As we slouch away from 2016, a year roundly regarded as one of the worst in recent memory, the folks at MTV News have snuck in at the last moment to make it just a little bit worse. In a video segment called “2017 Resolutions for White Guys,” the one-time music network doubles down on the identity politics parade of horribles that helped create the division and discontent of the current American body politic.
I’ve written before about how progressive targeting of white men for special attacks that would never be launched at anyone else is backfiring badly. I tried to present a nuanced argument about why we should expect a backlash (or whitelash, if you prefer) to this anti-white rhetoric. Now I’d like to put it more bluntly. Just stop it. It’s not working, it’s making things worse, and it’s not clear, beyond click revenue, why this dead horse is still being beaten.
Before examining what the creators of this snarky but unfunny list of the white man’s ills think they are achieving, let’s look at the segment itself, point by point.
Resolved: White Guys Suck
The first resolution is to “Try to recognize that America was never great for anyone who wasn’t a white guy.” Let’s forget about the experiences of millions of non-white immigrants who found freedom and opportunity in the United States. They don’t count. Those who were fleeing repressive and deadly regimes in Africa, Central America, and Asia should probably have just stayed where they were.
I mean sure, they escaped killing fields and death squads, but they wound up in a place where their native foods are regularly appropriated and even their styles of dress are sometimes used in Halloween costumes. If we really want to curb illegal immigration, we should make it clear what an awful place America is, and explain why no person of color or woman should want to come here. The takeaway is that America sucks, and it sucks because of white guys.
Next up, we all should agree that “Black Lives Matter isn’t the opposite of All Lives Matter and that Blue Lives Matter isn’t a thing.” I actually have some sympathy for this one, and have argued that we need to think and act specifically in regard to the unique challenges that face black Americans.
But when someone says, “Hey, don’t all lives matter?” The useful response is to say, “Of course, but we are looking at something specific here.” Instead the usual response is “Shut up, you racist!” Furthermore, when the Black Lives Matter movement comes out with proposals like abolishing the police, they make it hard for any reasonable person to take them seriously.
Speaking of police, 2016 has seen at least 64 police officers shot and killed in the line of duty. While not a record, it well above the average for the past 10 years. In some instances these officers were targeted simply for being police. If you don’t like the phrase Blue Lives Matter, don’t use it. But don’t mock what is a serious, tragic problem in our country.
Third: “Stop bragging about being woke.” This resolution might be the best tip-off to whom this segment is aimed at. That’s because there is not a single white guy in the world who uses the word “woke” without laughing who isn’t already a progressive.
I know white guys like this, mostly in the theater world. These are white guys who support the Jubilee 2020 effort to ban plays by straight, white men from the nation’s stages in 2020. They happily agree to forgo opportunities for themselves, gladly saying they want to listen more and talk less.
I think this stuff is foolish nonsense, but they don’t. They are what are known as “allies.” For their trouble, they are mocked by MTV. This is because no matter the level of their progressive piety, they can never truly be absolved of the sin of being white guys.
Another resolution: “Learn what mansplaining is and stop doing it.” I am man. I enjoy explaining things. I choose not to treat women like precious snowflakes that fall apart in the face of the raw power of my masculine skills of exposition. Most women I know are tough enough to take it and give it back.
The next one is just for judges. It urges them not to prioritize Ivy League rapists over the women they raped. Hear, hear. But let’s save a little room to condemn the white guys who run Rolling Stone for publishing lies about rapes that never happened.
Number six isn’t so much a resolution as it is a statement. We are told that Beyoncé is black so of course she cares about black issues. On the other hand we (we being white guys) can have Kanye West. We know that Kanye does not care about black issues because he met with Donald Trump. So, I guess MTV is saying we decide who is and isn’t black not based on skin color but on having the right political views. At least this explains how Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas got left out of the Smithsonian’s African American Museum.
The final resolution is to understand that people with black friends should not say they have black friends, and that you can have black friends and still be racist. This reminded me another recent video from The New York Times called “The Life Changing Magic of Hanging Out.” The Times video argues that friendships that cross racial lines do, in fact, reduce the effects of implicit bias. So I think the message here is that it’s good to have black friends, but you shouldn’t ever mention them and yes, you still suck.
Cut Out the Political Masturbation, Ya’ll
On its face this MTV video would seem to be directed at white guys like me, or even worse, white guys who voted for Trump. But as we see from resolution three, this isn’t really the case. Nobody who made this video actually expects some guy in his American Eagle sweatshirt and University of Virginia baseball cap to say “Ooooooohhh, now I get it!” So who is being targeted here? And why?
The answer is pretty clearly other progressives. This video’s reinforcement of the progressive bubble serves a few purposes. The first is just money. MTV brass knows this stuff gets clicks, and gets guys like to me to write about it, causing more clicks. On a slow day you can always order up another hot take on how awful white dudes are and expect a nice little click bounce.
But this doesn’t explain why the creators of the video, who presumably think they are doing some kind of good, continue to choose this approach. It also doesn’t explain why progressives who are not in the employ of MTV choose to pass it around. One friend has suggested to me that this is very much like a public prayer or profession of faith. It is not evangelical, it does not really try to bring new people into the fold, but rather is affirmative. It is a way of ensuring that those already on your side keep the faith and are not tempted by other ideas.
Being an Ass Provokes a Dangerous Response
This is ultimately what makes every iteration of “white guys are terrible” so dangerous. Not only does it calcify progressives’ holier-than thou attitudes, it pours gasoline on the fire of real racism in our society.
A fellow writer, who urged me to expand on my work regarding the effects of anti-white rhetoric, directed me to a Twitter account recently. I won’t link it, because it is horrible, but it has 260,000 followers and when it isn’t tweeting out alt-right manifestos and memes about white genocide, it is tweeting out videos like MTV’s resolutions for white guys.
Racists take this stuff and throw it in the face of a young white guy who doesn’t think our society is a big rock candy mountain made for his enjoyment. Too often that young white guy’s reaction is, “Yeah, screw these people.”
Can conservatives and white people in general do a better job dealing with race? Yes, and I’ve written as much. But videos like this one mocking and lecturing white men make that project much more difficult. So just stop. The creators of this video can’t possibly believe they are swaying anyone to their side. They need to wake up and realize that they are swaying people to the other side. And that is terrible for all of us.