Commentary: Buttigieg, Trump and the warm blanket of white privilege
AP

Commentary: Buttigieg, Trump and the warm blanket of white privilege

U.S. President Donald Trump walks out from the Oval Office of the White House before his departure to Palm Beach, Fla., on Jan. 17, 2020 in Washington, D.C. (Yuri Gripas/Abaca Press/TNS)

Most black men rarely get to experience, even vicariously, what it's like to be a white man in this country.

I've been alive awhile now, but only truly understood the white male mindset once. It was 2006; Matt Lauer, the former NBC Today show host, was prepping for a television interview. He was bent over a coffee table, deep in concentration, reading a stack of papers as people around him set the lighting and sound. In an image that I would later watch on TMZ, the camera pushed in tight on his face. At one point, co-host Meredith Vieira walked over to collect her things from the table. She bent over Lauer and, as she did, he looked down her sweater as the camera focused straight on his face. "Nice sweater," he said. "Keep bending over like that, it's a nice view."

That one brief moment was like a peek behind a curtain for me. It captured all the privilege and entitlement of what it must be like to be a white man in this country, in one instantaneous and sad moment. I thought to myself: "Ahh, so that's what it's like." Being born white and male in the United States, compared to any other condition, state or circumstance, is like being wrapped in a blanket of privilege and limitless possibility. You can live where you want, send your kids to any school and you get paid more money for the same work other people do for less.

I was standing in a line at Starbucks recently and watched as the man behind me picked up a bag of cookies, opened them and starting eating them right there - before he actually paid for them. That's a white man move. I've read "Hillbilly Elegy," about the life of a family with Appalachian roots. The fact that the book was such a revelation and a shock to everyone helps prove my point. Ask any person of color who has read the book what they think about it. White opportunity is not the same as black opportunity.

I see white privilege playing out in the presidential election too. It is no surprise that someone like Pete Buttigieg would think he was qualified to be president. Only a white man would think that someone in his mid-30s, with no experience running anything of any great consequence, no federal government experience and a thin, marginal record in the military would be qualified to be president. Only white men think this way.

Women and people of color would not dream of running for the presidency on such a thin list of accomplishments. In fact, history has shown that when they do run, they are often overqualified for the job. Elizabeth Warren is a former senior adviser to a president who oversaw the establishment of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and is a sitting U.S. senator. Julian Castro, who has dropped out of the Democratic presidential primary, was a federal Cabinet secretary and a former big-city mayor. Kamala Harris was the California state attorney general and now serves in the U.S. Senate.

President Donald Trump is the walking embodiment of entitled, political privilege. He was fully aware of his moral and professional deficiencies when he ran and ran anyway. Imagine a black man, or even a white woman, running for president after being accused of grabbing people by the genitals, having endured a slew of bankruptcies and running a campaign built on bold-faced lies and hate speech.

It's not just white males who feed this narrative. We all do. Whenever we elect a president who is not qualified for the job, we feed the narrative. The New York Times just published a comment from a fellow small-town mayor colleague of Buttigieg. "It is a little bizarre," said Mayor Craig Thurmond of Broken Arrow, Okla. "Politics so often is about 'Can you win?' not 'Are you qualified?' I do think he has a chance to win. But being the mayor doesn't qualify you to do that job."

Mayor Thurmond makes a good point. What is it with Americans? Why do we, over and over, elect people who are not qualified to be president and then complain about it afterward? Take a moment and ask yourself, if you had to hire someone to manage your checkbook, educate your children and to watch your back while you slept at night, wouldn't you want a person with a resume that demonstrates that they can actually do these things? When will we ever learn? Three year's into Trump's administration, I ask you all: How are things working out so far?

___

ABOUT THE WRITER

K. Ward Cummings (kwardcummings@gmail.com) is a former senior congressional adviser and the author of "Partner to Power: The Secret World of Presidents and their Most Trusted Advisers."

Visit The Baltimore Sun at www.baltimoresun.com

Catch the latest in Opinion

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.

Related to this story

Most Popular

The news that Donald Trump will likely not preside over the traditional unveiling of his predecessors' official White House portraits is disappointing, but not exactly surprising. After all, Trump and Barack Obama do not like or respect each other. The prospect of having the Obamas and a bunch of their former administration officials back in the White House for an occasion on which Trump would ...

Imagine if you killed somebody on your job, and all you got that day was fired. You go into work the next day, return the keycard you swipe every morning when you get on the elevator, pack the things from your desk, toss out whatever food you have in the pantry refrigerator and say goodbye to your co-workers before two security guards escort you out of the building. And, let's just say this ...

As a child, I grew up in abject poverty with our family being evicted often. A number of times I found myself in a poor African American neighborhoods or public housing. During those times, I was often the only white child in my class. I can say in total honesty, I was never happier as a child than when I was in those neighborhoods, housing projects or those classrooms. Ever. During the rare ...

It will happen, many thousands of times, and in every conceivable permutation: People will contract COVID-19 because of someone else's actions and will seek compensation. How should we handle such liability claims as a society? Mitch McConnell, gatekeeper of the Senate, has an idea. First, immunize all businesses. It would mean, as an example, that even if your boss fails to provide safeguards ...

In a tweet about violent protests in Minneapolis over the death of a black man in police custody, President Donald Trump thundered: "These THUGS are dishonoring the memory of George Floyd, and I won't let that happen ... Any difficulty and we will assume control but when the looting starts, the shooting starts." Twitter, as part of its newfound vigilance about Trump's rants, appended a note ...

"You are the most selfish (expletive) people on the planet." I jerked my head to the left, where I saw a neighbor glaring at us from his driveway while unloading groceries from his trunk. "Where's your (expletive) mask?" he said. "Unbelievable." My jaw dropped. I had just walked three blocks home with my toddler and my dad in our mostly empty Los Angeles neighborhood because my kid had thrown ...

George Floyd died after a police officer pressed his knee on his neck until he stopped breathing, and riots have now erupted in cities across our nation. We can blame those police officers who participated in Floyd's murder, and we can blame those looters who have moved well beyond peaceful demonstrations. But real solutions to these problems require that we probe deeper as we try to ...

You have to hand it to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey: He may have been lured into an unwinnable election-year fight with President Donald Trump, but at least he's still throwing punches. Shortly before 1 a.m. EDT Friday, Trump verbally barreled into the hot flaming mess on the ground in Minneapolis, where protests over the death of George Floyd had turned violent. A bystander's video shows an ...

Was anyone else looking for a lightning bolt to shoot out of the sky when the blasphemer in chief waved the Holy Bible for a photo op in front of a Washington, D.C., church after using the military to disperse a crowd protesting the murder of George Floyd? At the same moment President Donald Trump expressed his support Monday for peaceful protesters, the liar in chief was waiting on armed ...

President Donald Trump has finally goaded Twitter into starting the fight that Trump has been itching to have. Unfortunately for the social media giant, it's a fight Twitter cannot win anymore - and one that Trump and his allies do not want to end. Over the course of his term, the president has flouted Twitter's terms of service countless times with impunity as he's used the platform to launch ...

Get up-to-the-minute news sent straight to your device.

Topics

News Alerts

Breaking News