From a Mobster to a Privileged White Racist

Estimated Reading Time: 7 minutes

In the name of wokeness, one ugly slur has been replaced by another.

Warning:  The following is a representative sample of past and present racial/ethnic slurs and stereotypes. If you grit your teeth and bear with it, you’ll see why they’re repeated here.

  • Poles were known as dumb Polacks.
  • The Irish were known as mics and drunkards.
  • Jews were known as kikes and greedy money-changers.
  • Mexicans were known as lazy sombrero-wearing spics.
  • Southerners were known as hillbillies and rednecks.
  • Native Americans were known as redskins.
  • Arabs were known as camel jocks.
  • The Chinese were known as chinks.
  • East Indians were known as dots.
  • African Americans were known by the “N-word” and other slurs.

Then there is my own race/ethnicity. Italians were known throughout much of the 20th century as dagos, wops, greasers, guineas, and mobsters. In fact, the Italian section of St. Louis, which was the home of my parents and grandparents, was known as Dago Hill when I was a kid. It wasn’t just Southern white supremacists who were prejudiced against Italians but also Yankee bluebloods.

Offensive, eh?

Well, here is an offensive slur and stereotype in vogue today: Whites are racist, privileged, and fragile.

The people who say this see themselves as woke, open-minded, enlightened, educated, and anti-racist. Actually, they are the opposite.

They’re also slow on the uptake, especially those who have just recently awakened to the fact that blacks as a group (but not necessarily as individuals) have faced horrendous discrimination, prejudice, and institutional barriers.

It’s better to be awake than asleep, but it’s not better to believe that the way to remedy past prejudices and stereotypes about blacks is to parrot new prejudices and stereotypes about whites. That’s exactly what critical race theory does. 

Such black thinkers as Ibram Kendi and Nehisi Coates believe that every negative outcome of African Americans can be traced back to slavery and white racism.  Even if one agrees with them, how does it change anything to pin racism on every white person alive today, especially given that “white” is so ill-defined and contrived, as will be discussed later?

And even if the thinkers are right that racism is insidious, entrenched, and implicit in white culture, white political and economic power, white liberal democracy, and white capitalism, how do they propose uprooting the racism and overturning the existing order without creating new forms of racism and worse problems? In view of their own racism and affection for coercion, it doesn’t look promising.    

In any event, too much of what passes for wokeness focuses on abstractions, symbolism, tokenism, pieties, and virtue signaling instead of focusing on real solutions to real problems in so-called disadvantaged communities.  (I’ll spare you the details of my efforts in this regard over my career.)

One example of symbolism over substance is TV commercials.

It’s a positive development that TV advertising (and shows) no longer exclude blacks or typecast them negatively. Likewise, it’s a positive change that advertising no longer features whites almost exclusively, as it did in the “Leave It to Beaver” era when there was an idealized portrayal of whites, a portrayal that was a different world from the world of my working-class Italian family and the world of other ethnic minorities.

But now the pendulum has swung so far the other way that it seems that 90% of commercials portray an idealized version of the 13% of the population that is black, as well as making sure that every other racial group and sexual orientation and gender choice gets a cameo appearance. 

In this utopia, everyone is attractive, articulate, educated, fit, hip, successful, multicultural, multiracial, and inter-married—a utopia where all races live together in peace and harmony and drive to a mountaintop together in a Subaru, a car that is love, sold by a company that supports the right causes and gives back to the community, although it is a company headquartered in non-diverse Japan and is a company that made fighter planes in World War II to wreak terror on China, the Philippines, Pearl Harbor, and elsewhere.

In a similar vein, the East Indian CEO of Hero Motor Company, the maker of motorcycles, was interviewed during the recent Hero golf tournament in the Bahamas. Instead of speaking about the product, he spoke about diversity and inclusion. This is from the head of a company with its headquarters in India, a nation known for its caste system, and a nation with a popular prime minister who is openly biased in favor of the Hindu majority and against the Muslim minority.

It’s the same with aristocratic CEOs of gigantic American companies who parrot ritualistic statements about diversity and inclusion while doing business in China, where the Han Chinese dominate in government and industry over ethnic minorities.

Companies have gone from engaging in advertising spin about their products to advertising spin about their social goodness.  It’s what their idealistic customers demand. Of course, if advertisers don’t have the right mix of diversity in their commercials, they’ll hear from grievance groups and be pilloried by Twitter mobs. Thus it’s safer to have every group covered in just about every commercial than to try to match the frequency of a group’s appearance in commercials with their representation in the U.S. population.

Whatever the motivation of advertisers, it seems so contrived, unoriginal, obligatory, and condescending. 

I would have found it strange as a teen if Italians, who comprise about 5% of the population, had been in 90% of commercials and had spoken the King’s English, dressed in the latest couture, partied at hip places, driven to a mountaintop in a Subaru, and were lawyers, doctors, executives, and other professionals.

I would have wondered why my family and other Italians were such failures by comparison—why my fraternal grandpa was a barkeep and former coal miner, why my maternal grandpa was a waiter who never owned a car, why my dad was a non-union tile setter who didn’t own a suit, why my mom was a clerk, why our family car was a decrepit Dodge with the floorboards rusted out, and why I worked as the only non-black on an otherwise all-black janitorial and kitchen crew at an exclusive country club, where membership was denied to Italians, Jews, and blacks; where the Anglo-Saxon-Protestant members saw me as a person of color; and where my coworkers put me at the bottom of the employee pecking order and gave me the worst jobs, such as cleaning the filthy employee restroom in the grungy basement.

As with so much of what passes today for enlightenment, open-mindedness and diversity and inclusion, the disproportionate appearance of blacks in commercials will do little if anything to raise the abysmal grades and test scores of African-American students, or to reduce the horrendous murder rates in inner-cities, or to reduce the high incidence of African-American kids raised without a father in the household, or to transform African-American slums from crime-ridden drug bazaars to safe, clean and prosperous communities.      

Calling whites privileged and racist also won’t change anything. Nor will the widespread trope that all whites are the same in privilege, advantages, political power, income, skin shade, heritage, values, beliefs, attitudes, and DNA. The fact is that whites are so diverse that it would be very difficult if not impossible to define “white person” or to recite the hundreds of unique ethnocultural groups that are lumped together in the official “white” category as if they are homogenous and all of them are Anglo-Saxons from Northern Europe.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez comes to mind. She sees herself as a “person of color,” but her features, hair color, and skin shade are similar to those of my relatives. Curiously, the relatives are categorized as white but she is not. Why is that?

Or take all of the Americans whose ancestral roots go back to the huge swath of geography that extends from the southern side of the Pyrenees and Alps to the Sahara desert, and from the Atlantic Ocean to the Arabian Sea. How did they become white?  And how did they climb to the middle class and higher?

Many had to climb a long way from deep disadvantages and even oppression, albeit not as far as descendants of slaves have had to climb. So how did they do it?

First, they didn’t rely on the paternalism of the Anglo-Saxon-Protestant establishment, or on offices of diversity and inclusion, or on tokenism, or on race hustlers, or on critical race theory. For example, Amedeo Giannini, the son of Italian immigrants, founded the Bank of Italy in San Francisco in 1904 without the aid of the East Coast banking establishment. The bank would become the Bank of America.

Second, they survived the travesties of progressivism. One travesty, which today’s progressives like to forget, was the eugenics movement, which lasted about 50 years in the 20th century.  The movement’s mission was to keep undesirables from procreating. Eugenicists lobbied for the passage of the Immigration Act of 1924, to stop the emigration of “inferior stock” from eastern and southern Europe and to protect the “old stock” of Anglo-Saxon and Nordic Americans.

It’s telling that today’s wokes cite the Chinese Exclusion Act as an example of past discrimination but say nothing about the Immigration Act of 1924. Citing the latter act would be an admission that ethnic minorities categorized as white have also faced discrimination.

Italians and other ethnic minorities survived another travesty of progressivism: the welfare state that blossomed in the 1960s, or more specifically, the features of the welfare state that incentivized poor women to raise their children without their father in the household. It bypassed most of the ethnic minorities because they were well on their way to the middle class at the time. Unfortunately, blacks didn’t escape the ill effects. As Daniel Patrick Moynihan, a Labor Department sociologist and future U.S. Senator had warned at the advent of the programs, the result would be disastrous for black families.

It’s telling that today’s progressives are largely silent about this major cause of socio-economic problems within the black community.   

Another tragedy of progressivism was its animus for Catholic schools and other private schools. My poor grandparents could somehow afford to send my parents to Catholic secondary and primary schools, just as my parents of very modest means were able to do the same for me. It helped back then that more Catholics had the vocation to be nuns and priests, which lowered the cost of running parochial schools. It also helped that taxes were so much lower. In any event, parents had an alternative to the mediocre public schools in their hood.

Today, progressives oppose school choice and vouchers, although such policies enable blacks and other poor people to escape schools in their hood that are worse than mediocre.   

But don’t listen to me. I’m a racist. As proof, authors and consultants specializing in critical race theory say that any white guy who denies he is a racist is a racist, especially if he dares to disagree with some of the tenets of CRT.


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