups pushed an agenda for a Greater Japan. Greater Japan was essentially a push for a Japanese empire in the pacific, much like the colonial empires Western Powers had established throughout the world. A small group argued for Japan to return its foreign acquisitions to their countries and repair relations with their neighbors. This was referred to as Lesser Japan.

The Japanese government chose to follow the path of empire building. The hawkish right wing group the National Reconstruction Movement was integral in this. The NRM rallied the masses to them through fear and manipulation. Using the Japanese media, they persuaded people that empire building, with Manchuria at the heart, was integral to Japan’s national security. Adopting many ideals from Bushido appealed to the national pride of Japan’s citizens and rallied them to the cause. The National Reconstruction Movement also uncovered many scandals including the rich industrial companies, the Zaibatsu, and the government. After exposing the government as weak to the populace, the National Reconstruction Movement had no problems forcing the government to do as it wished.

Along with the nationalistic reasons for expanding the Japanese empire, racial reasons were also given. Japanese felt they were descended from the divine race called Yamato. The Japanese felt the “Yamato” race was the pinnacle of the five races: the Chinese, Mongolians, Manchurians, Koreans, and Japanese. The Japanese were made to feel it was their duty to uplift their brothers and sisters in Asia. In 1940, this idea was given the name “The Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere”. This feeling of racial superiority, which became indoctrinated into Japanese society, would lead to many problems further along.

With the decision set to build the Japanese Empire a plan was soon decided on to begin the military action necessary to carry out these visions. The government decided on the use of the Northern Approach. This strategy called for an aggressive use of the Japanese Army. The army would take Manchuria and use it as a launching pad to attack the rest of China. It was felt that this method would be less likely to anger the Western powers as the Southern Approach, which was Navy centered.

A Group of elite military officers decided in 1928 “The nation could stand being in a state of war for even 20 years or 30 years if we have footholds all over China and fully use them.” Three years later, September 18th 1931, the Japanese military was on the ground in Manchuria since the Chinese Revolutionary Army’s expedition into the Shandong peninsula. The elite Kwantung Army was on the peninsula and itching for a fight. Many of the officers in the Kwantung Army were part of the Junior Officers Movement, the military branch of the National Reconstruction Movement.

Members of the Junior Officers Movement plotted to explode a section of the South Manchuria Railway (owned by the Japanese). They chose a section of track not far from a Chinese garrison. This gave the Kwantung Army the pretext to attack the Chinese. Japanese journalists traveled to Manchuria to cover the ensuing war. Radio and newspaper reports, fueled by pressure from the NRM and the Kwantung Army and want for profit , touted the Chinese as terrorists and gave daily updates of Japanese victories.

The Japanese public became caught up in war fever. The creation of an independent Manchuria, again fueled by the National Reconstruction Movements, was pushed on the citizens. Connections were drawn between the 1920s and 30s battles in Manchuria with the Russo-Japanese War battles there.

…as most Japanese believed, Japan had fought Russia in 1904 over Manchuria. Forgetting that it was, in fact, the struggle for control over Korea that had precipitated the war, and that Japan had gained its Korean colony as a result of the victory. Japanese in the 1930s somehow felt that Manchuria comprised the single benefit and the sole compensation for a tremendous sacrifice.

Japanese were made to feel they owed a “blood debt” to those who fought the Russians in 1904. These nationalistic pressures allowed the Kwantung Army to create the state of Manchukuo from Manchuria.

The Kwantung Army created the state of Manchukuo in 1932. Manchukuo would be colonized by the Japanese and become the crown jewel of its colonies. Puyi, who was a young child when removed from being last emperor of China, was instated as Manchukuo’s emperor. Puyi had no real power. The Japanese military controlled Manchukuo. The Japanese military wanted to be free of any government control. The military plotted several assassination attempts of government officials. Shortly after the establishment of Manchukuo, junior military officers were successful in assassinating Prime Minister Inukai Tsuyoshi. The country viewed the assassins as patriots.

Now two military factions fought to gain political power. The more radical, the Imperial Way Faction, opposed the existing institutions, seeking to form a more spiritually grounded and moral society, a return to the ways of the past. The Control Faction, though also right wing, preferred to transform Japan into a modern military state and build-up of the economy. The Control Faction sought to spread out junior officers of the Imperial Way Faction by sending them to Korea, Taiwan, and Manchuria. A colonel in the Imperial Way Faction assassinated the General in charge of this plan. During the colonel’s trial a group of more than 1,000 Imperial Way Men stormed the center of the capital on February 26th, 1936. The Emperor intervened and the men surrendered. The leaders of the coup were executed.

The Control Faction was able to tighten its grip on the government, effectively creating a military state. The media became a propaganda machine. Children were indoctrinated in how to better serve their country. Propaganda was used to gather support for the colonization of Manchukuo. The Japanese government planned to send one million Japanese farmers to Manchukuo over a twenty-year period. Tours were given of Manchukuo settlements. So-called “rural literature” was dispersed to the public and magazines were started solely on the subject of colonization of Manchuria.

The government put great pressure on citizens to emigrate. At the national level gave policy guidelines, funding, recruitment materials, and other things. Prefectures helped coordinate recruitment drives and disperse government funds. Local governments actively recruited settlers and held community meetings on colonization.

During the late 1930s, many Japanese did settle in Manchukuo. Chinese pupils were taught this song in Manchukuo schools.

Red boys and green girls walk on the streets,
They all say what a happy place Manchukuo is.
You are happy and I am happy,
Everyone lives peacefully and works joyfully free of any worries.

While this may have been true for the Japanese living in Manchukuo, it was not for the Chinese. Chinese children were educated in separate schools from the Japanese. Japanese schools in Manchukuo were well equipped and maintained. Chinese schools were in a state of disrepair. “In the winter the whole class often had to run around the block in the middle of a lesson or engage in collective foot stamping to ward off the cold.” Chinese were forced from their homes and sent to labor in Japanese mines. Laborers were literally worked to death. Greater horrors soon came.

July 7th, 1937. Japanese soldiers stationed near Marco Polo Bridge were fired upon during night maneuvers. The Japanese used this as a pretext for attacking China. Japanese soldiers captured Beijing by the end of July. Chinese forces held out at Shanghi for three months. Casualties were high between both sides. After being told by the media that the Chinese were cowardly and hadn’t won a war in many years, the Japanese military planners were outraged by this. The Japanese citizenry only received reports of Japanese victories. The Japanese perused the Chinese army to Nanjing. Nanjing fell in December of 1937.

Somewhere between 260,000 and 400,000 peopled were killed over the “six weeks of horror” The Japanese began by murdering the Chinese POWs they captured. The Japanese coldly reasons that they would not have to feed the captives if they were dead. There would also be no chance of them escaping and joining Chinese guerrilla forces.

No one was left to protect the Chinese citizens in Nanjing after the surrender. The Japanese went house to house killing men, women, and children until “the streets, alleys, and ditches of the fallen capital ran rivers of blood.” Japanese soldiers committed unspeakable horrors. Live burials, mutilations, and raping were only some of the atrocities perpetrated. Contests were made of who could kill the most Chinese. Though the Japanese army officially outlawed raping, it happened at alarming rates. The fact that it was outlawed only made the soldiers kill the women afterwards. “’After raping, we would also kill them,’ he recalled. ‘Those women would start to flee once we let them go. Then we would bang! shoot them in the back to finish them up.’”
Japanese soldiers received a great deal of training before battling in China. Men were conditioned to see any Chinese as the enemy. Games and exercises were contrived to break to taboo of killing noncombatants. Japanese soldiers were forced to participate in killing exercises.

One day Second Lieutenant Ono said to us, “You have never killed anyone yet, so today we shall have some killing practice. You must not consider the Chinese as a human being, but only as something of rather less value than a dog or cat. Be brave! Now, those who wish to volunteer for killing practice, step forward.” No one moved. The lieutenant lost his temper.

“You cowards!” he shouted. “Not one of you is fit to call himself a Japanese soldier. So no one will volunteer? Well then, I’ll order you.”

“Everyone became a demon within three months,” one soldier stated. The systematic dehumanization of the Chinese couple with the desensitization to killing proved a brutal mix. Japanese soldiers and citizens had also been taught that their life had no value next to that of the emperor. “If my life was not important an enemy’s life became inevitably much less important.”

Japanese citizens heard little of the atrocities. Media outlets did there best to cover up the bloody campaign. Tours went through the streets that had been cleared of bodies. Newspapers claimed everything was progressing civilly in Nanjing. The Japanese public was told, “the Imperial Army entered the city, put their bayonets into their sheaths, and stretched forth merciful hands in order to examine and heal.” The myth was further perpetrated that “the Great East Asia War is a just war.”

The devaluation of life extended to the Japanese citizenry and armed forces. In school, children were told The Tale of the 47 Ronin. The story follows ancient samurai who murdered to avenge their lord’s honor. After committing the murders the samurai kill themselves. Japanese were also told that, following the ancient code of bushido; loyalty to the emperor should be absolute. This was false. Samurai’s loyalties were not absolute, but merely contracts that could be, and were, broken. Combined with the media bombardment of Japanese victories, real and fictional, it is not hard to see how the Japanese were ready to give their lives for the Emperor and Empire. As a saying of the time went “It is better to be a gem that is smashed to atoms than a tile that is whole”

Suicide warfare was a natural progression these indoctrinations. Soldiers were making the ultimate sacrifice for Japan. “True warriors welcomed the chance to sacrifice themselves for the Emperor, whatever the cost.” 3,912 kamikaze pilots gave their lives during the war, but it wasn’t only pilots who fought in this way. The tactic of “gyokusai” was used by the army on many occasions. “Gyokusai…refers to a patriotic act of fighting to the death right down to the last man.” The tactic was employed at Guadalcanal. The result was Japans first great military defeat and Guadalcanal earning the nick name “Starvation Island.” 22,000 Japanese were stationed at Iwo Jima. 20,703 died there and only 216 were captured.

Japanese citizens were also prepared to die for the emperor. At the end of the war, the Japanese homeland organized a defense of the land to the last man, woman, and child. “Pamphlets were produced to encourage people to use bamboo spears, hatchets and kitchen knives as weapons. The pamphlets chillingly urged the people, ‘Each person should kill one enemy combatant.’” The United States occupation of Saipan shows how effective the Japanese propaganda was.

Hundreds of Japanese civilians on Saipan Island leaped to their deaths over the cliffs onto the rocks below or blew themselves up with grenades. American sailors and marines watched, appalled, yelling, “Surrender! Don’t jump!” But the Japanese had been told they would be raped by the Americans or flattened by tanks

Japanese newspapers claimed the world was stunned by this action. Not because of the horror of the mass suicide, but its “patriotic essence.”

The military propaganda machine in Japan influenced a generation of Japanese. They were influenced into believing Manchuria was key to their survival. Soldiers were convinced Chinese were worse than animals. The government told Japanese citizens that they were creating a new empire for East Asians, that the war was a just one to liberate their “brothers”. Japanese were persuaded to kill and be killed for the emperor. Horrid atrocities were committed because of this propaganda campaign. Countless numbers lost their lives because of myth, manipulation, and blind ambition. Though many try to deny or forget what happened, it must always be remembered.

Bibliography
Change, Iris. The Rape of Nanking. NY, 1997.
Schirokauer, Conrad. A Brief History of Chinese and Japanese Civilizations. 2006.
Thomas, Evan. Sea of Thunder 1941-1945. NY, 2006.
Young, Louise. Imagined Empire: The Cultural Construction of Manchukuo
Zhao, Jie. Lecture
Life under the Japanese
The Daily Yomuiri. WAR RESPONSIBILITY–delving into the past (1)August 13. 2006.
The Daily Yomuiri. WAR RESPONSIBILITY–delving into the past (21)August 15, 2006.
Times Herald Record. The Battle of Iwo Jima. March, 2007.

White Pr*@# ? – Has Post-Racial America Arrived?

In the most recent issue of The Atlantic I read an article posing this question: Is White America done for? Is white American culture relevant any longer? What the hell defines White Culture anyhow? Should we even care?

I live in the second most diverse county of one of the whitest states (Maine) with the white population at 95.2%. The US average is 80.1%. New England culture is somewhat of its own strange beast, but I think I’m still qualified to throw in my two cents. The part of Maine I hail from originally is the whitest part of the state. Much of the cultural events are seasonal. Winter means snowmobiles, ice fishing, skiing and beer. Spring means driving your vehicle in the mud and then parading your muddy auto through the town, and beer. Summer means swimming, fishing, camping, hiking, and beer. Fall of course brings hunting, high school football, and beer. Starting to get the picture?

Much of the culture there would not be foreign to someone from anywhere in Middle America. Trucks with outfitted KC lights, terrorist hunting permit stickers, and the number of their favorite NASCAR driver, roam the streets. A Pu Pu Platter is authentic Chinese food. There is lots of beer, lots of cheap beer. For a man who enjoys a good beer it is a veritable Hell. It’s a low brow, lower to middle class “traditional” watered-down life. I’m not being judgmental, well yes I am. My hometown’s severe lack of anything left me bored to tears.

Does anyone looking for any sort of mental stimulation from Larry the Cable Guy? Can anyone be truly excited to attend a James Taylor concert? Are cars going around the same loop over 100 times riveting? Have the words “insightful” and “smart” ever appeared anywhere near anything written about Friends on purpose. When people speak of white culture these days they point to these things. White culture is a bland boring intellectual black hole.

This is why so many of us who would state we were white on a census identify more closely with our ancestors countries of origin or perhaps even nothing at all. What do we have to be proud of? White people are often the butt of jokes, from nerdy white rappers having a “tea partay“, to the new book Stuff White People Like. Those of us with baby boomer parents were raised to embrace multiculturalism (I hate that term. It makes no sense. A culture is a culture is a culture!) The result is a white identity crisis. Hell, James Baldwin even once said, “There is nothing positive about the white identity.” We are, as Matt Wray stated in The Atlantic, culturally broke.

Marketing agents are moving from racial and ethnic demographics to lifestyle and cultural demographics. “Environmentalist”, “hipster” and “Christian” have replaced demographics as “White”, “Black” and “Hispanic”. Research done at New York University has shown that sites like Myspace and Facebook have created “crosscutting social groups” that are only vaguely associated with race. Race is not yet disappearing, but it is becoming just one of a number of personal identifiers, holding no more importance than, say, what kind of movies one likes.

I would like to see our culture move past race. I would rather see the importance of race fade and a rise in national pride. Whites cannot be the only race that is moving toward this goal. Nor can whites be guilt tripped into a post-racial America. This is something Americans of every race must do together. This way we can all be proud of the outcome. My generation wont see it, but perhaps my daughter’s will. I fear the consequences if we things go in the other direction.

White Pr*@# ? – Has Post-Racial America Arrived?

In the most recent issue of The Atlantic I read an article posing this question: Is White America done for? Is white American culture relevant any longer? What the hell defines White Culture anyhow? Should we even care?

I live in the second most diverse county of one of the whitest states (Maine) with the white population at 95.2%. The US average is 80.1%. New England culture is somewhat of its own strange beast, but I think I’m still qualified to throw in my two cents. The part of Maine I hail from originally is the whitest part of the state. Much of the cultural events are seasonal. Winter means snowmobiles, ice fishing, skiing and beer. Spring means driving your vehicle in the mud and then parading your muddy auto through the town, and beer. Summer means swimming, fishing, camping, hiking, and beer. Fall of course brings hunting, high school football, and beer. Starting to get the picture?

Much of the culture there would not be foreign to someone from anywhere in Middle America. Trucks with outfitted KC lights, terrorist hunting permit stickers, and the number of their favorite NASCAR driver, roam the streets. A Pu Pu Platter is authentic Chinese food. There is lots of beer, lots of cheap beer. For a man who enjoys a good beer it is a veritable Hell. It’s a low brow, lower to middle class “traditional” watered-down life. I’m not being judgmental, well yes I am. My hometown’s severe lack of anything left me bored to tears.

Does anyone looking for any sort of mental stimulation from Larry the Cable Guy? Can anyone be truly excited to attend a James Taylor concert? Are cars going around the same loop over 100 times riveting? Have the words “insightful” and “smart” ever appeared anywhere near anything written about Friends on purpose. When people speak of white culture these days they point to these things. White culture is a bland boring intellectual black hole.

This is why so many of us who would state we were white on a census identify more closely with our ancestors countries of origin or perhaps even nothing at all. What do we have to be proud of? White people are often the butt of jokes, from nerdy white rappers having a “tea partay“, to the new book Stuff White People Like. Those of us with baby boomer parents were raised to embrace multiculturalism (I hate that term. It makes no sense. A culture is a culture is a culture!) The result is a white identity crisis. Hell, James Baldwin even once said, “There is nothing positive about the white identity.” We are, as Matt Wray stated in The Atlantic, culturally broke.

Marketing agents are moving from racial and ethnic demographics to lifestyle and cultural demographics. “Environmentalist”, “hipster” and “Christian” have replaced demographics as “White”, “Black” and “Hispanic”. Research done at New York University has shown that sites like Myspace and Facebook have created “crosscutting social groups” that are only vaguely associated with race. Race is not yet disappearing, but it is becoming just one of a number of personal identifiers, holding no more importance than, say, what kind of movies one likes.

I would like to see our culture move past race. I would rather see the importance of race fade and a rise in national pride. Whites cannot be the only race that is moving toward this goal. Nor can whites be guilt tripped into a post-racial America. This is something Americans of every race must do together. This way we can all be proud of the outcome. My generation wont see it, but perhaps my daughter’s will. I fear the consequences if we things go in the other direction.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.