Help Me Mull This Over

Okay, so it’s pretty widely accepted that the dynamic going on at the height of the lynching era was that white men both felt a lot of anxiety about potential black desire for white women and there’s been a lot of talk about how, since white men could rape black women with impunity, it’s funky or hinky or ironic or meaningful or something that white men were so worried about controlling the sexuality of black men.

We might sum this up as “They’re stealing our women!”

Now, we see a lot of anxiety in the community focused on Mexicans who are “here to steal our jobs.”

And we’ve all agreed that threatening violence against said Mexicans is a component of our broader discussion about what to do about immigration and we’ve all agreed that it’s unacceptable.

My question is–why is it there at all?

We have a lot of aliens in our midst.  Why is so much of our anger and fear focused on Mexicans?  I wonder what that tells us about us.

Are we in the middle of another crisis in white male masculinity, one that centers more on what the white man’s role in the community is rather than what the white man’s role in the bedroom is?

I don’t know.  I just wonder.

20 thoughts on “Help Me Mull This Over

  1. Oh, good point, Slarti, but you know, I wonder if it’s all that different. Like I said, I’m just mulling this over, but we women can be pretty nasty to y’all about “being a man.” I don’t know. I just know there’s something interesting going on here that goes beyond just anxiety about aliens and I can’t quite see the shape of what it is.

  2. I think a couple of truths have started to sink in to the working class: ‘real’ wages have been declining since the 1970s, and you will not have it as good as your parents did*. The Powers-That-Be on the left blame globalization and an obscene concentration of wealth in very few hands. The Powers-That-Be on the right blame brown people.

    The ignorant and hot headed go with ‘brown people’, and that’s who you see shooting off their mouths and advocating violence. A larger, but quieter, chunk of the population knows that the Illegal Immigrants working in the fields and laundries didn’t take away all of the good paying jobs.

    * Unless you tally ‘having it’ in terms of the quantity of cheap plastic/electronic crap, kilocalories of really unhealthy McFood(TM), and hours of mindless TV. If you value measures such as education, job security, access to healthcare, and upward mobility, you’re hosed.

  3. Yes, agreed with Slartibartfast, I don’t think it’s a testosterone thing. Though, as an aside, I’d been mulling over doing a piece/book on portrayals of the Black middle class in film, and about how things have changed over time. I also observed the portrayal of Latin/Hispanic men. For a long time in the 70’s up until Andy Garcia, the “hot blooded Latin” type was pretty much gone from cinema. There’s a correlation of the rise in immigration, worries over “illegals” and the bleating headlines about Latino gangs. It isn’t as if there were a lot of Latin actors working prior to that (usually Anglos playing the dark handsome Latin), still, the perception of Latin men as sexually desirable was there in society and mirrored in movies.

    That’s tangentally related to your question in that the factor is numbers of immigrants. Perhaps the waves of Mexican immigrants seems overwhelming to some, how they can come in and seemingly transform a community in a short period of time, and that the population has spread to areas where there isn’t a lot of diversity in the population to start with. It isn’t specifically about jobs as it is about lifestyle. I’m sure some stormfront-er has used the phrase “a threat to our very way of life” at some point when discussing the immigration issue.

    The foreign invasion threat is always good for scapegoating and fear mongering. Y’all remember the Yellow Peril I’m sure, with the accordant worries that Japan would own the West Coast by the year 2000. Some folks just need an enemy to make it through the day.

  4. I don’t think it’s about testosterone per se, but about power. Especially threatened power… because the people highest on the food chain and the people closest to the bottom have the most to lose. If you’re one step away from subsistance farming and you see waves of people who might, somehow, rise to the level you’re at; that’s threatening. If you’re way up top and you see people who might destabilize your nice pyramid, that’s threatening.

    But… it still is a white male issue. (And yes, a white female issue, but quite often talked about as gender checking – “How will my husband be a man if his job is taken by a Mexican?”)

    The rhetoric is still the same. “They’re stealing our women!” (Who should rightfully be ours and would never want to sleep with a black person, and don’t, after all, have agency of their own… even if it wasn’t violent, they were just seduced by the evil, evil dirtiness and couldn’t help themselves!) sounds pretty damn close to “They’re stealing our jobs!” (Which are rightfully ours, of course, and nobody else should have them, and after all, nobody would want to give them to anybody else, except that these people come so much cheaper that they just can’t help but submit to the evil, evil seductions of supercheap labor)

    It’s about what we’re entitled to (jobs, women, power, a “good life”), and the percieved threats to the things that we think are rightfully ours.

  5. I seem to recall the black, female community having a similar issue with white women taking “all the good black men”

    Still about power, and feeling that you have been “stolen from”.

  6. This is why I favor overhauling the system to take people out of the underground. It gets rid of the unnatural supression of wages. (Then we’re just left with *natural* suppression) ;)

    But back on point; it’s simple, really. Scapegoating is part of human nature. It doesn’t go away until it is overcome, either through education, religious conversion, whatever.

    We can say it’s all about white men, but I’ve known enough people over the years to know that this mindset is inherent, from the greatest to the least. We all scapegoat; we all project. And it’s been going on forever. Come to think of it, our current situation reminds me a little bit of the pre-exodus relationship between the Egyptians and the Isrealites.

    I don’t know if there’s a sociological term for “Fear of Servants”, but there should be.

    But make no mistake, this mindset does come from a sense of entitlement. This is why pride is considered the worst sin of all. It makes us grasp for things that were never ours to begin with.

  7. I agree with Exador. It is mostly about power, or agency if you prefer. And I agree with magniloquence; the willingness to scapegoat depends on your relative position in the social/economic hierarchy.

    I’ve always wondered why millions of poor and working-class Southern men were willing to kill, suffer, and die in order to preserve a “way of life” that kept them under the foot of a relative few wealthy landowners. I suppose the same dynamic is at work in certain economically vulnerable corners of the African-American community as well; so many young men seem hell-bent on destroying each other as opposed to organizing their energies in opposition to the economic and political systems that profit from their misfortune (hmm… maybe that’s why the Black Panthers were so high on the COINTELPRO shit list; can’t have those negroes bettering themselves, now can we?). But I digress.

    The problem with our system of self-government is that it has come to depend on the illusion that every person can be a tycoon, and that every person should be a tycoon. If you’re not a tycoon, or if the bread you eat and the roof over your head are in jeopardy (or at least in danger of being reduced in prestige) then something must be wrong with you. If you can’t find anything wrong with you that you’re willing to admit, then you must point the finger at someone else. Only a bleeding heart commie would dare point the finger at someone with more wealth/power/social clout than himself; so the finger and the anger must be directed at someone more vulnerable and exposed.

    Of course, we could all pretend that we’re adults, and we could start looking for sustainable economic solutions that don’t involve senseless hoarding and illogical scapegoating. But that’s just the holier-than-thou Beatitudes-referencing socialist in me talking.

  8. I’m completely with magniloquence on the entitlement thing. And also with indifferent children on the decline of real wages. People who feel unable to improve their lives economically feel that their citizenship in an increasingly (aggregate) wealthy nation entitles them to have their ship lifted with the rising tide. They look at globalization and immigration as dual forces robbing them of that entitlement.

    Once a manual laborer in America could do well. If the concept/reality of “America” (as an exclusive club) goes away, then they are just a manual laborer. In competition with “the other.” The enemy becomes the other, and those who “abandoned the concept of America.”

    It’s a powerful political sentiment. These are the Perot-istas bemoaning the “great sucking sound”, the Reagan Democrats, who feel abandoned by the political process. They have allies on the far left who see the lower standards (pay, hours, safety, environment) of globalization as undoing hard-fought-for protections, and allies on the far right who are more worried by the foreign language and different-shaded skin.

    If I can simplify modern conservatism as social control, modern liberalism as economic control, and populism as both, then:

    Globalization and immigration upset the existing order, Pat Buchanan conservatives are angry about the social order, Charlie Rangall liberals are upset about the economic order, and Perot populists are angry about both. I’m less sympathetic to those who feel entitled to a common language than those who feel entitled to a minimum wage, but I think that’s what we’re dealing with.

  9. Part of the problem I have with your analysis, Jebbo, is that it simplifies far too much. I know you’re trying not to take up too much space, so maybe you’re not being as clear as you would if you were taking as much as you wished. However, I submit that this dichotomy–

    They have allies on the far left who see the lower standards (pay, hours, safety, environment) of globalization as undoing hard-fought-for protections, and allies on the far right who are more worried by the foreign language and different-shaded skin.

    –belies that most workers are concerned about the “lower standards” of “globalization.” Most of them, when they have time to think about it, might define ‘globalization’ as I do: money is allowed to flow without borders, and governments at the beck and call of concentrated wealth make sure that the money flows (and continues to concentrate) while increasing numbers of non-wealthy people are expected to battle with each other over shrinking scraps. The racism and xenophobia are old, effective tricks that the wealthy and powerful can use to keep working people at each other’s throats.

    The primary difference between liberals and non-wealthy conservatives is that the liberals are less likely to buy into the distracting ‘fuck you’ politics of reactionary conservatism. On the other hand, the biggest failing of liberals is to believe that the current economic and political systems can be redirected or salvaged in the service of making things better.

    Beneath all this, I think, is a deeper problem. Whether we’ve aligned ourselves to the right or the left, we’ve all become addicted to the cheap plastic accoutrements of empire. We’re fully invested in our cheap-petroleum-fueled consumerist Shangri-la, and we’d rather battle each other and beat up on imported scapegoats than give up our delusional quest for the American Dream.

    That’s how we’ve allowed a cabal of self-important, blustering cowards to take control of our republic and run it aground. We have long since stopped caring about what the republic is supposed to stand for, and we’ve settled for clawing at each other to get to the next blue light special. For all their faults, the Founders would be right to be aghast at us for having traded away our birthright for a mass-produced bowl of red stew.

    Of course, just thinking about that last part makes me hungry for a slyder. Or maybe I’m just feeling the effects of my high-protein, low-starch diet.

  10. Hunh. I kept going back and forth on whether to talk about the globalization bit… partially because I think it’s a bit of a derailment, and partially because I haven’t taken my meds today and am thus even more scattered than usual. Scattered and sleepy won out, mostly.

    But in my experience, most of the people who have been adamantly anti-globalization have been so for anticolonial reasons. Globalization, as currently understood/implemented, means a lot of exporting McDonalds and Wal Mart, and a lot of really screwed up cultural and colonization for whatever unfortunate country we get our claws into. The money flowing over the borders often has surprisingly magnetic properties; money and labor flow from both/all countries involved into the companies, and relatively little gets spit back out..

    It’s a really complicated balancing act, making sure that free trade is fair trade. And it makes any discussion of open borders even more difficult, because money and imperialism and corporations pass through a lot more easily than people.

  11. I’m embarrassed that I’m not parsing “belying” very well, so I’m not grasping the critique (though it sounds interesting). I’ll offer what I can and ask for clarification.

    What I can offer is a picture of three groups of people. One is a group of workers as such, populist in leaning, who are distressed about the practical impact of the rest of the world on their daily lives… strange looking foreigners, strange sounding languages, jobs going overseas, more competition for blue-collar jobs that are here. Politically they may be anywhere on the map, but would probably consider themselves moderate.

    Next group is more explicitly liberal. Has a more intellectual approach to the rest of the world. Doesn’t feel threatened by immigration, as the resulting diversity is a plus in their value system. Perceived threat of immigration also drops as there is less job insecurity… the college professor can have affordable home services provided and doesn’t worry about the competition for his job. The liberal does, though, see that movement of capital out of richer economies into poorer ones through the lens of the standards of the richer country, and considers the whole enterprise to be a form of exploitation. E.g. when money flows overseas it goes to bad people who don’t take care of workers or the environment, etc.

    Final group is more explicitly conservative. Tends to trust business more than government or unions, and may see globalization as an opportunity to sell more goods overseas. Would blame unions/welfare state etc for poor competitiveness and support reducing regulations and state benefits to improve competitiveness rather than erecting trade barriers. Is more concerned about immigration, which they see as a threat to the established cultural order of which they are likely to approve. Likely to view immigrants as poor who will demand greater government spending, increase subsidization, etc. Then there’s the whole prejudice thing, which I have trouble (or distaste) trying to channel.

    So Church Secretary, in answer to whether most workers are concerned about the lower standards of globalization, I guess I’d say, No I don’t think most workers are concerned about that. What I think is that there is a potentially powerful coalition of America-First workers who feel they are getting screwed + more academically-minded (compared to the previous group) liberals who are the ones concerned about international impacts of globalization on how workers everywhere live + more culturally-minded conservatives who feel that immigration represents a kind of war on their identity.

    The irony is that the left and right above would probably detest each other, and yet the workers would – from a personal perspective – relate to each.

    I hasten to add that just because there are workers, and liberals, and conservatives who I think feel the things above, there are of course those who do not.

  12. Heavens, the ignorance is breath-taking on this site.

    Globalization is not about putting McDonalds and KFC in other countries. It is about good governance and financial systems which are followed by investment funds from multi-national banks putting investement monies into local economies. The nation state and business get investment cash, the banks make a bit on the investment. Go read Friedman for goodness sake. I disagree with many of his political comclusions but he does get the globalization thing.

    Illegal immigration is about breaking the law. And wanting to enjoy the benefits of a free society without the responsibilities of that society. A lot of the illegal immigrants come in, remake the neighborhoods they live in, in the mode of the country they came from because they must live on the edge of our society because – wait for it – THEY BROKE THE LAW GETTING HERE. Hence the moniker led by illegal. Get it? What makes you think that someone who steals from his employer should stay employed? The simile may be a bit off but it is late and the end of a long day. Go read Bill Whittle at Eject!Eject!Eject! and find his essay called “Rafts”.

    The man thing and feminism. Don’t confuse men and miscreant boys. Rape is about the violent abuse of strength and power. Real men cannot rape – they are sheepdogs content to safeguard. For the refernece to sheepdgos – Bill Whittle again. Feminism is about the politics of faction not freeing women from the domination of the bad ole scary men in power – you know, the scary WHITE men. We have all the power you know. And it is about entitlement . Go read “The Federalist Papers” to understand what I just said.

    I may come back now and then to see if the level of discourse improves.

    Moving along…..

  13. This would be the perspective of the Greater Spotted Conservative I was citing. It can be distinguished from the Common Populist by its condescension. The conflation of business and nation state interest is another clue.

    Can you spot the mating call?

  14. *blinks at the screen*

    I… er…. where do you find these people, Aunt B? Is there some sort of special trollbait you use? It’s just… I mean…. there’s amazing density there. Unpacking the twisty turns of every sentence would provide me fodder for days.

    … provided I were able to keep a straight face. Which…. not so much. Ha!

  15. Hee. Jebbo, you should totally come up with a wildlife handbook. And we could all be politico-ornithologists together!

    Then Kat and Exador could argue about the proper classification of the Albino Gun Toting Toucan, and whether it’s of strain C. Libertarius or C. Conservacious, and Aunt B could dress Plimco all up in (crocheted!) feathers to grace the cover. :)

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