Lacy, M. 2010. “White Innocence Heroes: Recovery, Reversals, Paternalism, and David Duke.”

Lacy, Michael G. 2010. “White Innocence Heroes: Recovery, Reversals, Paternalism, and David Duke.” Journal of International and Interculturla Communication 3(3): 206-227.

Rugged individualism used in paternalistic, racist ways; affirmative action as reverse racism.  Rhetorical models used to “sanitize” white supremacist ideology, through promoting “white innocence”, and erasure of consequences of white hegemonies.  White innocence as predominant racial ideology in US (McPhail 2002) – use of anti-racist-white-heroes to rescue white women, and non-whites in a protectorate discourse – diffusion of white guilt (into white honor?) Erasure and “overcoming” narratives of “old racists” – slavers, segregationists, discriminators, lynchers… focusing on organized and membership-based groups like KKK or neo-Nazis  – through protecting or confronting these old-style racists, the white hero works to obscure blacks’ agency and struggles, promoting the “end” of racism.

White masculine heroes fall in 1960s due to economic recession, war, cultural turns and black, feminist, gay, elderly liberation struggles – the demand for white heroes to see themselves as oppressors (and privileged) (Gresson 2004).

“Brummett (2004) explains that rhetorical reversals in whiteness discourse disguise white hegemonic domination and control by introducing content or information (e.g., the whiteness, blackness, or gender) onto the formal structures of a mythic narrative” (213).

Minimizing language, avoiding responsibilities and associations, denying violence and transgressions, pressing blame on racial Others – linguistic and discursive disguises of racist terminology, racist belonging (pride and heritage, instead of hatred)

White paternalism: “one of the most stable discursive features constituting whiteness, or hegemonic discourse that reproduces white power, control, and privilege” (215). Casting racial others as childlike, incapable, non-agent … a benevolent form of asserting superiority?  Casting of selves as emancipators of non-whites from ‘self-perpetuated’ institutional oppressions.

Adopting of romantic western populism – casting white heroes in Cowboy roles – embodying innocence, honesty, certainty, confidence (Fisher 1982) and rugged individualism – “strength, size, power, and ability to tame or conquer unknown frontiers or harness nature’s force” (217, see also Butterworth 2007).  Cued by linguistic patterns of action verbs, defiance, optimism, folk-accessibility ‘rootsiness’ (?)


Brummett, B. (2004). Whispers of a racial past: Form of white liberal history. In The horse whisperer. Rhetorical homologies: Form, culture, experience (pp. 73101). Tuscaloosa, AL: The University of Alabama Press.

Butterworth, M. L. (2007). Race in ‘‘the race’’: Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, and Heroic constructions of whiteness. Critical Studies in Media Communication, 24, 228244.

Fisher, W. R. (1982). Romantic democracy, Ronald Reagan, and presidential heroes. Western Journal of Speech Communication, 46, 299-310

Gresson, A. D., III. (2004). America’s racial atonement: Racial pain, recovery rhetoric, and the pedagogy of healing. New York, NY: Peter Lang.

McPhail, M. (2002). The rhetoric of race revisited: Reparations or segregation? Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: