David Gregory, white privileged male and Meet the Press host, scrunched up his face, wrestling with this week's racism news, and, gosh darnit, he simply had to weigh in: "It's such outlier behavior," he declared. It's "just so beyond the pale."
Two other white privileged males at the table nodded solemnly.
Rich Lowry, who is the editor of something called The National Review, reflected on the recent unfortunate statements of another privileged white male who happens to own a professional basketball team. "He is a real outlier, you know?" Lowry stated with certainty. "He's in no way characteristic of NBA owners."
Next came an expert I'd never seen before, a bloated fellow by the name of Mallory Factor. In addition to being a privileged white male, he teaches at a military college in South Carolina and authored a book called Big Tent: The Story of the Conservative Revolution. Mr Factor was responding to the only non-white-privileged-male on the panel, Neera Tanden, who had been arguing that the latest episodes of racism in the news provided more evidence that the U.S. is not yet a race-neutral nation, and, therefore, affirmative action is still a useful tool.
"Neera, these are outliers," insisted Mr Factor. "And these outliers are bad. They're doing bad things. They're saying bad things." Mr Factor went on to describe what really bothers him: The poor kid "who happens to be white, and we push him aside for somebody who's had more opportunities because he's black or Hispanic. That's wrong!"
I live in the most liberal city in a big red state. Because I am a white privileged male I am frequently exposed to these sorts of "outliers." In fact, I meet these people with such regularity that I simply do not believe Mr Factor or Mr Lowry believe their own statements. (Mr Gregory, I won't comment on. I just can't guess how often he gets out of the house. Perhaps he is a naïf.)
Just a few weeks ago I was participating in some ordinary urinal chit-chat in the bathroom of the professional office building where I work as a contractor. The man beside me -- white and privileged -- made a sort of joke about how the Confederacy should have won the Civil War. He is an accountant -- bright and educated -- so I assumed his comment was merely a reflection of his cultural affinity with the South. I said, "Yeah, then we could still have slavery!" He scrunched up his face, philosophically: "Actually," he said, "there's a lot of evidence that blacks were better off when they were slaves than they are now."
Again, this is a very personable, educated, ordinary white man who holds these views.
I was playing golf at my local muni last week. My playing partner, who I had just met, began grousing about the African-American twosome in front of us, prodding me to strike my ball before they had cleared out of the fairway. "I hope you hit them!" he said, explaining that he had played with them before, and that they were assholes. "God I hate those niggers," he said, shaking his head.
You witness this kind of behavior often if you are a white privileged male living in the South. Whether or not it is accompanied by the N-word, there are many, many people around here just itching to share such feelings. Commonly, they begin with the hackneyed phrase, "I have nothing against blacks, but..." and then they offer a mild caveat, something along the lines of, "It's just certain ones -- the one's who never learned how to act right." And, almost without fail, they take a quick look at your face to determine if they're in safe company.
My golfing partner last week saw my jaw drop at his statement. He was a little more countrified -- and a little older -- than the accountant from work. He apologized immediately, but he looked like he was in pain. "I'm sorry, I can't help the way I was raised," he said mournfully, as if he knew the world was changing, and he was getting left behind.
Yes, the world is changing. But I guaran-goddamn-tee it, the people resisting this change are not outliers. I meet them all the time, right in the middle of the most liberal city in the state.
(Here's the Meet the Press transcript.)