Friday, January 22, 2016

Privileged but dying of despair?

In my last post I criticised the views of a Christian "conservative," David Mills. He believes that all white Americans are privileged; he quotes approvingly the idea that white privilege is "a life-easing level of advantage that comes with just being Caucasian in America, no matter what your wealth, gender or any other status."

One of my readers pointed out in a comment that, amongst other things, this ignores the issue of class. There are signs that working-class white Americans are struggling:
Class also gets ignored. Recent studies have shown extraordinary increases in death rates among white working class American men. Their lack of privilege is literally killing them. Why don't Christian conservatives express any concern about this?

I checked this out and my reader is correct - there has been an extraordinary rise in mortality rates for middle-aged white Americans (both male and female), especially for those who do not have university education.

Late last year The Atlantic ran a story on this titled "Middle-Aged White Americans are dying of despair". It is as if a terrible epidemic had struck this population group:
“half a million people are dead who should not be dead,” Angus Deaton, the 2015 Nobel laureate in economics and co-author of the paper, told The Washington Post. “About 40 times the Ebola stats. You’re getting up there with HIV-AIDS.”

Half a million white Americans in the 45 to 54 age group have died prematurely. In the meantime, mortality rates have continued to improve for black and Hispanic Americans in the same demographic. Hispanic Americans have a vastly better (i.e. lesser) middle-aged mortality rate than do white Americans.

Why? The Atlantic puts it down to despair amongst this group - middle-aged, working-class white Americans are dying of despair. How then can they be enjoying a "life-easing level of advantage" when they are dying at a faster rate than other groups?


  1. Unlike other groups in US society white males have no excuse for failure, and no political groups or leaders to rally around.

    If you are a white American male and your life goes badly, you have no one else to blame - you were born into a privileged group, you are bought up to believe than you will succeed if you work hard and adopt a positive attitude, and successful whites consider you to be white trash.

  2. Well, one explanation I have seen on left-leaning sites is that the despair is due to whites' impending loss of "privilege" as America becomes less white. It's often said with a superficial air of sympathy, but at the same time carrying the implication that the less-educated whites in question are just a bunch of mean old racists who are finally getting their just deserts for their unearned racial privilege. Infuriating, but that's how the resolve the seeming contradiction you point out.

    1. Yes, Salon took this approach:

      The author claims that white American workers believed that they would get ahead by exploiting non-whites, and now that this isn't possible they have become disillusioned.

    2. If you take away the liberal bias of the Salon writer, she does raise some good issues. For instance, she notes that previous generations of workers were able to assume a gradual improvement in their material conditions of life, but not the current generation who may find themselves worse off than their parents. She notes too that upper-class whites can base their identity on class status, but that this is less of an option for poorer whites, who are more likely to feel the loss of racial identity.

  3. 'White Supremacy': just means White people control their lives, their society, their identity and their future as Whites.

    Ending 'White Supremacy': just means this man (and the state) controls your life, your future and everything..... and forever.