CIRCLED WAGONS

Lindsey Graham (R.-So. Carolina), chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, made a startling statement last Tuesday before flip-flopping on Wednesday. It revealed much about the impeachment inquiry and how a large segment of the country is circling the wagons.

Graham said he wouldn’t read the transcripts of closed-door hearings—open to Republican committee members—released by House Democrats. “I’ve written the whole process off . . . I think this is a bunch of B.S.” Translation: Evidence be damned. This mirrors the attitude of much of pro-Trump white rural America.

“To rural white conservatives,” Robert Leonard wrote in the New York Times (10-14), “their culture is being rubbed out right before their eyes.” Whites see themselves enduring religious prejudice. “Democrats have banned Jesus from the public sphere at great cost to society and the potential salvation of millions.”

Ethnic cleansing in America? Native Americans can sympathize.

Yet according to the Times (10-29), Ralph Drollinger, 65, founder of Capitol Ministries— “Making disciples of Jesus Christ in the political arena”—has been teaching the Gospel to President Trump’s cabinet. So Christianity is very much present in the public sphere. That’s fine—when Bible classes take place before or after working hours.

Are whites really under the gun? Many in post-industrial and rural America are hurting economically. That’s bad for all of us. But examine the economic circumstances of many African Americans and Latinos. Whites now suffering the loss of jobs and hope long have had a great deal of company.

What whites seemingly can’t abide is their loss of majority status and its accompanying power. Who created Jim Crow? Rich whites have always controlled the nation’s wealth, leaving poor whites with one comfort: They could see themselves as superior to all other ethnic groups. Yet in a decade or two, whites will become a plurality—the nation’s largest minority.

If America’s minorities now enjoy increased visibility “at white expense,” the phenomenon is relatively recent. When I was a kid, only one TV show portrayed then-called Negroes—Amos & Andy. It originated as a hit radio show created and performed by whites. Only one TV show presented Jews—Gertrude Berg’s The Goldbergs. Other minorities? Fuhgeddaboudit.

Jewish characters in movies? Rarely. Jewish movie stars? Many, including Kirk Douglas, Lauren Bacall, John Garfield, Judy Holliday, Lee J. Cobb and Shelly Winters—all assigned screen (non-Jewish) names.

To whites who support Donald Trump, who vowed they could again celebrate Christmas, I ask: Has America ever not? I rarely see anything in the media or the public square relating to Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Sikh and other religious holidays. Christmas in liberal, secular San Francisco? Inescapable.

The truth that frightens so many Trump supporters is this: Whiteness does not constitute the standard for good citizenship and patriotism. What part of “liberty and justice for all” is hard to understand?

Here, let me say that no white person should ever think he or she is second-rate. Condemning anyone for being white also constitutes racism.

So, will Jesus-fearing whites abandon their persecution complex? I don’t know. I do know that  America’s minorities have experienced the real horrors of racism and anti-Semitism. Still do.

If whites can step outside those circled wagons and demand a better America for everyone, they’ll join all Americans in moving forward.

The post will take off next Friday and return on November 22.

To respond, click on “comments” to the right just below the title of this post. Then go to the response space at the bottom of the post.

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11 Comments


  1. Tracy
    Nov 08, 2019

    Thanks for this. Its interesting that some of the same rural whites who complain about “minorities” are now facing that status themselves. It reminds me of Polish Jews who found out about their heritage right after the fall of the USSR. Quite a few were in neo-Nazi groups.

    I wonder how many of these rural whites will reflect upon their plurality status and have a change of heart about “minorities.”

    Shabbat Shalom.


    • David
      Nov 08, 2019

      I fear, Tracy, that many whites in Trump-supporting areas will only get more defensive, angrier. But change often takes place slowly, and the flames of bias will be fanned by Trump whatever happens regarding impeachment, a possible trial and the 2020 campaign. I think, however, we’ll ultimately see many young whites take more open positions re minorities, i.e. MLK’s the content of one’s character.


  2. Bruce
    Nov 08, 2019

    Wouldn’t it be more effective to quote the many people who consider themselves “whites” who have expressed such sentiments clearly than to quote publications like the NYT that neither employ nor appeal to such folks? Personally, I’ve never met anyone who: (i) identified as “white;” (ii) decried their loss of “majority status;” or (iii) lamented the loss of “white power.”

    Now, I do happen to know that such people exist. There are hundreds if not thousands of them, and thanks to the modern miracle of the Internet, there are far more who don’t express such sentiments but nod knowingly when they run across them.

    I am extremely skeptical, however, that your characterization describes any sizable group or movement within the contemporary U.S. As with many straw men, I suspect strongly that the coastal elites who believe in such a mass movement far, far outnumber (i.e., by several orders of magnitude) the folks whom it describes.

    Of course, you’ve spent more time in rural America than I have. So I have to ask: How many people have you met who expressed such sentiments to you clearly? (I’ll let you pick the time frame you consider relevant, though I think it’s fair to say that opinions expressed ca. 1970 may be an imperfect indicator of current social trends).


    • David
      Nov 08, 2019

      Bruce, I’ll agree that the number of people publicly shouting/posting about white power represents a “small” (however you want to define that) minority of whites. Even smaller are the number of whites who kill people in synagogues and black churches. Yet the hatred and violence we’re seeing—no longer lying dormant—seems to have increased markedly these past few years. It doesn’t come from nowhere and no, Donald Trump didn’t create it. He just uses it.

      I’d be naive to believe that there aren’t large numbers of whites—not all by any means—who dislike the rest of us and believe that America is and should remain a white nation. U.S. history is filled with racism and anti-Semitism, and while 1970 is a half-century back and attitudes have changed, I’ve known too many people whose anti-Semitic, anti-black, anti-latino, anti-asian and other attitudes, freely expressed to me and AT me, have disappeared. You and I are both “coastal elites” (a term I can’t stand), but I did spend three years in the Army, including two months in Alabama and six in Georgia, and a total of six years in Texas where I traveled far and wide.

      So, I’ll say that the number of whites fearing a “takeover” by you, me and all other minorities is “sizable” while not (how would one do that?) providing an exact number. The U.S. is not a post-racial nation and fear of “the other” has always been with us. It’s now more respectable in some circles to make it known, even when couched in terms attempting to conceal it.

      I’m adding something here, which I think demonstrates whites’ concerns: A good friend, white, fears that this country is changing too rapidly. The number of non-whites alarms him, although he’s entirely accepting of me and the synagogue group to which he’s attached himself for study purposes (he’s a churchgoer, raised evangelical, now in the liberal camp). He’d never be hostile to anyone. A very gentle guy. And yet he’s ill at ease because the America he grew up in is not the America he sees, particularly not in San Francisco. That hints strongly that a great many whites in more conservative areas may not only share his discomfort but express it in far more aggressive terms.


      • Bruce Abramson
        Nov 09, 2019

        It’s an interesting theory David, and I suppose that it could be true, but there’s no evidence to back it up. Nearly all of the violent protests and street riots we’ve seen over the past decade–across the country–trace back to two leftist organizations, Black Lives Matter and Antifa. (I have nothing positive to say about either organization other than that they are not white supremacists).

        We’ve got a serious outbreak of street violence directed towards visible, identifiable Jews in Brooklyn. Most of the assailants have been black; the rest have been Latino. Jewish students have been attacked on campuses across the country. Jewish activists have been told to hide their Jewishness at political events. None of these attacks have come from the “rural whites” you mention.

        Rural America has more than its share of problems. It’s been hit with decades of economic dislocation and anomie, reflected in an opioid addiction crisis, skyrocketing suicide rates, and mass shootings. When faith communities attempt to speak up about a spiritual crisis, they get shouted down by America’s sizable anti-faith movement. That’s a tragedy for far more than “rural whites.” 25+ years ago, during the Rodney King riots (which broke out when I happened to be living in South Central), I was struck that there were only two groups of neighborhood leaders on the news: gangbangers and preachers. It was a stark contrast to the broad communities visible during the Civil Rights movement of the 60s.

        The dial-in comments your next respondent references came from folks who listen to John Rothmann’s San Francisco radio show. I suppose they could belong to the demographic you’ve identified, but as I understand it, that’s not his target audience. More likely, they came from Bay Area residents blessed with affluence, education, and left-leaning politics (that is, left of the national center, not the local center).

        At the end of the day, I agree that there is a disconcerting rise in racism and violence across the country. I’m going to define the key term in that sentence because it’s badly abused. Racism is the practice of dividing humanity into groups, mapping individuals into groups, applying different rules and expectations to different groups, and attributing individual behavior to the group in which that individual has been placed.

        Such racism and violence in America today exists almost entirely on the political left. It is inherent in progressive theories like intersectionality. It was promoted by the Obama Administration–most clearly in the Justice Department, though also from the White House. It has already prompted a backlash that is certainly likely to grow. If you wanted to create a white supremacist movement in America, it’s hard to think of a better strategy than looking for people whose lives and communities are imploding, labeling them “white,” telling them that they are “privileged,” and insisting that nearly everyone else in society has a better claim to assistance than they do.

        White supremacism certainly belongs on any reasonable list of problems facing America. But it belongs way, way down on the list. The primary ideology promoting racism and hatred in America today is progressivism. It’s a metastasizing cancer that has already taken over major institutions. And–particularly at the level of ideologs and activists–it is indeed a movement that is overwhelmingly “white.”

        That’s where all the evidence points.


        • David
          Nov 09, 2019

          Bruce, I agree that a great deal of racism comes from the left as it does from the right. Such attitudes from either end of the spectrum are wrong. And yes, rural America has suffered economically with the reduction in manufacturing and related jobs. I drove through Gary,m Indiana a few years ago; eye-opening and heart-rending. The opioid crisis stems in great part from economic despair as does a rising suicide rate among white males. So, there’s lots to be done. But white racism is as old as the nation, and I believe much of what I’ve read re (many, hardly all) whites fearing minority status rings true.


          • Bruce Abramson
            Nov 09, 2019

            I wouldn’t doubt any of that. But I do note that “rings true” means “comports with the stereotype.” Nothing more, nothing less.


          • David
            Nov 09, 2019

            I’ll conclude, Bruce, that there’s been a lot of writing on the subject, and “rings true” stems not from my own experience and observations of human nature but that, as well. Now, let’s see how things unfold.


    • David
      Nov 10, 2019

      Bruce: If I was a social scientist, I would indeed interview many whites (Europe-originating-Caucasians?), but I’m a commentator, and so leave that work to others.
      However, Pew Research has produced some findings worth considering:

      • 2016: 88% of American blacks think changes still need to be made for blacks to have equal rights. (Rights equal to whom?)

      • 2017: 60% of Americans said Donald Trump’s election led to worse race relations. (Did that mean blacks would further oppress whites in various, if often discreet ways?)

      • 2019: 65% of American adults identify as Christians, down 12 points over the past decade. (Christians seeing their numbers decline might consider their influence to be in decline. Might this translate to discomfort, agitation and perhaps defensiveness? Many Americans have defined the United States as a Christian nation. As American Jews, we can’t bury our heads in the sand on this one.)

      Looking at the other side, some might associate Pew with the New York Times, Washington Post, CBS, NBC, ABC, CNN, MSNBC, PBS and NPR as enemies of the people. I suspect, however, that Pew has garnered sufficient respect over the years to be seen as pro-democracy and pro-America.

      Looking at fact but not statistics, FBI head Christopher Wray testified in April that white nationalism constitutes a terrorist threat that is “persistent” and “pervasive.” That term “white.” Troubling? Then again, the FBI may be considered in some circles as part of a “deep state” and thus antithetical to the interests and wellbeing of the American people.

      As to my observations, they’re somewhat wide and a bit deep having been made over the bulk of my 75 years. Looking back, I wonder if, following a brutal 1989 rape in Central Park, a wealthy New York real-estate developer would have paid for the same New York Times full-page ad calling for reinstatement of the death penalty if the five teenage boys arrested were not black but white. And why that same developer never apologized after the teens, all imprisoned, were exonerated.

      I wonder why the same developer who won the 2016 presidential election moaned that the U.S. needed more immigrants from Norway rather than shit-hole countries. (As I’ve written, my family is from the Jewish Pale of Settlement in the Tsarist Empire—Poland and Belorussia; I can’t help thinking we’re also shit-holers.) Perhaps he wasn’t reflecting the attitudes of a substantial (I won’t say majority; I don’t know that) of white Americans, just stating his own position. Yet I can’t help feeling that he reflected the attitude of a significant number of European-Caucasian-Americans.

      I could mention J.D. Vance writing in his book Hillbilly Elegy that the folks in Kentucky where he was from don’t like people who look or talk differently. Vance has taken some hits, but I do point out that in concluding the book, he states that he loves these folks; he grew up with them and they’re his.

      It may mean little that a friend whose husband and children are black know they aren’t always welcome everywhere. And that a great many African Americans have “the talk” with their sons about how to act in front of police. But that would be unscientific.

      So would my seeing a meme on Facebook after Obama was elected. It was re-posted by a young man I know in Texas. It showed a photo of the White House and offered the caption, “They don’t call it the WHITE House for nothing.” He was also a birther. But was he reflecting the attitudes of a meaningful segment of European-Caucasian Texans? Or was he re-posting to illustrate racist attitudes? Yes, I know the answer.

      We could go on and on, Bruce, but let’s cap the discussion on this particular post here. You have your own writing outlets, and I’m busy with so many things.

      The key is, we don’t have to agree, and I love it that you provide alternative viewpoints. I know some people who aren’t fond of them; that’s their problem. So by all means, take me to task on some future material.

      Shavua tov.


  3. Joan Sutton
    Nov 09, 2019

    Hope I’m not off subject with this comment. But I was listening to John Rothmann’s KGO radio show last night and people were calling in about the possible Bloomberg candidacy. Several people called to say they thought Bloomberg is too New York Jewish. They said America is not ready for a Jewish president. So there are sub groups among whites and Jews are some of the most weighed down by prejudice even in this day and age.


    • David
      Nov 09, 2019

      Doubtless, Joan, some people don’t want a Jewish president. Some Jews may fear that a Jewish president will inspire increased anti-Semitism by his/her very presence in the Oval Office. Whether America as a whole is ready remains to be seen.

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