The leftist narrative of “white privilege” is “disgusting,” said J.D. Vance, author of Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis, on Friday’s edition of SiriusXM’s Breitbart News Daily with host Alex Marlow, editor-in-chief of Breitbart News and author of Breaking the News: Exposing the Establishment Media’s Hidden Deals and Secret Corruption.
Vance speculated that some criticisms of the film Hillbilly Elegy — based on his book — are rooted in left-wing rejection of the existence of struggle among white “working class” Americans. He noted that the reality of struggling whites in America profiled in his book and film is incompatible with the left-wing framework of “white privilege.”
“There is a narrative in our country, right now, that if you’re white, you’re privileged,” Vance stated, “and the idea that there is a family that is white, that is working class, that is struggling in ways that are identifiable to a lot of non-white Americans — and a lot of white Americans, too — is just not something the current cultural zeitgeist is comfortable with.”
Vance added, “They don’t like to think of people who are living in communities like mine — who look like my family — as struggling. Of course, many of those folks are [struggling]. That’s not what [those] people want to hear… This moment met the identity politics, the hyper-woke white privilege moment, and the the movie suffered from that, too.”
Vance warned that left-wing commodification of imaginary victimhood undermines the centrality of character in defining one’s path in life. He identified Meghan Markle’s recent interview with billionaire media mogul Oprah Winfrey as illustrative of this phenomenon. He noted how perceptions of victimization strip individuals of agency.
“This interview that Meghan Markle and Prince Harry had a few weeks ago … I was watching that and I was amazed by just how much whining and how much victimhood there was,” Vance remarked. “It is still the case that whatever circumstances you come from — even if you come from a pretty tough family like mine — traditional American values like hard work, like loyalty to family, like devotion to your country, like investment in your future, these things still do matter.”
Vance continued, “The message we send to kids when we have big celebrities going on television and whining to Oprah is, ultimately, that character doesn’t really matter, and thank God I got a different lesson for my grandparents, from the Marine Corps, from the community around me, because if I if I hadn’t gotten that message I would have had just a really tough life.”
Vance reflected on lessons from his military service as solutions to the seeds of racial, ethnic, and economic acrimony sown by left-wing politics. He highlighted the U.S. armed forces’ unification of a diverse swathe of Americans as an example of patriotism transcending race, ethnicity, and class.
“The Marine Corps was such an incredible part of my own background,” Vance shared. “I enlisted in 2003, so this is right … we invaded Iraq, and I served from from 2007, and what I often tell people is that the Marine Corps was this incredible experience in learned willfulness. There were so much helplessness in the community that I grew up in that was struggling, where the jobs had disappeared, people were struggling with drug addiction, and I had never been part of [a] powerful team where we were all oriented in the same direction. We all had the same goal, and there was this expectation that we could meet this goal together.”
He went on, “[The Marine Corps] also gave me this remarkable exposure to different parts of our country. Some of my best friends were guys from Puerto Rico. I had a good friend who grew up in a wealthy family in suburban Maryland. It was just this remarkable collection of Americans, but we were all Americans and we were all on the same team and that’s an experience.”
He concluded, “I think about [my military service] a lot, of course, in modern America, which is hyper-driven by identity politics, and I think that we could actually learn something from the way the enlisted military thinks about itself and its own identity.”
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