April 29, 2022 Twitter thread from Will Stancil addresses changes in visibility in politics or culture of women and people of color

Will Stancil @whstancil has shared a valuable thread on Twitter (see below).

On Twitter, Will Stencil shares the following self-intro:

I do metro policy research, focused on fair housing, school integration, and demography. Proud member of Do-Something Twitter. Opinions are very much my own.

April 29, 2022 Twitter thread from Will Stancil

An April 29, 2022 Twitter thread from Will Stancil speaks of current trends in power dynamics in the United States:

Fine, here’s what I think is going on: White men have long been a minority in US society (currently 29%), but until very recently, they controlled all the ladders of ascent into cultural, political, media, or economic relevance.

That doesn’t mean that women and people of color weren’t visible in politics or culture. But it means the people who rose up the ladder into a position of influence generally had political beliefs that white men found tolerable, if not outright appealing.

You’re a woman or especially a minority, and you want to be a Times columnist, a judge, a congressional leader of note, a TV anchor? If your ideas conform with the ideas of the white men who run these institutions, you can rise, rise, rise. If they don’t you likely won’t.

Now it’s important to switch perspectives and imagine what this system looked liked to white men themselves: consensus. They could look out their window and see that almost everyone notable agreed with them on really divisive cultural issues!

Occasionally someone would break into the cozy unanimity with ideas that ran against the consensus, like a Jesse Jackson running for president. But even when this happened, all the major cultural and political power centers would reiterate that this was radical fringe politics.

Today… this system mostly remains in place, actually! Most political, cultural, and economic institutions are still controlled by white men! Many nonwhite, nonmale people who advance in these institutions do so by being agreeable to white male gatekeepers! (No names, sorry.)

But cracks are starting to emerge. There are people appearing in politics and culture who do not appear to have really been let in by white male gatekeepers – in fact, who express ideas that the vast, vast majority of white male gatekeepers find incorrect or even annoying.

What are these ideas? It varies but generally they are, naturally, ideas that challenge the power structure itself, point out the ways in which white people and men hold disproportionate power, and point out the way that power is exercised, often unfairly.

Why are cracks emerging now? Partly it’s a cultural evolution. Partly it’s technological (Twitter plays a big role here). But I think most of it is just demographic. America’s white majority is rapidly becoming a white plurality. Total societal control just isn’t sustainable.

And as this has happened, the world as experienced by white men (who, let’s remember, do still control the vast majority of political, cultural, and economic institutions) has also changed: where they once saw consensus, now there’s conflict.

For many white men, including many who hold vast power and influence, it feels like a bunch of malcontents – espousing ideas everyone previously agreed were radical, no less! – have forced their way past the gatekeepers, and are now making everything complicated and unpleasant.

The response of white men has varied. Some have argued that we need to restore the consensus of earlier years, unaware it was illusory and achieved partly by exclusion. Some have desperately kept trying to gatekeep. And a whole lot of them have just gotten really, really angry.

And that’s where we are now: a small but growing number of people with perspectives that are not agreeable to white male gatekeepers pushing into the public eye, and white men seeing it as radicals smashing a consensus they were told was shared by everyone worth listening to.

And I think it’s not a coincidence that the figures and groups that attract the most obsessive ire, who are blamed for causing all the trouble, are also the figures and groups that seem to have most dramatically circumvented the gatekeepers: AOC. Nikole Hannah-Jones. BLM.

One last thing I’ll say: in my experience, white men are skeptical of the idea of white male gatekeeping (which makes sense, because it’s not like we all got together and decided to do it).

But women and people of color are often acutely aware that their ability to exist in elite circles depends on not challenging certain ideas, and not rubbing powerful people the wrong way.

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