When the Majority Feels Oppressed

March 05, 2011 Tagged with: social-justice

Here are two things I’ve learned:

I’ve wondered about this phenomenon for a long time, and I’ve come to this conclusion: it’s considered somehow inappropriate for a majority to campaign for their majority views.

There are more whites than non-whites in this country, and more straight people than gay people. So for the former to promote their views is somehow automatically considered oppression of the latter.

In Chamberlain, South Dakota – a rural area with a large Native American population – this happened last year:

School officials in Chamberlain are investigating an incident in which six high school students wore homemade T-shirts proclaiming “White Pride World Wide.”

Now, these kids muddied the waters a bit by explicitly associating themselves with a white supremacist logo, but even if they hadn’t, the concept of “white pride” is just automatically considered to be racially inflammatory. Contrast this to “Native Pride” clothing I see someone wearing at least once a week about these parts.

And I couldn’t think of a specific incident of the following, so I just Googled for “straight pride t-shirt,” and sure enough

A Chicago high school has decided to allow a small group of students to wear “Straight Pride” T-shirts, despite resistance from other students who say they found the clothing offensive [...]

And now CNN is reporting that this concept of the majority feeling oppressed is being taken to the extreme: Are whites racially oppressed?

They are, some say, the new face of racial oppression in this nation – and their faces are white.

[...] Call it racial jujitsu: A growing number of white Americans are acting like a racially oppressed majority. They are adopting the language and protest tactics of an embattled minority group, scholars and commentators say.

And you see claims like this from the Christian right all the time: it’s Getting Dangerous Out There – A Preacher Is Arrested in Britain

Now, a Christian preacher has been arrested in Britain for the crime of saying in public that homosexuality is a sin. This arrest is more than a news event – it is a signal of things to come and an announcement of a new public reality. Even if all charges are dropped against this preacher, the signal is sent and the message is clear. The act of Christian preaching is now a potential criminal offense.

I have no opinion here, just more questions, some of which are about myself –

So where does this apparently built-in bias come from? Why is it that the minority in any arena can campaign for their views and we look on this favorably, but when the majority does theexact same thing, we look on it as oppressive to the minority?


cmadler says:

“So where does this apparently built-in bias come from? Why is it that the minority in any arena can campaign for their views and we look on this favorably, but when the majority does the exact same thing, we look on it as oppressive to the minority?”

Because historically the majority HAS oppressed minorities. Identical treatment would tend to preserve the status quo, and when that status quo is built based on centuries of oppression (of women, of people of color, etc.) unequal treatment is sometimes needed.

To consider one example, for more than a millenium in Europe and then in the US, homosexuality was considered shameful, and it was often criminal, sometimes punishable by death. Attacks based on perceived sexual orientation continue to be frighteningly regular in the US today. When is the last time you heard about a person being assaulted, much less murdered, because they were straight?

According to Wikipedia, the following attacks were reported in the media in 2008; there are surely others that have not been added to the article:

February 2008 - Duanna Johnson, a transwoman, was beaten by a police officer while she was held in the Shelby County Criminal Justice Center in Tennessee. Johnson said the officers reportedly called her a “faggot” and “he-she,” before and during the incident.[66] In November 2008, she was found dead in the street, reportedly gunned down by three unknown individuals.[67]February 12, 2008 - Lawrence “Larry” King, a 15 year old junior highschool student was shot twice by a classmate at E.O. Green School in Oxnard, California. He was taken off life support after doctors declared him brain dead on February 15.[68] According to Associated Press reports, “prosecutors have charged a 14-year-old classmate with premeditated murder with hate-crime and firearm-use enhancements”.[69][70][71]March 16, 2008 - Police say Lance Neve was beaten unconscious in Rochester, New York because Neve was gay. A man attacked Neve at a bar leaving him with a fractured skull, and a broken nose. Jesse Parsons was sentenced to more than five years in prison for the assault.May 29, 2008 - Eighteen-year-old Steven Parrish–a member of the Young Swans subgroup of the Bloods–was murdered by Steven T. Hollis III and Juan L. Flythe in Baltimore County, Maryland after they found “gay messages” on his cell phone. They felt having a gay member would make their gang appear weak and that by killing Parrish they could prevent that perception.June 9, 2008 - Jeremy Waggoner, an openly gay hairstylist from Royal Oak, Michigan, was brutally murdered in Detroit. His murder is still unsolved.[72]July 17, 2008 - Eighteen-year-old Angie Zapata, a transwoman, was beaten to death in Colorado two days after meeting Allen Ray Andrade. The case was prosecuted as a hate crime, and Andrade was found guilty of first degree murder on April 22, 2009.[73]September 7, 2008 – Tony Randolph Hunter, 27, and his partner were attacked and beaten near a gay bar in Washington DC. Hunter later died from his injuries on September 18. Police are investigating it as a possible hate crime.[74]September 13, 2008 - 26-year-old Nima Daivari was attacked in Denver, Colorado by a man who called him “faggot”. The police that arrived on the scene refused to make a report of the attack.[75]September 15, 2008 – A Bourbonnais, Illinois elementary school bus driver was charged with leading a homophobic attack on a 10-year old student passenger. The boy was taunted by the driver who then encouraged other students to chase and beat the child.[76]November 7, 2008 - The home of openly gay Melvin Whistlehunt in Newton, North Carolina was destroyed by arsonists. Investigators found homophobic graffiti spray-painted on the back of the house.[77]November 14, 2008 - 22-year-old Lateisha Green, a transwoman, was shot and killed by Dwight DeLee in Syracuse, NY because he thought she was gay.[78] Local news media reported the incident with her legal name, Moses “Teish” Cannon.[79] DeLee was convicted of first-degree manslaughter as a hate crime on July 17, 2009, and received the maximum sentence of 25 years in state prison. This was only the second time in the nation’s history that a person was prosecuted for a hate crime against a transgender person and the first hate crime conviction in New York state.[80][81][82]December 7, 2008 - Romel Sucuzhanya, a 31 year old straight Ecuadorean and his brother Jose, were attacked on a Brooklyn, New York street for appearing to be gay and for being Latino; they were walking arm-in-arm, which is normal for brothers in their culture. Romel later died from his injuries.[83]December 12, 2008 - A 28 year old lesbian in Richmond, California was kidnapped and gang raped by four men who made homophobic remarks during the attack.[84]December 27, 2008 - 24-year-old Nathan Runkle was brutally assaulted in Dayton, Ohio outside a gay nightclub.[85]

As long as that level of violence based on perceived sexual orientation continues, I certainly won’t begrudge anyone their “Gay Pride” t-shirts.

deane says:

But you have it exactly backwards.

My point wasn’t to begrudge anyone for their “Gay Pride” or “Native Pride” slogans.

My point was why someone wearing a “Straight Pride” or “White Pride” shirt would be automatically viewed negatively.

You have not explained that.

David Morefield says:

Here’s how I see it: “Gay Pride” or “Black Pride” or what have you events/shirts/etc are, on their face, efforts to turn perceived negatives into positives. If you’ve been told all your life that what you are is second-best, or even outright *bad*, then it can be empowering to come out in the open and say, “You know what? Yes I am gay/black/whatever, and I’m proud of it!”

Which is fine, as far as it goes, but the additional, implied message is, “If you happen NOT to be gay/black/whatever, then you are my oppressor.” In other words, “you should be ashamed of yourself because of your race,” which is the very message the “oppressed” are supposedly speaking out *against*.

I’m not saying that’s (always) the *main* message they intend, but it is certainly in play, and politicians, the media and assorted demagogues hear it, echo it and amplify it with the “white guilt” routine to the point where, yes, caucasians *are* made to feel ashamed of their race.

The natural reaction of some of them is to use the same tools as minorities: the t-shirts, the parades, etc to say “I’m proud of my race, too.” The problem is that as soon as you do this, the happy slogans are revealed as thin veils for the second, more honest messages. The shirts may still say “Being black/gay is great!” and “Being white/straight is great, too!” but now all we see and hear is “I’m saying this as politely as possible, but you are a racist Nazi”, with an answering chorus of “Shut yer yap and return to the back of the bus.”

So I guess I’m saying we do have a double standard. We know that “Gay Pride” is a happy message that barely beneath the surface carries the more confrontational message of “Stop Oppressing Me, Straights!” but we allow it, maybe because it is stated politely (usually), maybe because as Americans we have a tradition of rooting for the underdog or maybe because we just figure “what’s the harm? They’re still in the minority, let ‘em speak” Whereas when the majority responds in kind, we’re forced to deal with the real issues, which are touchy and scary and potentially violent.

The really interesting time will come in the next few decades, when whites become the minority. Will we benefit from Affirmative Action and hiring quotas and college admissions quotas, then? Will it then be okay to wear a “White Pride” shirt? Will anyone even be able to read it if it’s not written in Spanish? Time will tell.

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