By Michael Harriot
One of my favorite quotes comes from an episode of the “Joe Rogan Experience.” When asked why he thinks why poor white people would vote against their own economic interests, comedian Joe Rogan replied that it was the same reason people play the lottery.
“They have convinced them that ‘you’re not a loser. You’re a winner, who just hasn’t won yet.”
After the uprisings in Ferguson and Baltimore, mainstream media outlets jumped on an emerging lazy, groupthink trend and began labeling every instance of black incivility as part of the “Black Lives Matter” movement.” Instead of delving into the nuanced social, political and economic issues that protesters and activists sought to address, any time anyone with a drop of melanin in their skin raised their voice above a whisper about injustice, they were thrown on the heap of Bernie Sanders’ microphone grabbers and St. Louis molotov cocktail throwers. It was all all Black Lives Matter. Even if the person in question never uttered the phrase. Even if, like when Derrick Rose wore a shirt to protest Eric Garner’s death, they used a different hashtag. Even if, like Ashley Williams who interrupted a Hillary Clinton fundraiser, they had no particular affiliation with Black Lives Matter. If you are Black and make any microscopic move that might upset the status quo, you’re Black Lives Matter.
As the laws of physics and human nature dictate, the shift towards in-your-face demand for equality and fair treatment has sparked an equal and opposite reaction. At first it was a few lone voices. Then there was a rising chorus of complaints from the choir of White people feeling they have been marginalized. They weren’t winning any more. The disparate pockets of citizens filled with fear or anger about the treatment of the average white man have coalesced into a full-fledged crusade. Yes, White Lives Matter is a real thing.
Of course they don’t call it that.
The people at the forefront of the White Lives Matter movement find the phrase Black Lives Matter too divisive and disgusting to associate themselves with. You can be sure, however, the movement for Caucasian lives sprang from the same well of discontent and enmity that birthed Black Lives Matter. They are the oppressed, mad majority, for whom the progress of others feels like persecution. It feels like they’re losing, because they are so used to winning.
Perhaps the most ostentatious example of the White Lives Matter movement is the rise of Donald J Trump. Although the Republican party long ago morphed into the party of White America, it is within inches of selecting a brown-people-hating, wall-building billionaire as its Presidential nominee. Trump’s ascendence can be specifically tied to “white anger” about Mexicans taking their theoretical jobs and committing mythical rapes against white women. He is buoyed by boasts of unconstitutional Muslim bans and punchers of protesters clad in rebel flags. His dog-whistle message to his supporters on how he will Make America Great Again is crystal clear: He’s going to make America White again, because White Lives Matter.
After the troubling terrorist attacks in Brussels, Trump’s political opponent, soft-faced reptilian Ted Cruz joined the movement by insinuating that law enforcement officers should patrol Muslim neighborhoods and places of worship with increased scrutiny. Although he was roundly lambasted by rational thinkers, many people agreed that casting aside the constitutional freedoms of brown people is an inconsequential byproduct of keeping the rest of god-fearing, Jesus-worshipping America safe, because White Lives Matter.
To be clear, White Lives Matter is not a partisan movement. It is either liberal or conservative. It’s why Hillary Clinton can get a pass for calling on law enforcement to bring the violent, thug gangbangers “to heel.” It’s why she can call for solutions to mass incarcerations while still receiving bundled donations from private prisons. It’s why black and brown kids in Chicago have to hopscotch through dangerous gang turf rife with gun violence, but as soon a “troubled youth” shoots up any school in suburban America, we renew the calls for comprehensive gun control laws. Not enough police presence or fathers are the reasons for inner city violence but video games, missed counseling sessions and semiautomatic weapons are the reasons for the lighter shade of mass shootings. It’s the White Lives. They Matter.
White Lives Matter’s platform is clearly enunciated in the repeated phrases that filter from their adherents.. They want to take “their country back.” They want to return to “Christian values.” They are victims of the war on Christmas, political correctness traditional marriage and anything else that dissents from traditional majority convention The rhetoric is often the same, but it is often hides one thing:
The White Lives Matter believers fear Shariah Law, affirmative action, Spanish-speaking immigrants and transgender bathrooms because they have been boondoggled into believing those things are bad. They think they’re losing because for four centuries they have been so far ahead in the race they couldn’t see anyone when they looked over their shoulders. Billionaire opportunists like Trump and power-hungry political ladder sharks like Cruz, Clinton, et al turn that fear of losing into votes, campaign cash and talking points. White Lives Matter exists because they have been made to believe they’re entitled to some extra-American version of safety and liberty that the rest of us can’t access. The 1% have convinced them that —simply because they’re White–they are supposed to matter. They are supposed to win. The spectre of equality has them perplexed.
The reality is closer to the aim of the lottery, the words of Joe Rogan and the advice of the great, meta philosopher DJ Khaled:
They don’t want you to win.