Surprising white guys

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By now I’m sure most of you have heard of the “angry white male.” These are the guys who honestly believe that the poor, downtrodden, overlooked white male is consistently ignored by an American job market that tramples back and forth over their aching backs in search of a more colorful staffing ratio.

A moment of silence while you wipe that tear from your eye.

Now for something completely different; How many of you have heard of the Angry White Guys for Affirmative Action? Right. Me neither.

But they exist. Not only do they exist, on April 1, as the U.S. Supreme Court hears oral arguments on the University of Michigan’s affirmative action policies, the Bay Area-based Angry White Guys will be among those marching outside. That’s a sight I bet very few people ever thought they would live to see — and it’s about time. The fight for affirmative action should not be a fight waged only for and by African-Americans. This struggle needs as many high-profile white supporters who are willing to put their names, faces, and reputations on the line as it can get.

I’m not saying this because having a lot of white folks on your side makes your cause more valid, nor am I saying that these are the first whites who have ever publicly supported affirmative action. What I am saying is that affirmative action isn’t just about “leveling the playing field” so that blacks can have a better shot at good jobs and good schools. This is also about forcing all of America to face the fact that affirmative action has been business as usual ever since this country became a country. If it was good enough for Christopher Columbus — who took affirmative action when he “discovered” an already-occupied territory for the benefit of his own people — then there is no reason why it shouldn’t be good enough for African-Americans and any other group that seeks expanded horizons.

This has been rather difficult for some folks to comprehend. Paul Rockwell, a writer based in Oakland, Calif., hit the nail on the head in the March 11 issue of In Motion magazine:

“Minority programs are only a small part of the spectrum of preferential policies in the U.S. It is time to consider the extent to which white males are intertwined with policies of preference for themselves. Tax breaks for corporations, subsidies for middle-class homebuyers, mass transit subsidies for white suburbs, bank bailouts for profligate bank executives, selective allotments for refugees, price supports for corporate farms, are all shot through with considerations of need and preference.

“The post-World War II Marshall Plan, a plan that provided billions of dollars for training and jobs, was a massive affirmative action plan for Europe. Former enemies got free training programs in Europe that were denied black GIs at home in America. The New Deal concepts became unpopular only after they were applied to the crisis and effects of segregation. It was not affirmative action itself, but the extension of affirmative action to minorities and women, that caused the backlash.”

I’ll say it again: President George Bush was a C student in high school who never would have gotten into Yale University without the affirmative action provided by his father’s coattails.

Affirmative action is as American as apple pie.

One of the worst things about this war — which may even be over by the time you read this column — is that it doesn’t feel much like a war. What it feels like is an extremely dramatic, well-orchestrated, movie-of-the-week-style event that has been tailored for the American public.

For example, Wednesday night President Bush announced the war had begun, and Thursday morning, America Online featured the traditional pictures of male warriors kissing their wives and children goodbye as they headed off to battle the evil Saddam Hussein. Maybe I missed it, but I have yet to see a photo of a female soldier kissing her husband and child goodbye. Apparently we can’t handle that, even at this late date. I did, however, see an open invitation on America Online for its users to “post your patriotic images here.” Guess that’s supposed to give Americans that warm and fuzzy interactive feeling that we’re all in this together.

Meanwhile, on CNN and elsewhere, there was plenty of footage showing explosions and missile trails lighting up the night sky, very similar to the images broadcast when Bush’s father launched the first war against Iraq. Online there were lots of photo diaries showing American soldiers in tents, wearing gas masks, waiting in bunkers, running through the sand, etc. I couldn’t find any pictures of dead Iraqis. One thing I did find was a video game-style presentation that scrolls through most of the major weaponry being utilized by the soldiers, complete with little “weapons bios” detailing how cool they are and how successfully they accomplished their missions in previous conflicts.

This is the war, and you are there!

Later on came the scattered, almost reluctantly provided reports of the numerous worldwide anti-war and anti-America protests. Students in Rome were excused from classes by their teachers to attend anti-war rallies. Elsewhere in Italy, protesters numbering in the tens of thousands hit the streets while the country’s three largest trade unions staged a two-hour strike. More than 80,000 schoolchildren protested in Berlin. An estimated 10,000 took to the streets in France. In Melbourne, Australia, about 40,000 protested, even though Australia’s government supports the United States. Protesters disrupted Thursday morning traffic in Washington, D.C.

I remember my mother telling me about the horrific change that came over my late Uncle Snooks after he returned home from World War II. When he left, Snooks was just about the funniest, most warmhearted young guy you’d ever want to meet. While serving overseas he saw a good friend killed. It was years after he returned home before he began slowly to return to the Snooks everyone knew. There were thousands upon thousands of stories just like this repeated in households throughout the country during that era. The same can be said for both the Korean and Vietnam wars. So much blood was shed on both sides that it couldn’t be airbrushed over. The reality was too strong to be diluted — or to be packaged and sold.

If this is how wars are going to be presented in the future, as PG-rated video productions marketed for mass consumption, then stay tuned for more action-packed reality programming staged in hotspots throughout the globe. The ratings will be killer.

Keith A. Owens is a Detroit-area writer and musician. E-mail [email protected]
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