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'We’re All Dying of Whiteness': Race, Fear and Resentment Can Be Fatal

On this episode, democracy-ish hosts Danielle and Toure are joined by special guest Jonathan Metzl, author of “Dying of Whiteness: How the Politics of Racial Resentment Is Killing America's Heartland.”

  • It’s the eternal question: What’s the matter with white people?

  • Jonathan argues that right-wing messages are designed to stoke fear –– and that conservative policies can kill.

  • Trump doesn’t have much to offer his base –– except affirmation of their sense of white entitlement


We’ve asked it before and we ask it again this week: What’s the matter with white people?


53% of white women voted for Trump. And among white men, he has a significant lead over Biden in the latest polls.


So, when the question is what the actual fuck is up with that, who better to ask than an actual white guy?


Toure and Danielle called on Jonathan Metzl –– physician, sociologist, Vanderbilt professor and Woke AF Wednesday stalwart, who explains why such a large swath of our citizenry still buys into Trump’s bullshit.


His book argues that anti-immigrant, anti-government, pro-gun policies in the Midwest are backfiring. Instead of making America great again, they’re making “lifespans harder, sicker and shorter for a variety of people,” he says.


The Republican agenda has been dangerous for communities of color for a long time. But in his research, he discovered that white folks are dying because of them, too.


“It’s a wake-up call. We should –– quickly –– understand the importance of diversity and a more horizontal society,” he says.


This was the case before the pandemic. But the Trump administration is working to expand them across the nation. Now, everybody is at risk –– not just from COVID-19 but from the “policies of racial resentment” that harm us all.



Episode Highlights –– What’s the Matter with Wypipo?




When guns kill, it’s usually close to home

We've known since the ‘90s that the biggest risk of getting shot is –– wait for it –– having a gun in your house.


“Most shootings are not homicides,” he points out. “They're not, to use the NRA terminology, gangbangers or carjackers … or other racialized things” –– like the idea that somebody will break into your home and steal your big-screen TV.


In fact, two-thirds of gun deaths are the result of suicide and partner violence. But the NRA has sold gun ownership “as a symbol of white protection and white authority,” says Jonathan.


That’s led to unprecedented rates of gun death, especially by suicide, among the very demographic to which the gun lobby aims to appeal.



The ‘invincible’ white body

Meanwhile, white protesters, flagrantly mask-free and armed with AR-15s, are storming the Capitol gates in places like Madison, Wisconsin and Detroit, rallying against Democratic governors’ lockdown orders.


“The minute you code something as a Black and Brown problem, there's this understanding: It's happening to them, it's not happening to us,” Jonathan says. “The white body, because it has an AR-15, is invincible and unsusceptible.”


Take that to an extreme, he adds, and the notion arises that the white body is protected from the coronavirus. But, as COVID-19 hotspots break out in nearly every state, “we're seeing how dangerous that attitude is.”


As protesters –– or churchgoers, or any number of people gather in large numbers right now, they don’t just spread the virus among the crowd. They pass it on to their family, or the person who delivers their pizza, or their Uber driver.


“It's a network of dying of whiteness,” says Jonathan.



Whiteness as Teflon

Danielle is mystified by the psychology of white supremacy, especially in the age of COVID.