President Obama's nomination of Sonia Sotomayor to be a Justice on the United States Supreme Court has brought to the surface the lingering resentment that so many White men in America have harbored since the end of slavery. Moreover, it has denuded the souls of white folks who have now become part of a race. It has also revived White men as victims and given voice to the intellectually dishonest rhetoric of "reverse" racism while also race-baiting the White House, albeit one headed by a Black man.
Of course, we understand that race is a social construction. That is, there is no biological basis for race. Rather, in the context of the United States, race has been formulated and given meaning by society and the courts who wished to connote difference and the privileges and insults thereto appertaining. That formulation for so much of our history defined Whites as superior and numerical racial minorities as inferior thus justifying different treatment.
First, it is not an understatement to say that many White men in America have opted out of the conversation on race. In fact, in most conversations about race, racial minorities are the ones who are presumed to be affected by racism because of America's toxic relationship with race. White men in particular enjoy the visible and invisible privilege of being both White and male and thus, until now, have seen no reason to be considered part of a "race."
The White men of whom I write have decided that they will pick the carbuncle of race in an attempt to protect their white privilege at all costs. Hoisting the White man's burden are Rush, Tancredo, Hannity, Dobbs and Gingrich; the "unelected" leaders of the party. The elected leaders (especially those with significant Latino voters) and the languid "head of the party" (Michael Steele) will collude with them by saying nothing.
Dr. Christopher J. Metzler is associate dean at Georgetown University and the author of The Construction and Rearticulation of Race in a Post-Racial America.