White Tennessee residents endanger their own health by rejecting government health care programs and by embracing pro-gun and anti-tax policies, according to a new book a Vanderbilt University professor just released.
The book, Dying of Whiteness: How the Politics of Racial Resentment is Killing America’s Heartland, even says “explicit racism” can motivate certain white people to cling to these conservative points of view.
This, according to a press release Vanderbilt officials put out this week.
Vanderbilt Professor Jonathan Metzl wrote the book.
Metzl, according to Vanderbilt’s press release, is a professor of sociology and medicine and a professor of health and society.
Metzl did not return The Tennessee Star’s repeated requests for comment this week.
Metzl said in the press release that he set out to “understand how white Americans reconciled support for anti-tax, pro-gun policies in regions struggling with the impact of poor health care and education and high rates of gun death.”
He said he focused on three specific areas — Medicaid expansion in Tennessee, school funding in Kansas, and gun laws in Missouri. Metzl said in the press release that he has lived in all three of those states.
“In his book, Metzl explains that today’s skepticism toward gun control and government programs has a long history in the segregated South and Midwest, where gun ownership, affordable health care and quality education were considered privileges that only whites deserved,” according to the press release.
“Likewise, those attitudes reflected a view of whiteness that emphasized extreme self-reliance—the idea that individuals can and should be solely responsible for the health, safety and well-being of themselves and their loved ones.”
Quoting Metzl, the Vanderbilt press release said this view is linked to backlash following the U.S. Civil War and federal interventions to end segregation. Metzl also said these attitudes resurged following the election of former Democratic President Barack Obama.
Metzl said he interviewed working and middle-class whites about why they were pro-gun, anti-tax, and rejected government-sponsored health care.
“Support wasn’t necessarily motivated by explicit racism, he said, though he did encounter that, too—all it took was an investment in this particular brand of ‘whiteness,’” according to the press release.
“Furthermore, through statistical analyses of population and life expectancy, he found these attitudes carried significant health consequences not only for minorities and immigrants, but whites as well.”
In other words, according to the press release, quoting Metzl, “whiteness itself has become a negative health indicator.”