Saturday, January 11, 2014

AW-Guy (Angry White Guy) villains

I throw this out especially to latino fiction writers as a suggestion, an idea for varying and deepening portrayals of living in America. I don't know the research or data on this, but it seems to me latinos write plenty about the stereotypical racist sheriff, Klan member or bruto Texan rancher. Racist is the key word, a stereotype that's easy to fall back on.

In contemporary America, the racists may not be changing, but the white-Anglo, middle class is. They've lost pensions, investments, homes, jobs and status. And some percentage of them blame us, the minorities. They might not have been raised by racist parents. But they've fallen into and been groomed into believing that such ideas may not be so "wrong."

The next time you as a writer need to create a bad-guy antagonist, don't go the lazy Anglo-racist-route. Consider creating someone more complex than a Sheriff Arpaio clone. I'm not latino-fiction-well-read-enough to say how often such a character has appeared. I'm just saying Mr. AWM Bad Guy might give you more possibilities to weave complex plots, character development and resolutions than the flat, boring racist.

Whenever race comes up, so do labels. Added to the rest of us who are already American-branded with something, the 90s term, AWMs (prounounced like alms, which seems appropriate, given the mentality explained below). Angry white men; ditto, angry white males.

I tried AWG(ringo)s, but AWGs sounds too porcine and wouldn't be well received. AWA(nglos)s--AWAs sounds like a "watered"-down term, so it doesn't work either. I stick with AWMs, unless I think one of them won't hit me, in which case I might say, "AW-Guy, are you really swallowing Limbaugh's mierda!?"

Two articles last month brought fresh material to the label. I don't suggest that dark or non-Anglo-surnamed gente try debating the topic with an AWG, but the convergence of the two articles seem good material for creating more realistic, contemporary characters.

The ones I would suggest using the material are the N(on)AWMs. It's their job to deal with their own. I got enough problems with AC(hicano)Ms who believe that the call letters of their shock jock station are T-R-U-T-H.

Angry White Men

On his website The Weekly Sift, Doug Muder reviews Michael Kimmel's book Angry White Men. It's captioned: "They may not feel powerful, but they do feel entitled to feel powerful."

Here are excerpts from a solid review that I recommend reading in its entirety:
"Nobody ever asked why a white man had killed President Kennedy or tried to kill President Reagan. The gunmen had names; their stories were presumed to be personal. When Bernie Madoff conned his investors out of billions, nobody asked “What makes a white man do something like that?” or “What should be done about the white male swindler problem?”

He had 48 bombs, some remotely controlled.
My case in point to Muder's observation is the AWM recently busted outside of Ohio's state capitol. He had "a handgun, 48 bombs, and additional bomb-making materials, two pistols and two rifles, as well as a bulletproof vest. Some of the 48 bombs were connected to remote detonators, making it clear that Boguslawski was on his way to plant these bombs. The mainstream media hasn’t shown interest in this case yet. One might wonder whether this would be the case if Boguslawski’s name was 'Abdullah.' "

Muder goes on: "The upshot is that although we are surrounded by angry white men — on talk radio, on the internet, on the highways, in the workplace, in the NRA and the Tea Party, in the “men’s rights” movement, and in countless acts of domestic violence or public mayhem from Columbine to Sandy Hook—we aren’t having a national discussion about the anger problem of whites or men or white men. That’s because we don’t see them as white men.

"Chapter by chapter, Kimmel's book calls attention to angry white men wherever they are found: the loudest voices on the radio, the school shooters, the anti-feminist men’s-rights movement and its Dad’s-rights subculture, the wife beaters, the workers who go postal, and the white supremacists. He asks and answers the question you seldom hear: What makes white men so angry? What links all these different groups is a single core experience: what I call aggrieved entitlement."

Of course these AWMs don't direct their anger against their oppressors; they use it against us. George Zimmerman is their poster child (emphasis on the child, if you add psychopathic before it).

So if you need bio/psych material for your next angry gringo antagonist, begin with Muder's review, check out the book Angry White Men and then grab your keyboard.

Anglos think they suffer more racism than...

A different take on the same question can be found in the article Study Finds White Americans Believe They Experience More Racism Than African Americans from a study conducted by researchers from Tufts University and Harvard Business School.

Their findings: "Self-described white Americans believe they have 'replaced blacks' as the primary victims of racial discrimination in America. While both Caucasian and African Americans agreed that anti-black racism has decreased over the last 60 years, whites believe that anti-white racism has increased. The majority of Caucasians interviewed believe anti-white racism is a 'bigger problem' than what African Americans face.

"Tufts Associate Professor of Psychology Samuel Sommers, PhD co-authored another article Whites See Racism as a Zero-sum Game that They Are Now Losing, from the journal Perspectives on Psychological Science. He comments that 'It’s a pretty surprising finding when you think of the wide range of disparities that still exist in society, most of which show black Americans with worse outcomes than whites in areas such as income, home ownership, health and employment.'

"The study by Sommers and Michael I. Norton of Harvard asked a roughly equal national sample of 209 Caucasians and 208 African Americans to indicate, on a scale of 1 to 10, the extent to which they felt blacks and whites were the targets of discrimination in decades spanning from the 1950s to the 2000s. The scale’s ranking of 1 indicated 'not at all' while 10 indicates 'very much.'

"Both groups reported roughly the same for the 1950s, with neither believing Caucasians experienced much racism at all during that turbulent decade. Both similarly agreed that at the same time, there was substantial racism against African Americans. Both groups also agreed that racism against African Americans has steadily decreased over time.

"Here’s where the study gets interesting. Caucasians surveyed believe that the discrimination faced by their African American neighbors has decreased much more rapidly than the African American respondents. Furthermore, they believe that while African Americans now have it better, they–the Caucasians–have taken their place as the primary targets of discrimination.

“These data are the first to demonstrate that not only do whites think more progress has been made toward equality than do blacks, but whites also now believe that this progress is linked to a new inequality, at their expense.

"Norton and Sommers explain. An astounding 11% of Caucasian respondents assigned the maximum rating of 10 to the seriousness of anti-white discrimination. Compare that with only 2% who reported the same of anti-black racism. Caucasians often believe that racial equality is a zero sum game where one group gains at the expense of others."

Political Blind Spot "reports newsworthy stories underreported by the media or completely ignored; not stories lacking credibility, but simply swept under the rug, through government pressure or private industry self-censorship."

From Arte Público:

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A couple of things to think about when writing racist characters (they don't necessarily have to be villains): They often don't consider themselves racist, and think they are being fair -- there's an incredible level of denial these days. And, racism is based on fear -- racists don't feel superior, they're afraid of what all the strange humanoids might do to them. It can be scary . . . and even funny.

Anonymous said...

Some of my points here were to go further than the racist. The guy next door that used to be at least friendly to you. The co-worker you got promoted over, not because of any affirmative action; but that's what he thinks.
The development or regression of such villains, or at least antagonists, could make some fine characterization. Role models, even, if done well.

Thelma T. Reyna said...

Good articles to share with us, Rudy. Thanks for this. At the same time that such a chunk of our White males believe they're being the victims of racism, we have the extremely racist Tea Partiers and folks like the TV "stars" of "Duck Dynasty" shooting off their mouths about Blacks (and gays). The presidency of Barack Obama has brought out racists from the woodwork to a level I've never seen before. Recently, some top Ku Klux Klan leaders said that the KKK and the Republican conservatives have a lot in common regarding their racism. Wow.