Bootstraps And Bullshit

By Tim Wise:

Pandering to white working folks post-election is fascinating. When white people are hurting economically we’re supposed to feel their pain and “bring the jobs back” to their dying rural towns. But when people of color lack jobs in the cities (in large part because of the decline of manufacturing over 40 plus years, as well as discrimination) we tell them to “move,” to go to school and gain new skills, and we lecture them on pulling themselves up by their bootstraps because the government doesn’t owe them anything. But apparently we DO owe white coal miners and assembly line workers their jobs back because remember, out of work white men are “salt of the earth” while out of work people of color are lazy.

Yeah, to hell with that. Why aren’t we asking white people to aspire to more? Maybe white West Virginians should demand something better than shitty mine jobs that give them black lung and kill them by 55. Maybe they should aim for higher than doing the same thing their great-grandaddy did…notice, people of color strive to better their situation from generation to generation, but we’re supposed to praise white rural folks when they don’t? And we condemn BLACK culture for being pathological and dysfunctional? Hell, no black parent back in the day ever said “I really hope that my grandchildren are doing the same thing I’m doing, because ‘tradition’!” But it appears that’s how some white folks think, and the rest of us are supposed to applaud that as heartwarming Americana, or evidence of strong families, or some such thing.

Make no mistake, we should make sure that everyone has access to remunerative employment or a guaranteed wage or guaranteed food/shelter and medicine. So I’m not saying we turn our backs on these white folks. We DO owe them for a lifetime of service in dangerous professions. But we have no obligation to pander to their desire to do anachronistic jobs just because they want them. Some jobs just aren’t coming back, and some jobs shouldn’t come back even if they could, given the ecological and health-related costs. These folks are no more entitled to “the way things were” than horse and buggy operators, or the folks who once worked in a typewriter ribbon plant, or the Liquid Paper factory. White male entitlement and expectationalism are what drive this white rage and Trumpist bullshit, and we need not indulge it for one more minute…

It is long past the time when white men are going to have to learn something that folks of color have always known: nothing is certain and nothing can be taken for granted; life is about change and disruption. And the minute you get comfortable and sleep on the way the world works, is the minute you go under. The privilege of not having to KNOW that — and a long damned time ago — is what has so many white folks shook right now.


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