Seeing options shrinking, US white men ask why

Associated Press


The voices cascade into the studio, denouncing political hypocrisy and media bias and disappearing values. Hillary Clinton is a liar and a crook, they say; Donald Trump is presidential and successful. By the time the 16th caller reaches the air this day, the Rick Roberts show has reached an impassioned crescendo of anger and lamentation.

Roberts, WBAP’s bearded, rodeo-roping, husky-voiced host, has heard enough, and he is primed with a message for his listeners.

“I want my country back,” he begins.

He repeats that sentence a half-dozen times in a rant that darts from fear of crime to outsourced jobs to political correctness. He pans soulless politicians and has-been celebrities and psycho-babble hug-a-tree experts; he pines for a time when everyone spoke English and looked you in the eye and meant what they said. It’s a fervent soliloquy that calls for faith to regain public footing and for economic opportunity to return.

“I want America to be America,” he says. “I don’t recognize this country anymore.”

This is a white male voice preaching to a largely white male audience that has expressed similar sentiments, in dribs and drabs, and, most of all, in the course of a presidential campaign in which Trump has become their champion and their hope.

At this moment in American history, to be white and male means, for many, to feel centuries of privilege and values slipping away. To many others, the notion of white men being marginalized is ludicrous, their history a study in privilege. But data show some real losses, even as they maintain advantages:

Whites’ household net worth fell dramatically in the Great Recession.

White home ownership is down from a decade ago.

White women have overtaken men in earning college degrees.

The number of incarcerated white men has ballooned. (But black and Hispanic men remain far more likely to be jailed.)

Fueled by suicides, drug overdoses and alcohol-related illnesses, mortality rates for middle-age whites have increased even as they continue to fall among middle-age blacks and Hispanics.

No one cites metrics like these on air this day, but it’s clear some of the listeners have felt their toll.

A Kaiser Family Foundation-CNN poll released in September compared white college graduates and the white, black and Hispanic working class. Working-class whites were least likely to say that they’re satisfied with their influence in politics, that the federal government represents their views, and that they believe their children will achieve a better standard of living than them.

They were most likely to say it has become harder to get ahead financially and find good jobs in recent years..

Roberts, 53, sees the hurt across the U.S., but dismisses the idea of white privilege. His parents were never in his life, he says. He was left with grandparents and, when they grew too old, he was emancipated at age 15 and landed at a boys’ ranch.

He went on to earn an MBA and law degree and shifted 22 years ago to begin a life in radio.

“I want my country back, and the only way, the only way I’m ever going to be able to get this country back is if I reach out to the brothers and sisters that all feel the very same way and say, ‘Hell, no, you can’t have the country.’