The End of White

In the current Atlantic, Hua Hsu has a breath-takingly good article, “The End of White America?” Read it.

Hsu must have pitched the article as having something to do with Obama, and in a way it does, but the article really finds its power after pondering Obama, what he means, and so forth. Hsu posits:

Consider the world of advertising and marketing, industries 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, which emphasizes individuality and diversity without privileging—or even representing—any specific group.)

If ever-dwindling numbers of kids are growing up with overtly racist cultural and familial clues, what does this mean to families still conversant in overtly racist language?

As with the unexpected success of the apocalyptic Left Behind novels, or the Jeff Foxworthy–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 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 identity 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 affirmative action to a loss 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.

Correct, not, or something else, consider Sarah Palin and her Wasilla main street. As the world moves on, how will this group of relatively under-educated, passionately religious, culturally isolated, real (ie “white”) Americans – lets call them Sarah Palin supporters – express and define themselves?

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