America's Angriest White Men
January 24, 2015 6:53 PM   Subscribe

"A longtime feminist, Kimmel maintains a delicate balance when handling his sources. He wants to be sympathetic to the people he interviews and yet loyal to his academic principles. After a series of humbling recessions and other economic shifts, men like Rick feel emasculated and humiliated, he writes, 'betrayed by the country they love, discarded like trash on the side of the information superhighway.' Their sin, according to Kimmel, is a failure to adjust. These guys refuse to admit they’ve been handed privilege all these years by a world that puts white men on top. White men, he writes, 'have been running with the wind at our backs all these years,' and 'what we think of as ‘fairness’ to us has been built on the backs of others.' The New York Times reviews sociologist Michael Kimmel's 2013 book Angry White Men: American Masculinity at the End of an Era.

PBS has an interview with the author. You can read an excerpt from the book at Salon.com.
posted by quiet earth (70 comments total) 48 users marked this as a favorite
 
I am a white man who manages a team that does applied statistics and business strategy within a Fortune 50 firm.

Within my craft, starting in the early 90s, I have always been in the minority as a white guy. I was one of 5 Americans out of 125 in my graduate program.

Out of 7 people on my team, 6 were born outside of the US. The one other American on my team is a white man.

I have never known a time when I was not competing against the brightest minds of the world for jobs, recognition, and resources.

When the author refers to the "end of an era", who is it the end of an era for? I never experienced such an era.
posted by alacrity at 7:19 PM on January 24, 2015 [12 favorites]


That was a great interview. Thanks for posting it.
posted by ctmf at 7:20 PM on January 24, 2015


Perhaps he's not talking about people with the luxury of being in a 125 person graduate program or getting to compete against the brightest minds in the world. Maybe he's talking about you know, the majority of the country. Plumbers, lower level managers, etc. Jesus Christ, way to be the stereotypical white guy privilege denier in the very first comment.
posted by ctmf at 7:25 PM on January 24, 2015 [239 favorites]


alacrity: working with statistics, surely you're familiar with uneven distributions and sampling bias?
posted by adamsc at 7:27 PM on January 24, 2015 [113 favorites]


This description also doesn't match my very specific personal experience. Is it possible that alacrity and I are missing something?
posted by uosuaq at 7:28 PM on January 24, 2015 [7 favorites]


I am bemused.

The subtitle to the title: "Up close with small-town white rage, with bitter, scary men who feel left behind by economic and cultural change". Perhaps that will clarify things?
posted by Deoridhe at 7:29 PM on January 24, 2015 [6 favorites]


Any relation to the Jimmy Kimmel that used to co-host The Man Show with Adam Carolla? Because the demographic of that show was predominantly white and angry.
posted by Renoroc at 7:29 PM on January 24, 2015 [3 favorites]


I think this can't be said enough:

But the question for these, in my interviews, is what’s preventing you from having that life to which you are entitled?

Do you think it is Black women? Do you think that it’s Black women who have downsized you, who have outsourced your job, who have closed the factory? Do you think it’s lesbians and gays who are responsible for climate change? Do you think that it’s immigrants who have in many ways outsourced your job?

Of course not. Is it immigrants who are the predatory lenders? No. I think the men are right to be angry, but they’re delivering their mail to the wrong address.


You'll never convince them that they haven't been screwed out of the rewards they were promised if they played by the rules they were given. I just keep hoping it's possible to focus their wrath on the real enemy. It's not the black woman down the hall, it's the white guy in the "gated community".
posted by tyllwin at 7:33 PM on January 24, 2015 [57 favorites]


The Salon quotes reminds me of my own confusion with class in the US - and I think the racist and sexist atmosphere has done a lot to confuse class understanding - along with the reactive response to communism and socialism. I think of myself as middle class, but really I'm poor with a Master's Degree. The US ideal of "self-made man" tried to shake off the history of class as a function of parentage, but I think something more difficult to nail down but equally heritage-based grew up in it's wake, only we can't call it that because in the US you can be a self-made man.

There is a way in which my own confusion seems to bear a lot in common with the contradictory beliefs Kimmel talks about being held by these men: 'capitalism is good, and the minorities and the Jews stole their livelihood through underhanded means' for example. There is a way in which the words now bear so little resemblance to what is actually going on that I become very confused even trying to figure out how to approach talking about it.

“For generations, white middle class men defined themselves by their careers, believing that loyalty to employers would be rewarded by job security and, therefore, the ability to provide for their families” is the way one issue of Racial Loyalty (a racist skinhead magazine) puts it. “But the past decade—marked by an epidemic of takeovers, mergers, downsizings and consolidations—has shattered that illusion.”

Am I misremembering my history, or was this only a generation in the 50s? I thought the protections which allowed for a middle class began to die as the Labor movement was devalued in the 70s and 80s, and the generation of the 30s and 40s had the Great Depression and the War, both of which aren't known for their security - job or otherwise. I'm not too well read on the history of the last century, but my impression was that the 50s were a dream with a long shadow for the white Right Wing.
posted by Deoridhe at 7:52 PM on January 24, 2015 [16 favorites]


> "You'll never convince them that they haven't been screwed
> out of the rewards they were promised if they played by the
> rules they were given."

Heck, you'll never convince them that those promises were hollow to begin with.
Nor that business school teaches management by dangling hope for all as motivation, but allowing few if any to get what they hope for.
And you certainly won't convince them that "Just because you're on their side doesn't mean they're on your side."
posted by hank at 7:52 PM on January 24, 2015 [5 favorites]


they're delivering their mail to the wrong address

I think this is the crux, and is the thesis of "What's the Matter with Kansas?" There really are problems, but they're not caused by who you think.

I think this comment about James Bond and Jason Bourne is shockingly on the mark in so, so many ways.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 7:58 PM on January 24, 2015 [54 favorites]


I hadn't read that comment before, CPB, thanks for pointing to it.
posted by tyllwin at 8:13 PM on January 24, 2015 [5 favorites]


. When the author refers to the "end of an era", who is it the end of an era for? I never experienced such an era.

Are you really bad at your job, or just really bad at using those skills you have for work on the rest of your life?
posted by the agents of KAOS at 8:14 PM on January 24, 2015 [16 favorites]


Deoridhe, your comment about the "reactive response" to socialism and communism really made me think about the role of collective action in the US. I don't have a fully formed thesis here, but do have some random thoughts. It's okay when used to kill people of color (via the security services), and it's okay when it's done by by a businessman, corporation, or conservative politician running for office and asking for votes. It's okay to work for a company -- this is obviously collective action, at the behest of the owners/management. It's okay to be the owner/manager, directing collective action by subordinates. But it's not okay to work together with people in an egalitarian democratic organization. Not sure what this means exactly, just some thoughts on a Saturday night.
posted by wuwei at 8:37 PM on January 24, 2015 [13 favorites]


“For generations, white middle class men defined themselves by their careers, believing that loyalty to employers would be rewarded by job security and, therefore, the ability to provide for their families” is the way one issue of Racial Loyalty (a racist skinhead magazine) puts it. “But the past decade—marked by an epidemic of takeovers, mergers, downsizings and consolidations—has shattered that illusion.”

Am I misremembering my history, or was this only a generation in the 50s? I thought the protections which allowed for a middle class began to die as the Labor movement was devalued in the 70s and 80s, and the generation of the 30s and 40s had the Great Depression and the War, both of which aren't known for their security - job or otherwise. I'm not too well read on the history of the last century, but my impression was that the 50s were a dream with a long shadow for the white Right Wing.


I think a legitimate argument could be made that this sort of "career security" got its start as part of the Second industrial Revolution, which is to say as part of the growth of factories and heavy industry and production lines (and often as a direct result of labor organization), and then spread and expanded until it reached its height in the 50's. So the time period could be said to stretch from maybe even as early as the late 1800's until about 1980, depending on the kind of job you're talking about. The 50's were definitely the peak (and, yeah, the root of the nostalgic fantasy the right wing has been pushing for decades now), but I don't think it's unrealistic to put it in terms of "generations."

Plus, don't forget that generations overlap, it's not strictly father to son to grandson, so at any given time you've got at least 3 if not 4 generations in the workforce.
posted by soundguy99 at 8:37 PM on January 24, 2015 [7 favorites]


That type of career security over generations was for an incredibly small minority of the upper class, until the fifties when suddenly it seemed men who saw their own fathers and grandfathers struggle with insecure employment could aspire to the upper class themselves. Of course it was an illusion.

Interesting that a previous comment mentioned World War II and job insecurity. I was just at a funeral where a bunch of women were talking about how working in the munitions factories were the best years of their lives. They were productive, spent tonnes of time being naughty with their girl friends (including sneaking off to see the debris from the German u-boats coming up the St Lawrence) and lost their jobs solely because of their gender.
posted by saucysault at 8:56 PM on January 24, 2015 [20 favorites]


5 americans out of 125. 6 out of 7 on your team. And yet within those demographics we find that you the white male are the manager. Not an uncommon thing in fortune 50 firms. The white guys endIng up as the managers. As one talented white male manager who worked hard to get where he is to another, don't mistake difficulty for lack of privilege. You relate better to the other execs and managers because they are mostly white guys. It gave you a cultural leg up. It doesn't mean you arnt also smart and hard working, that the road wasn't difficult. It just is that you have a cultural connection by virtue of your American whiteness that gave you a little edge. And as casinos have shown a little edge over time can translate into a lot.
posted by humanfont at 9:07 PM on January 24, 2015 [47 favorites]


But it's not okay to work together with people in an egalitarian democratic organization

Most unions are not exactly as "egalitarian" or "democratic" as most people would like to believe.

Go ahead, join* the Teamsters. See how much your vote is worth.

* In many states, "get forced to to join as a condition of your employment." I've been jumped into street gangs with less aggressive tactics.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 9:23 PM on January 24, 2015 [3 favorites]


Go ahead, join* the Teamsters. See how much your vote is worth.

Go ahead, buy a share of GOOG. See how much your vote is worth.

Hey, I can do this too!
posted by tonycpsu at 9:28 PM on January 24, 2015 [15 favorites]


I'm really astonished by that interview - this man is an academic sociologist?
Well, I guess he can do what he likes if he has tenure, and this stuff sells.

Speaking as a non-white, non-American sociology/cultural studies major (but a male), Kimmel seems to me much more part of the problem than part of the solution
posted by Bwithh at 9:33 PM on January 24, 2015 [4 favorites]


How so?
posted by ctmf at 9:39 PM on January 24, 2015 [1 favorite]


Humanfont, an Asian woman is my manager and her boss is female, reporting to the CEO.... no this doesn't "prove" anything but I do think the modern corporate millieu is extremely competitive and does not assume "white maleness" as a default.

This said, I agree that the fact that I was American and white made it easier to get into graduate school and get the jobs that I did.

The phenomenon that Kimmel describes is real. I lived for a good portion of my life in the Midwest and know both men and women (mainly from small towns) that have the inconsolable anger that he describes. And not all of these people are white.

In my experience, they do not blame people of other races or even the "white guy in the gated community" for their dispossession.

They realize that it is their own elected leaders who have done this to them, by structuring policy so that middle and working class job security, was undermined. They understand that they have been lied to by their supposed leaders, and that the two parties are indistinguishable on many aspects of policy, despite the divergence in rhetoric.

They are angry that they are being pushed down into peasant status, and that this is deliberate.

I saw the writing on the wall many years ago and decided to specialize my way into a modicum of security.

My view is that this anger will intensify, and will lead to outright social dysfunction in 15-20 years, if not sooner. It's a mistake to describe it as a "white" issue although its constituents may be predominantly white and male.
posted by alacrity at 9:43 PM on January 24, 2015 [9 favorites]


In my experience, they do not blame people of other races or even the "white guy in the gated community" for their dispossession

They realize that it is their own elected leaders who have done this to them, by structuring policy so that middle and working class job security, was undermined.


Could you give some examples of elected leaders structuring policy in this way where it didn't redound to the benefit of white guys in gated communities?
posted by tonycpsu at 9:48 PM on January 24, 2015 [4 favorites]


From the article:
These men may have once run with the wind at their backs, but the air has been dead still for a long time.

The reviewer is still missing the fundamental point. Life is not easy for the guys Kimmel's talking about--but if you turned their skin color brown tomorrow they'd suddenly find life a hell of a lot harder.
posted by schroedinger at 9:54 PM on January 24, 2015 [12 favorites]


>Could you give some examples of elected leaders structuring policy in this way where it didn't redound to the benefit of white guys in gated communities?

Of course it did, but it benefited the entire upper middle class (not exclusively white or male).

Charles Murray gets it
posted by alacrity at 9:56 PM on January 24, 2015


Go ahead, buy a share of GOOG. See how much your vote is worth.

If I choose to buy a share of GOOG, I get to sell it. Hooray capitalism!

If I choose to join a union ... Well, let's be honest, most of the time you don't get to choose ... So, hooray? I suppose? Better wages, better hours? Kinda? Better than without? I guess this made sense in the 30s? But, whoops, they went on strike and I got nothing. So, boo capitalism?

At least if I buy a share of GOOG, I might make some money along with Larry and Sergey.

But if I join a union, only one group makes money:

Labor attorneys.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 10:00 PM on January 24, 2015 [2 favorites]


They understand that they have been lied to by their supposed leaders, and that the two parties are indistinguishable on many aspects of policy, despite the divergence in rhetoric.

That's a fair personal observation, I guess, but it's 180 degrees out of my own experience. I know a lot of these people, too. And no, not all the angry people are white men. I think Kimmel makes a great point I never really thought much about. If you see it as a class thing like you're talking about, you get what you say you're seeing.

In my experience, though, white people disproportionately latch onto the victim competition thing and become deeply resentful of the people who don't look like them, while seeing their shit-stirring Republican politicians as saviors (if the lib'ruls would stop sabotaging them) instead of the ones that put them where they are.
posted by ctmf at 10:03 PM on January 24, 2015 [1 favorite]


Cool Papa Bell, nobody can force you to join a union. (At least not in the U.S.)

There are some workplaces where the employer and the union have agreed to make union membership (or nearly the equivalent) a condition of employment. But nobody can force you to work at those places, either.
posted by univac at 10:06 PM on January 24, 2015 [6 favorites]


Charles Murray gets it

No, he doesn't.

Specifically, what he doesn't get is that the "civic culture" that he claims was the strength of the nation - to quote;
"When Americans used to brag about "the American way of life"—a phrase still in common use in 1960—they were talking about a civic culture that swept an extremely large proportion of Americans of all classes into its embrace. It was a culture encompassing shared experiences of daily life and shared assumptions about central American values involving marriage, honesty, hard work and religiosity."
was a civic culture that really only applied to white males. He even acknowledges this, in a way, in the first paragraph, where he tosses of a "for whites, anyway" aside. Completely missing the point that "for whites" is a big fucking deal that leaves out an enormous number of actual American human beings, not a minor quibble that you just note in passing.
posted by soundguy99 at 10:13 PM on January 24, 2015 [40 favorites]


That's what I meant, that union membership is a requirement to take a job. Sure, you could choose to get a different job, but this is often very onerous for an individual.

Try to get a public school teaching job in California, for example, without getting the super hard sell. Now what's your alternative? Moving out of state?
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 10:17 PM on January 24, 2015 [1 favorite]


Point being, unions aren't the answer to the question of the angry white man.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 10:18 PM on January 24, 2015


alacrity: Of course it did, but it benefited the entire upper middle class (not exclusively white or male).

Nobody said the upper middle class is exclusively white, but at 73% white (compared to 57% white in the lowest quintile) it's certainly the case that whites benefit more from the policies you're talking about than non-whites. And I'm sure you're familiar with charts like this that show that the top quintile isn't really getting much of the gains, it's the top 1% and even the top 0.01% who are really doing well.

Charles Murray gets it

unsubscribe
posted by tonycpsu at 10:18 PM on January 24, 2015 [24 favorites]


I'd like to thank Cool Papa Bell for demonstrating the kind of simplistic and short-sighted economic pseudo-analysis that helps to create the Angry White Man.

Point being, unions aren't the answer to the question of the angry white man.

History, you oughta read some.
posted by soundguy99 at 10:22 PM on January 24, 2015 [21 favorites]


Cool Papa Bell, where does it say that you are guaranteed the job you want in a union-free environment?

There are other people who matter besides yourself, and in your example of (public school, presumably) teachers in California, a majority have decided that union membership should be required of everyone receiving the benefits of collective bargaining. Democracy means you may not get to impose your personal preferences on everyone else, and that includes workplace democracy.
posted by univac at 10:25 PM on January 24, 2015 [3 favorites]


Point being, unions aren't the answer to the question of the angry white man.

Go ahead and point me at the spurious correlations blog if you like, but I'd like some alternative explanation for this and this, and that's to say nothing of things like the 40-hour work week, safer working conditions, etc. that unquestionably would have never happened without unions.
posted by tonycpsu at 10:27 PM on January 24, 2015 [21 favorites]


an Asian woman is my manager and her boss is female, reporting to the CEO.... no this doesn't "prove" anything but I do think the modern corporate millieu is extremely competitive and does not assume "white maleness" as a default

If it doesn't "prove" anything, why are you trotting it out as some kind of example of how the modern corporate milieu operates?

Not only are you entirely without basis in extrapolating your personal experience out to larger social patterns, but this is simply a variation on the intellectually feeble Friend Argument.
posted by soundguy99 at 10:40 PM on January 24, 2015 [5 favorites]


soundguy99, because it was pointed out that I am a white male, and the manager of a team, as if there is a causal relationship.
posted by alacrity at 10:47 PM on January 24, 2015 [2 favorites]


Nearly every employer favors white men in management, unless you have some other explanation for the lack of women and minorities in middle and upper management positions.
posted by tonycpsu at 10:53 PM on January 24, 2015 [10 favorites]


In Michigan, even GOP state reps get recalled if they screw with the teachers union.

I call this one the 'Gran Whaagon'

Shits in our politics folks.
posted by clavdivs at 11:01 PM on January 24, 2015


In Michigan, even GOP state reps get recalled if they screw with the teachers union.

Why do you hate democracy?
posted by tonycpsu at 11:03 PM on January 24, 2015


Any relation to the Jimmy Kimmel that used to co-host The Man Show with Adam Carolla? Because the demographic of that show was predominantly white and angry.

Were they angry? I thought they were drunk.
posted by michaelh at 11:06 PM on January 24, 2015 [1 favorite]


This is true, Tony, but it's an ecological fallacy to assume that my situation is the result of it.

I don't want this discussion thread to be about me, despite my first comment being a personal note.

Perhaps the decline is union membership is significant in explaining income inequality. I'm curious how unions could adapt to the modern economy, in which "management analysts" as a job title are expected to grow by 19% (faster than population growth) over the next decade, when "tool and die makers" are expected to grow by 7% (slower) in the same time period.
posted by alacrity at 11:08 PM on January 24, 2015 [1 favorite]


So, is this book any good, or is it just more of Kimmel taking a dump on easy targets?
posted by borges at 11:08 PM on January 24, 2015 [1 favorite]


Agreed with alacrity's experience, except I'd say they tend to blame Democrats more often than both parties in the midwest (but both parties more than ever due to the increasing percentage of voters identifying as independent.)
posted by michaelh at 11:16 PM on January 24, 2015


This is true, Tony, but it's an ecological fallacy to assume that my situation is the result of it.

You edited your comment while I was responding in a way that changed the meaning. The idea that you personally are in a management position because you're a white guy is not something I'm arguing. However, in aggregate, we white guys benefit, and ceteris paribus, will do better than women and racial minorities with the same merit. This is the thesis you were arguing against with your personal anecdote, so while I can understand why you'd now want to shift away from that personal story when the stats tell a different story, I don't think it's very sporting of you. If your lived experience was good enough to make blanket statements, you shouldn't shy away from it when confronted with larger societal trends.

I'm curious how unions could adapt to the modern economy, in which "management analysts" as a job title are expected to grow by 19% (faster than population growth) over the next decade, when "tool and die makers" are expected to grow by 7% (slower) in the same time period.

Is this the ridiculous "unions are only for tradesmen" argument? Do teachers swing a hammer?
posted by tonycpsu at 11:18 PM on January 24, 2015 [19 favorites]


Why do you hate democracy?
posted by tonycpsu

I love democracy as indicated by my example. I'm curious as what led you to your conclusion. Is recalling a GOP politican from a GOP community some breach democratic ideals? Where are you heading with this accusation?
posted by clavdivs at 11:32 PM on January 24, 2015


alacrity: "Charles Murray gets it"

Charles Murray is a racist who has consistently argued that poverty is genetic and that people in certain racial groups are (these are his words) "born lazy."

Not only does Charles Murray not get it - Charles Murray says almost the opposite of what I think you're trying to say, which is that the workforce in the US is diverse from top to bottom. Murray has argued that white people succeed because - to put it bluntly - white people are better at succeeding.

Do you really want to tie your horse to that post?
posted by koeselitz at 11:35 PM on January 24, 2015 [36 favorites]


"Point being, unions aren't the answer to the question of the angry white man."

The successful war waged against organized labor in the US over the last thirty years has been the driving force behind wage stagnation. But the right-wing propaganda machine has been so effective for so long at demonizing unions, that even your average liberal or progressive will look anywhere and everywhere else to lay the blame.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 12:15 AM on January 25, 2015 [38 favorites]


Unions make it difficult to believe that everything you value, from your email-fielding, what's-our-takeaway-meeting job to the sports team you cheered to the super bowl to the oxygen you breathe (produced, of course, by trees on your suburban lot)--all these things, and many millions more, enrich your life because of your smarts and general awesomeness.

Which, if you're insecure, small-minded, envious and maybe Peter-principled in most of your endeavors, is terrifying.
posted by maxwelton at 12:30 AM on January 25, 2015 [4 favorites]


But nobody can force you to work at those places, either.
posted by univac


Nobody can force you to work anywhere. Nobody can force you to work at all. Nobody can force you to eat, or stay out of the rain, or keep your children out of the rain. Hey! Who needs unions?! Perhaps it's a generational thing, I don't know. But all the people I know who are my age and financially comfortable owe it to unions. If not their union, their parent's or grandparents. Then again, I don't get out much.
posted by carping demon at 12:45 AM on January 25, 2015 [6 favorites]




I have never known a time when I was not competing against the brightest minds of the world for jobs, recognition, and resources.

22,000 children die preventable deaths from poverty every day. About 16% of people, no matter their personal brilliance, never have the opportunity to learn to read, let alone apply to a university or job at a Fortune 50 company.

the modern corporate millieu is extremely competitive and does not assume "white maleness" as a default.

White men are overrepresented in the demographics of corporate America compared to the demographics of America as a whole. This overrepresentation increases as you go up the corporate ladder (here's an example of corporate demography showing this trend). By the time you get to the board chair in the Fortune 500, 93.5% are white men.
posted by amery at 12:57 AM on January 25, 2015 [22 favorites]


So not into the "earned" "working" good poor people framework as the structure for public policy
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 1:05 AM on January 25, 2015 [1 favorite]


Over the last three decades, professional class white men have seen massive gains, while working class white men have seen massive losses.

And yet here we are talking about professionals and their plight. It's almost as if there's a systematic effort to use race solidarity to cover over real and pernicious class differences to the benefit of the upper class members of the race.
posted by anotherpanacea at 6:22 AM on January 25, 2015 [13 favorites]


The successful war waged against organized labor in the US over the last thirty years has been the driving force behind wage stagnation. But the right-wing propaganda machine has been so effective for so long at demonizing unions, that even your average liberal or progressive will look anywhere and everywhere else to lay the blame.
I don't want to downplay the significance of the direct propaganda campaign but I think it's also important to recognize that it's not all propaganda: as the sense of besiegement grows, the unions have caused a lot of self-inflicted damage defending stupid policies and bad apples which has hurt their reputation with the middle-class workers they most need as members. I think much of this is because of the constant high-pressure smear campaign but there's also a lot of it which to me seems simply to be poor, complacent leadership.

Our local (DC) public sector unions (e.g. teachers, transit workers) have this pathological tendency to defend bad actors in ways which link the reputation of the union to the workers in question. Almost every time someone gets fired, the rhetoric in the press is about how they're being unfairly targeted by malicious anti-union managers – and then, when it's proven that they were in fact stealing, having sex with students, etc. all of that contributes to the image of the union as a quasi-gang. It'd be so much better if the official position was “Everyone is entitled to a fair and just hearing, which is why we provide legal representation to our members” but I think they've been embattled for so long that the assumption is simply that if you're not already a supporter, you never will be.

The local subway (WMATA) maintenance workers have an even better way to smear their union: the escalator technicians are allowed to pick their job assignments every six months by seniority and the most senior people are notorious for picking the best-maintained spots so they can take it easy for six months and move on before anything major breaks. Great for them but now that this has become public knowledge, it means that the public face of the union seen every day by thousands of people are the many out-of-service escalators. Similarly, the station managers, bus drivers, etc. are notoriously unconcerned with customer service – with some pleasant but infrequent exceptions – and that bit them the last time they were negotiating and saw very little public support.

As a dues-paying member of a guild, this disappoints me because I can personally see the way my reps have improved our working conditions in ways which don't hurt productivity or look like unfair collusion to anyone outside. I wish more workers could enjoy similar representation but I don't see that happening without a major strategic improvement by union leaders.
posted by adamsc at 6:37 AM on January 25, 2015 [6 favorites]


univac: "Cool Papa Bell, nobody can force you to join a union. (At least not in the U.S.)

There are some workplaces where the employer and the union have agreed to make union membership (or nearly the equivalent) a condition of employment. But nobody can force you to work at those places, either.
"

Here's how it works on the factory side of the company I work at, which is one of 2 "middle classy" places to work within a 60 mile radius (I'm told the other one is worse):

you go apply, and get a job to be a machinist, or a drafter, or assembler. at this point you decline membership in the local UAW branch. That's cool. You get the hard sell for a while, but still decline. Your name then goes up on the union-controlled, locked bulletin board in the "Scabs List", which is the signal that you're not a team player and therefore you can be fucked with without repercussions. Your food, Your workstation, and your car are all fair game for whatever nasty shit someone would want to do to it. everything you do is done under a microscope, and any minor fuck up on your part will be written up and/or have a grievance filed.

Illegal? sure, but who are you going to complain to, and how are you going to prove it? cameras and recording devices of any kind aren't allowed by union (and company) policy.

so, yeah it's not all propaganda.
posted by ArgentCorvid at 6:55 AM on January 25, 2015 [4 favorites]


This line -- from Tavis Smiley's interview with Kimmel -- is one I'll be reflecting on: "Without confronting men’s sense of entitlement, we won’t understand what motivates their sense of anger.” I also appreciate the label of "aggrieved entitlement." Watching how Limbaugh and others manipulate and direct that set of emotions is upsetting. Thanks, quiet earth, interesting stuff.
posted by MonkeyToes at 7:37 AM on January 25, 2015 [6 favorites]


If I choose to join a union ... Well, let's be honest, most of the time you don't get to choose ... So, hooray? I suppose? Better wages, better hours? Kinda? Better than without?

Depends on the union. SUNY is unionized in the "You can either join the union and pay dues or not join the union and pay it a representation fee that's the same as dues" way. Because of the union, I get

*Free vision care, with a new set of specs every year, for the whole fambly, and at retirement it changes to a small premium
*Free dental for the whole fambly
*Free life insurance
*Union reps monitor tenure cases and the like looking for higher-ups fucking with people and step in when fucking-with is detected
*COLAs and raise pools are set for the next few years instead of hearing the dean or provost say "Well, I spent a lot of money on a dipshit trophy building/program/whatever to build my career path towards being president somewhere else, so nobody gets any raises this year after all."

So, yeah, better than without. Loads better than without.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:38 AM on January 25, 2015 [11 favorites]


Importantly, you're much more likely to have a union of you're a professional with a college degree than if you're a worker with a high school degree or less. So again unionization issues aren't directly relevant to the resentments of working class whites.

Unions are basically another privilege of whiteness that they don't get.
posted by anotherpanacea at 7:56 AM on January 25, 2015 [3 favorites]


at this point you decline membership in the local UAW branch. That's cool. You get the hard sell for a while, but still decline.

Are you, at this point, enjoying the benefits of the collective bargaining agreement that the union negotiated? Or are you working 14 hour days and weekends for straight pay, getting charged for your tools, getting sent home without pay if they find out they fucked up the schedule and have one too many people, getting jerked from night shift to day shift on a whim, having to work extra hours but getting told you'd better not put that on your time card... I could go on.

I can't say I feel that bad for you, son. The worst thing ever done to unions was the rule that the bargaining agreement had to apply to all employees, even if they aren't union members. Why would anyone join the union and risk having to do the hard part, when you can be a free rider and still get the benefits?
posted by ctmf at 8:16 AM on January 25, 2015 [14 favorites]


And I say this as a management person. A strong union is what helps ME resist when someone above me gets the urge to be shitty to the workers. The union and the workers never even see this part, the "uh, that's not going to go over big with the union. You really want to go there?" conversation that nips a lot of shit in the bud.

Now that you mention it, though, it would be handy if I could then say, "but ArgentCorvid isn't in the union. You could screw him over and nobody would say shit about it."
posted by ctmf at 8:22 AM on January 25, 2015 [25 favorites]


Within my craft, starting in the early 90s, I have always been in the minority as a white guy. I was one of 5 Americans out of 125 in my graduate program.

Out of 7 people on my team, 6 were born outside of the US. The one other American on my team is a white man.


This comment really struck me. First of all, alacrity, thanks for contributing your experience. I don't think you deserved the pile-on you got in this thread with people questioning your competence.

What really struck me is that even 25 years ago, the situation was much like today, where the vast majority of students in quantitative fields are ethnic minorities.

To give some context, I work in the financial industry. I've recently been hiring for a somewhat quantitative position - not at all hardcore PhD quant, but requiring some math/stats background. I've gone through probably 300+ resumes. ~80-90% of the applicants are non-white with quantitative degrees (e.g. mathematics, engineering), of which probably 90% are Asian, maybe 70% are male and probably 90% are foreign nationals. ~10% are white men with a non-quantitative degree (e.g. business, finance). A few (maybe 1%) were white men with a quantitative degree, most of whom were French nationals. 0% are white females.

In other words, of the US citizens that applied and had the necessary background, almost all of them were non-white.

This experience got me thinking that if white Americans, for whatever reason, are just unwilling or uninterested in quantitative/STEM degrees, then maybe in a few decades the power dynamics in these industries will have changed, with 2nd generation immigrants in senior management.

But alacrity says it was like this 25 years ago!! And if you look at most companies in the US - especially banks - senior management is almost exclusively white men. This in spite of the fact that the vast majority of qualified talent these days is non-white.

What humanfont says is very true. "You relate better to the other execs and managers because they are mostly white guys. It gave you a cultural leg up. "
I myself am a 2nd-generation Asian-American and even though I speak perfect English and consider myself an American, I find it very difficult to fit in to the white male culture in finance. My parents never watched sports or encouraged me to play sports, so I have zero interest or knowledge of it. Yet my colleagues spend all day obsessing over fantasy football or "deflategate" or Lebron moving teams, and talk about getting their 4-year olds signed up for peewee baseball. Their professional networks are their former teammates on the varsity lacrosse team or fraternity brothers or a family friend from "the next town over."

If you are a white guy who grew up on Long Island and played varsity sports in college, you have a HUGE leg up in the finance world by virtue of having something in common with 80-90% of the industry and probably having a personal connection through sports or a fraternity. Again, that isn't to say people don't work hard - they do. But the truth is people like to hire people that they like. Most of this stuff can be taught. And when these people get jobs, they either hire their friends or give business to their friends.
posted by karakumy at 8:57 AM on January 25, 2015 [21 favorites]


Blue collar work also is no longer home only to those with a high school degree or less. I've worked on factory floors with plenty of people who've spent some years in colleges and universities trying to find a better chance. Trade apprenticeships pass through the college system. All men I know who work non-professional jobs have very different attitudes (not perfect, but certainly improved) to raising children and household tasks than my father's generation. Seem to be doing working class white men a great disservice if you're looking to understand them with examples of men's rights nuts and psychos who run around with guns.

I don't know if all resentment is directed at women and minorities who are looking for their opportunity so much as it is at the decision makers who decide who will get the chance. People who are of a leftist bent here might want that resentment aimed at the 1% capitalists, but it seems more likely to land on the bureaucrats, managers, and rule-makers, the people a few rungs up from them. On people they can see and hear who they imagine are protecting their own position. Not entirely misdirected.

Privilege seems a word now flipped around academia like a frisbee on the quad. But the privilege of anyone who has found their place in academia seems light years beyond someone whose family has been working the line for two-three generations and now feels even that slipping away. Autonomy, respect, security, status, travel, conferences. Plus, I've known a couple old semi-retired (holding fast to whatever privileges of the job they had) professors nostalgic for the days when they had their run of the undergraduates who have tell-it-like-it-is streaks that could raise eyebrows on the factory floor.
posted by TimTypeZed at 9:03 AM on January 25, 2015 [3 favorites]


clavdivs: I love democracy as indicated by my example. I'm curious as what led you to your conclusion. Is recalling a GOP politican from a GOP community some breach democratic ideals? Where are you heading with this accusation?

My apologies -- I guess I just misinterpreted your line about unions being the reason for the recall as an attack on them. "Powerful union subverts democratic process" is a well-worn trope of anti-union sentiment, and if that's not how your post was intended, then it's totally my bad.
posted by tonycpsu at 9:10 AM on January 25, 2015


Try to get a public school teaching job in California, for example, without getting the super hard sell. Now what's your alternative? Moving out of state?

That school teacher position in California wouldn't be worth a bag of used up erasers if there wasn't a union. And in that case you surely would not be interested in trying to get such a job.
posted by notreally at 10:02 AM on January 25, 2015 [4 favorites]


Sometimes it’s difficult to tell how mainstream a phenomenon Kimmel is describing.

It sounds like he's doing a kind of hostile participant anthropology of some criminal and right extremist groups. I don't see any reason at all to believe the generalizations about not-thus-affiliated white men he pulls out of that project.
posted by batfish at 6:59 PM on January 25, 2015 [1 favorite]


Perhaps he's not talking about people with the luxury of being in a 125 person graduate program

Yeah, this article is about how it's a shame there aren't enough women in the coal mines.
posted by Drinky Die at 9:52 PM on January 25, 2015


On the subject of entitlement and violence: Running amok. Toward the end of the second section, the essay turns toward the topic of what mass shooters have in common:
These include antisocial traits, depressed mood, recent loss, and a perception that others are to blame for their problems. And herein lies the rub – while this kind of profile implies that mental illness could be an important risk factor, what we’re really talking about are negative emotions, poor coping mechanisms and life stressors that are experienced by the vast majority of us at one time or another. These risk factors are not necessarily the domain of mental illness, but rather the ‘psychiatry of everyday life’.
...
As a matter of speculation, perhaps the promotion of unconditional self‑esteem of children in more affluent family structures instills a kind of entitlement that helps to explain why mass murder is primarily a crime carried out by white males. When the happiness and social status that one feels is deserved is not forthcoming, feelings of peer rejection, resentment and blame can become all-consuming.
The section on amok reminded me immediately of this old comment from AceRock -- Steven Pinker, on amok as "deliverance from an unbearable situation."

Bottom line: "But it does mean that we should reach out to those who have fallen away from mainstream society, bringing them back to the herd before they come to see only a single, deadly alternative." It's an interesting question -- what kind of connection will reach those on the brink because they believe they have failed to achieve what they see as the only ways to feel like they have a place in American culture and society?
posted by MonkeyToes at 6:18 AM on January 28, 2015 [1 favorite]






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