The Unbearable Whiteness of Being

unbearable lightness

Eric Kaufmann, Whiteshift: Populism, Immigration, and the Future of White Majorities

Isaac Chotiner, A Political Scientist Defends White Identity Politics

Jonathan M. Metzi, Dying of Whiteness: How the Politics of Racial Resentment is Killing America’s Heartland

The Plum Line, We’re finally inching toward a smarter understanding of ‘electability’

As Jennifer Rubin lays out very well, Democratic voters are mainly concerned with electability. It’s pretty clear from the early polls that the nominee, whoever she or he may be, will be the person perceived by Democratic primary voters as the person most likely to win in the general election.

So, that much we know. But that leaves a host of intertwined questions, including

  • Is it more important to focus on African-Americans and progressives, or it more important to try to win back white voters, especially in the Midwest?
  • Is there, indeed, a tension between those two goals, or are they largely consistent with one another?
  • Given the increasing weight of evidence that Trump voters groove to white identity politics, is there any way to compromise with, or accommodate, their white identity?
  • Are there in fact two distinct forms of white identity: a racist putdown of others, and a relatively benign celebration of ethnic heritage?
  • Should Democrats focus, as Obama did, on telling an inclusive story of “American” identity, while eschewing white identity as well as black identity?
  • Where affirmative action criteria are based on race, not factors like income and social class, do poor white have at least some case to be made that they are being treated unfairly?
  • Can Democrats improve their chances by just talking about health care—and, when racial identity is raised, just change the subject back to health care?

I find this whole conversation troubling and distasteful, and would rather think about something else. I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s true of you, as well. But whether we like it or not, these things need to be addressed.

I’ll just say this for now. I don’t think a celebration of “whiteness,” as such, makes much sense. I’m descended from Scotchmen, Englishmen (not a few of whom were Quakers, in the seventeenth century), and Frenchmen (not a few of whom were Huguenots). I can celebrate the English for inventing constitutional government. I can celebrate the Quakers and the Huguenots for standing up to religious persecution. And I can celebrate the Scots for … I suppose, really nice kilts and interesting musical instruments. Whiteness as such? I don’t think so.