White Amer­i­cans learn what it’s like to be marginal­ized

The Fresno Bee (Sunday) - - Opinion - BY RUBEN NAVAR­RETTE JR. Ruben Navar­rette’s email ad­dress is [email protected] ruben­navar­rette.com. His daily podcast, “Navar­rette Na­tion,” is avail­able through ev­ery podcast app.

Some­one needs a hug. Many white Amer­i­cans are feel­ing pushed out, pushed aside, pushed around and pushed against the wall.

And now, in the Trump era, some of those folks are push­ing back against what they see as a kind of re­verse racism – where the mi­nori­ties be­come the ma­jor­ity, grad­u­ally as­cend to po­si­tions of power, and even­tu­ally set­tle the score for cen­turies of mis­treat­ment.

White na­tion­al­ists pushed back last year in Char­lottesvill­e, Vir­ginia, when a group of them clashed with pro­test­ers while chant­ing, “You will not re­place us.”

So­ci­ol­o­gists call it “cul­tural dis­place­ment.” It’s an anx­i­ety about be­ing marginal­ized and los­ing your place in line. It can be trig­gered by any­thing from pro­test­ers wav­ing the Mex­i­can flag, or a Span­ish-lan­guage bill­board, or hav­ing to “press one for English.”

But mostly, it is about fear of chang­ing de­mo­graph­ics. For many peo­ple, mak­ing Amer­ica great again means mak­ing it white again.

Ac­cord­ing to the Brook­ings In­sti­tu­tion, by 2045, whites will com­prise 49.9 per­cent of the U.S. pop­u­la­tion, com­pared with 24.6 per­cent for His­pan­ics, 13.1 per­cent for African-Amer­i­cans, 7.8 per­cent for Asians and 3.8 per­cent for mul­tira­cial pop­u­la­tions. In 2017, com­mu­ni­ties of color grew faster than white com­mu­ni­ties.

No won­der Fox News host Laura In­gra­ham sounded the alarm about “mas­sive de­mo­graphic changes (that) have been foisted upon the Amer­i­can peo­ple.”

Re­cently, The Wash­ing­ton Post pro­vided a sym­pa­thetic ear to white peo­ple who feel squeezed. And it earned crit­i­cism from the Na­tional As­so­ci­a­tion of His­panic Jour­nal­ists.

Ac­cord­ing to a state­ment the Post re­leased in re­sponse to the crit­i­cism, reporter Ter­rence McCoy’s story “cap­tured the per­spec­tive of those who feel dis­placed by de­mo­graphic change, by con­vey­ing what it is like for two white Amer­i­cans who must them­selves adapt to a new Amer­ica.”

The ar­ti­cle is set at a poul­try plant in Fred­er­icks­burg, Penn­syl­va­nia – pre­cisely the kind of hard, dirty and smelly job that Amer­i­cans usu­ally won’t do. There, we meet two ex­cep­tions – 20-year-old Heaven En­gle and her boyfriend, 25-year-old Ven­son Heim. They don’t speak Span­ish and don’t feel they have to learn it. They skipped col­lege and work in low-skilled jobs for $13-$17 per hour. And they’re both an­noyed that they’re sur­rounded by Latino co-work­ers who don’t speak much English.

“The ev­ery­day ex­pe­ri­ences that have long chal­lenged mil­lions of black, Latino and im­mi­grant Amer­i­cans – the strug­gle to un­der­stand and be un­der­stood, feel­ing unseen, fear of rapid judg­ments – were be­gin­ning to chal­lenge them, too,” McCoy writes.

En­gle and Heim are now, he writes, “com­ing to un­der­stand what it means to be out­num­bered.”

Gee. What does that feel like?

“I swear to God, if they don’t say any­thing in English, I’m go­ing to freak out,” En­gle said at one point of her Latino co­work­ers. When she hears one of them say the word “gringa,” she thinks they’re talk­ing about her. And they prob­a­bly are.

“They don’t give a rat’s ass about peo­ple with white skin,” Heim whined as he con­tem­plates a fu­ture where whites find them­selves in the mi­nor­ity and get paid back be­cause, as he told McCoy, “we haven’t been the nicest race.”

The NAHJ com­plained that the story was “in­com­plete” be­cause it didn’t in­clude the per­spec­tive of those Latino work­ers who are sup­pos­edly all over the chicken plant. NAHJ Pres­i­dent Hugo Balta said it con­trib­uted to “the po­lar­iza­tion of the Latino com­mu­nity as the oth­ers.”

That’s the least of the prob­lems with this story. Nu­ance, con­text and re­al­ity checks are valu­able. And if a news­pa­per is go­ing to play with cul­tural dy­na­mite, it ought to be more care­ful with it.

As for white folks who feel dis­placed, I want to help. As a Mex­i­can-Amer­i­can who has spent much of his life feel­ing like an out­sider, I can get you through this scary time. Here are five sur­vival tips:

Don’t see your­self as a vic­tim.

Con­front dis­crim­i­na­tion, and don’t let it de­rail your dreams.

Ex­pect un­fair­ness but take it in stride, work hard and per­se­vere.

Ac­cept that you have to be twice as good as those in the ma­jor­ity.

And when some­one tries to tell you “up” is “down” and when some­one feeds you non­sense, call them out on it.

Good luck. Stay strong.


White na­tion­al­ist Ja­son Kessler, cen­ter, walks to the White House to rally on the one-year an­niver­sary of the Char­lottesvill­e “Unite the Right” rally, Sun­day, Aug. 12, 2018, in Wash­ing­ton, D.C. In the back­ground is a pro­tester hold­ing a sign ref­er­enc­ing the woman who died in last year’s rally that says, “her name is Heather Heyer.”

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