Posted on December 1, 2021

There’s Nothing More Frightening in America Today Than an Angry White Man

John Blake, CNN, November 21, 2021


The specter of the angry Black man has been evoked in politics and popular culture to convince White folks that a big, bad Black man is coming to get them and their daughters.


But as I’ve watched three separate trials about White male violence unfold across the US these past few weeks — the Kyle Rittenhouse trial, the Ahmaud Arbery death trial and the civil case against organizers of the 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville — I’ve come to a sobering conclusion:

There is nothing more frightening in America today than an angry White man.

It’s not the “radical Islamic terrorist” that I fear the most. Nor is it the brown immigrant or the fiery Black Lives Matter protester, or whatever the latest bogeyman is that some politician tells me I should dread.

It’s encountering an armed White man in public who has been inspired by the White men on trial in these three cases.


There is nothing inherently violent about White men, or any human being.

But recent events have convinced me it’s time to put another character on trial: A vision of White masculinity that allows some White men to feel as if they “can rule and brutalize without consequence.”

This angry White man has been a major character throughout US history. He gave the country slavery, the slaughter of Native Americans, and Jim Crow laws. His anger also helped fuel the January 6 insurrection at the Capitol.

It’s this angry White man — not the Black or brown man you see approaching on the street at night — who poses the most dangerous threat to democracy in America.

That’s a sweeping claim. But these trials represent something bigger than questions of individual guilt or innocence. They offer a disturbing vision of the future, and a choice about what kind of country we want to live in.


Race is an inescapable theme that runs through all the trials. At the center of each are White men who are accused of using unjustified violence, either against an unarmed Black man or during racial protests. In Rittenhouse’s case, a jury cleared him of criminal wrongdoing.

It’s what’s happening outside these courtrooms, though, that is most frightening. It suggests these trials are a symptom of a dangerous shift.


If there was an Exhibit A to describe this shift, it might be an animé video. Earlier this month, Republican Rep. Paul Gosar posted a photoshopped animé video to his Twitter and Instagram accounts showing him attacking President Joe Biden and appearing to kill Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez with a sword.

The House voted this week to censure Gosar, with virtually no Republicans backing the resolution. Gosar took down the video after facing criticism but did not apologize, and later retweeted a post that contained the video.

Gosar’s video wasn’t an isolated incident. Violent political rhetoric has been escalating among some members of the Republican Party. And while not all of it is fueled by White men, much of it starts at the top — with former President Donald Trump.

Trump’s violent and sexist rhetoric has been well-documented. More White men now identify as Republican, and the gender gap between both major parties is as large as it’s ever been in the last two decades.

One New York Times columnist, under the headline “The Angry White Male Caucus,” said this anger is driven by White men who fear a changing America “in which the privilege of being a white man isn’t what it used to be.”

The anger also seems to be getting worse. After President Joe Biden signed an infrastructure bill into law this month, some House Republicans who voted for it reported receiving death threats. Election officials and school board members across the country are also reporting escalating threats. A recent poll revealed that 30% of Republicans believe that violence is justified to save the country.


Add to this toxic political atmosphere another element: Laws that not only protect White vigilante violence but, in some cases, seem to embolden vigilantes.

Activists hoped that widely seen videos showing White police officers and White men shooting Black men like Arbery would inspire the courts and state legislatures to revisit laws that made such actions possible.

But even after nationwide protests over the murder of George Floyd by a White police officer, little has changed. A growing number of Americans now want police funding increased. And though Georgia overhauled its citizen’s arrest law, a reform bill called the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act died in Congress two months ago.


The conservative-leaning US Supreme Court now seems poised to make it easier for people to carry guns in public, based on recent oral arguments over a New York gun control law.

The US’ civilian population is already the most heavily armed in the world. And our streets could soon become even more violent.


The Supreme Court has also recently ruled once again in favor of “qualified immunity,” the legal doctrine that shields police officers accused of misconduct. There’s been little national movement on reforming “stand your ground laws,” some of which allow people who believe they’re facing an imminent threat to use lethal force without first trying to escape. At least 25 states have such laws, according to the National Conference of State Legislators.

And despite the shocking nature of the Arbery video, there’s been little progress on reforming citizen’s arrest laws, which allow private citizens to detain or arrest someone they suspect in a crime.

The White men on trial in the Rittenhouse and Arbery cases both said they acted in self-defense. One of the men in the Arbery case testified that the unarmed Black jogger tried to take his gun, and his life was at risk.

But consider the potential danger of other White men — or any person wielding a gun in public — feeling emboldened to use deadly force against even an unarmed person by evoking the logic in those defenses, said Eric Ruben, a Second Amendment expert.


This White male anger is causing many people — including other White men — to look over their shoulder when they go out in public. The two men who were shot and killed by Rittenhouse in Wisconsin were White, as was the man he wounded.

Ijeoma Oluo, author of “Mediocre: The Dangerous Legacy of White Male America,” wrote that she lives with the constant fear that angry White men will turn violent toward her and “countless other black people, brown people, disabled people, queer people, trans people, and women of every demographic.”

White male anger could prove to be one of the biggest roadblocks we face in building a successful multiracial democracy.