Throughout history, white males have taken their superiority—over women, over men of color, over other men they look down on—for granted.
To understand the precedence of white men, in the West at least, we need to look at the book that has most shaped Western thinking: the Bible. That the people of the Old and New Testaments lived in a patriarchy is unquestioned. Women were chattel, or nearly so. Tribal chieftains, like Abraham, exercised total control over their flocks. God was conceived as male. When Christianity imposed a religious order on society, it, too, kept intact a white male power structure. From the Pope on down to pastors, a military-like hierarchy kept men in control, and everybody else out.
No wonder white men have gotten used to being Tops. It’s always been that way. You might even say, if you buy into this kind of stuff, that some law of the universe ― maybe even God ― made it that way. Men are smarter, more able to make decisive, intelligent decisions ― the kind upon which individual survival, as well as the survival of the tribe, depends. “Why can’t a woman be more like a man?” the hapless Henry Higgins, in My Fair Lady, wondered, listing a J’accuse! of offenses against females:
Women are irrational, that’s all there is to that!
Their heads are full of cotton, hay, and rags!
They’re nothing but exasperating, irritating,
vacillating, calculating, agitating,
Maddening and infuriating hags!
If Henry Higgins felt that way about women, how must he have felt about colored people?
After all, men built the British Empire! Men settled the Colonies (America, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand), felling forests, eliminating indigenous people and making great nations! White men were the scientists, the artisans, the philosophers, the explorers, the hunters who put food on the table, who defended the tribe against its enemies, who always knew the right thing to do, because Nature endowed them—not women, not colored people—with reason, logic and insight.
We come now to an America (and a Western world) that seems to be losing all the old values. /www.latimes.com/local/california/la-me-census-latinos-20150708-story.html"}}">White people no longer are a majority in California, and in a few decades will no longer be a majority in America.
To the white guy who resents the intrusion of inferior “others” into his life, onto his block, and beside whom he must work, the pop-up of Blacks, Latinos, Asians and gays (the white guys who ran the world were straight), this is terribly confusing and problematic.
It’s not hard to feel empathy with white guys losing power; I am a white guy. They feel their world slipping away. All sorts of thoughts and emotions dash through their heads: resentment, fear, envy, anger, incredulity, frustration. They think there must be a reason for things spiraling out of control—perhaps a conspiracy. These feelings are natural. Many men feel these things, but not all give into them. Many choose to correct their internal balance, to better themselves through interior spiritual work, to sort these feelings out. They strive to be “better people” through rising above their own negativity. This kind of white man has variously been called a liberal, a metrosexual, an urban identifier, part of a culture that sees itself in the vanguard of creating a new, fairer and more open and responsible political and social order.
These people now give each other permission to hate.
Unfortunately, there’s another kind of white male—the kind that loves Donald Trump. These are men who, instead of struggling against their own negative emotions, give in to them. They sacrifice their humanity and compassion to the gods of anger and fear. For most of the twentieth century, and especially after World War II, outright expressions of hatred—towards minorities, towards women—were concealed in polite society, because to make them public would be embarrassing, and invite the censure of friends and family. But the right wing in America has invented a so-called “war on political correctness,” the meaning of which is this: These people now give each other permission to hate. Hatred of “the other” used to be cause for shame. Now it is a cause célebre, and is the igniting factor behind the Trump phenomenon.
This, by the way, is why the same white men who have a bit of a homoerotic thing about Trump loathe Hillary Clinton. She’s not their idea of “the right kind of woman”: complacent, quiet, with a passive disposition. Hell, they had her number back when Bill was running in the Democratic primaries in 1992, when she said that, rather than having had a superb career as an attorney, “I suppose I could have stayed home, baked cookies and had teas.” Since that’s exactly the kind of woman these men wanted (and, later, they loved Laura Bush), they immediately pegged Hillary as an urban, strong, pants-suited bitch, an “irritating hag” with a mind of her own. And they’ve been hating on her ever since, locked as they are into a regressive emotional state.
Strength in numbers gives these men the courage to indulge in their resentments.
Trump is himself both a victim of this negativity and its enabler-in-chief. As a [very] successful and famous straight white male himself, his overt expressions of hatred and anger (and in particular his venomous smearing of Hillary) cause other white men to think along these lines: “Hey, if he can feel that way ― and say it, and get away with it ― then there’s nothing wrong with me! I can feel that way and say it, too, and there are millions of others who feel the same way.” Strength in numbers gives these men the courage to indulge in their resentments.
And there are a lot of them. The latest CNN poll shows men preferring Trump over Hillary Clinton by a whopping 54% to 32%. This is considerably larger than womens’ preference for Hillary over Trump (53% to 38%). This poll should make us worry; Trump leads Clinton among all likely voters by 2%. While these numbers will certainly change in coming weeks, they testify to a troubling trend: white men are showing no sign of giving up their anger in favor of more positive, sensible solutions to problems, such as the kinds Hillary offers. These men are indulging in magical thinking: Let’s elect somebody who’s as angry as we are, and hope that anger, alone, will be the answer to all America’s problems.
It won’t be, you know. It never has been. Hitler tried it, and we know what happened to his country. But these 53% of angry white men don’t care. They’ll vote their emotions, and as for the consequences, screw it. They’d rather have an America fueled by anger than one in which mature politicians make careful decisions. They—the angry white guys—may well get what they wish for.