A critique of power is not critique of identity

If you have had the misfortune to hear a talk by Milo Yiannopoulos or Richard Spencer, or heard conservative mouthpieces such as Tomi Lahren or Ben Shapiro speak to their millions of fans through social media platforms, then you have probably heard something along the lines of, “straight male identity is under attack in America” or, “it is no longer acceptable to be a straight white male.”

This notion is most definitely not reflected by the demographics of congress. Congress is composed of 100 senators and 435 house representatives. Out of these elected officials 78 percent are white, and 80 percent are men. Meanwhile women only make up 20 percent of congress despite that according to the most recent census 50.8 percent of Americans are female. LGBT representation is also close to nonexistent, with only six house reps and one lone senator, only 1.3 percent of congress is not heterosexual. Only 8 percent of congress is Hispanic or Latino, and additionally while 75 percent of American adults identify as Christian, 90.7 percent of congress identifies as Christian. Keep in mind this is the most diverse congress in history.

Despite rhetoric that would imply otherwise, the facts establish that the majority of America’s lawmakers are straight, white, Christian and male.

Inflammatory statements that claim straight white male identity is somehow under attack are intentionally designed to both appeal to, and garner support from, the segment of the straight male population that feels underrepresented and targeted by recent social and political movements.

The recent #MeToo movement, which climbed to viral prevalence and national attention in October of 2017, was part of an effort to encouraged women and victims of sexual harassment and sexual assault to come forward, in order to demonstrate the high frequency women experienced these crimes.

Almost immediately after, the backlash on social media appeared with cries of, “Not all men.”

This is a defense to an accusation that was not even posed. Rhetoric like this is unhelpful, and it ignores and evades the actual problem being discussed.

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The same type of situation occurred as the Black Lives Matter movement gained prominence in 2015 and 2016. As Black Lives Matter started receiving national attention and mainstream coverage, the hashtag #AllLivesMatter was spawned.

Rather than reckon with the actual problem, All Lives Matter pivots the conversation and paints the Black Lives Matter movement in a negative light that prioritizes the lives of one ethnicity and group of people over the rest.

The hashtag #BlueLivesMatter is equally redundant. Any good natured person would likely agree that the lives of police officers matter, and that the lives of the general public and human race at large matter as well.

So, what spurs these responses? When a group of people feel passionately about societal disparity, and care enough to demonstrate and make their voices heard, why is the immediate response to attempt to silence and shame them by misconstruing the intent of their movement?

The reason why progressive social movements are fought tooth and nail, typically by heteronormative, Christian, white people, is because they are scared of a landscape they no longer see themselves reflected in.

America is changing, possibly faster than some might like. As diversity and the visibility of minorities rise, some white Americans are scrambling as they realize that, slowly, the default perspective of the country is beginning to shift away from them.

White people are so enraged by movements such as Black Lives Matter because they feel excluded by them. The effect these types of movements can make the population feel uncomfortable, and the gut reaction becomes defensive behavior. It’s a paradox of faux, self-induced oppression where the white populous can’t control the dialogue and default to responses such as, “This is not the place,” in order to silence voice causing their discomfort.

Take, for example, the 2016 Super Bowl halftime show, which featured pop singer Beyoncé. Her and her backup dancers wore costumes inspired by the Black Panther Party, sparking outrage regarding the creative decision.

Political commentator Tomi Lahren ripped into the performance on The Blaze calling it “police hating.” She accused the performance of perpetuating the notion that, “Black lives matter more.” Lahren additionally criticized the performance by asserting that both the performance and the Black Lives Matter movement inspire rioting and violence.

Ironically, Lahren and other right-wing commentators were silent on the events that directly transpired after the 2016 Super Bowl. It was Philadelphia Eagles fans, not Black Lives Matter protesters, who engaged in celebratory activities in the city of Philadelphia that quickly devolved into riots, violence, vandalism and looting.

It is acceptable for white people to cause a public nuisance and property damage over a sports game, but heaven forbid people peacefully demonstrate over a cause they believe in.

We saw similar criticism at the second annual Women’s March on Washington, sparking comments such as, “What are they even protesting?” and “What rights don’t they have?”

Questions like these riddled the comments sections of all media coverage on the event. My personal favorite would be the men who vocalized, “Why can’t we have a men’s march?”

To those men, I would say do it! One of the greatest freedoms we possess as American’s is the right to peacefully assemble, if you believe that is a cause worthy of undertaking, by all means, organize and march. Rather than critique those brave enough to demonstrate their beliefs, make use of the freedoms you are granted.

The criticism of the Women’s March on Washington is similar to the vocal distaste that LGBTQ pride parades met with each year. Parades and demonstrations for those who believe in straight and Christian pride already exist. Rather than the colors of the rainbow, they are usually celebrated with white hooded robes.

Straight white male identity is not under attack in America, but it is under examination. We are arriving at a point in time wherein the status quo is being questioned for a good reason, and what we’re seeing in the backlash to various social and progressive movements is the last breath of those who still live in a world of white supremacy and misogyny.