White Whine and Treacle

white people

white people (Photo credit: Victor L Antunez)

I did not watch the Superbowl this year. I find it harder all the time to enjoy the spectacle of pro sports. I used to enjoy them a great deal. Now I find the zeal with which so many of my friends and family members throw themselves into fandom a bit overwhelming. I also have a hard time not seeing everything through the lens of an activist. I won’t make any apologies about that. The way I see it, if everyone else can treat politics like a spectator sport, I am perfectly within my rights to treat spectator sports like politics.
Our national obsession with sports in general and football in particular, showcases so many of the ills in our society but I realized, watching my Facebook feed in between episodes of Deep Space Nine on Sunday, that it is excellent for exposing the phenomena of “white whine.” Status after status of my PoC, or trans, or queer, friends watching the game, among those rooting for the 49ers were displays of disappointment in the team. A consistent theme among the team’s cis, straight, white fans was that the team “could’t beat the refs.”
This is nothing new for me to see. It was really just the first time I took the time to reflect on it. I consistently see a habit among white, mostly straight, mostly men the desire to place blame on anyone but one’s heroes. More than that, though, is the expressions of personal loss. As if these people were somehow cheated out of something important due to the outcome of a game. Let me tell you, if your favorite team losing a sporting event is some momentous loss on your part, you have had a ridiculously easy life.
It is also worth pointing out the undue attention paid to the career, and foibles, of Ray Lewis. The amount of invective steered at this man, for not immediately turning in friends, is ridiculous. He was in a bad situation. Did he handle it badly? Absolutely, but he is not the Anti-Christ. I find it funny that so many who are so willing to pillory him are more than willing to “keep it separate from the game” when it comes to the multiple accusations of rape that have been leveled over the years at Ben Roethlisberger. What could the difference between the two be? Don’t bother answering that. I know the answer and so do you, and lie to yourself if you must, but not to me.
White people carry with them a certain expectation of happiness, and if they cannot find it, to them it is some great injustice. Heck, in my line of work I have found even momentarily inconveniencing white people is somehow treated as a moral outrage. Have to take forty-five seconds of your day to listen about people who really have it bad? That must be tough. Imagine how it must be to wonder if you are even going to be able to keep a roof over your kids’ heads, despite the fact that you are working multiple jobs.
On the other end of the spectrum is a certain PollyAnna-ness among some white people. It’s not a real positive attitude, mind you, but sort of an accusation that if something is wrong in your life you have no one else to blame. I have even seen this meme shared among two of my favorite people in the world. In their defense, knowing both of them, I suspect that they are thinking of people like those I describe above. The thing is these “your circumstances don’t shape your life” memes aren’t usually directed at purveyors of white whine.
No usually it is exactly those people spreading it. It is a way to shut down and shut up those who have actually experienced oppression. It helps to continue our victim blaming culture and to prop up white, cis, straight male oppression. It helps white men believe that it was their excellent choices that made their life easier and not a system that heavily favors them. Well I’ve seen too much evidence otherwise, both anecdotal and scientific. Spreading this tool of oppression, as well-intentioned as some of those who do it may be, is destructive and counter to actually building the just society we deserve. It is time to take of the blinders of our privilege and start doing real work.


2 thoughts on “White Whine and Treacle

  1. You’re right. The presently-privileged do tend to believe that they deserve their privilege. And often the proof is in the privilege.-)

    I have a short, sharp statement on racism on my site.


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