(The Root) — In December 1976, United Artists released Rocky, the story of an obscure, aging Philadelphia boxer, an underdog who challenged insurmountable odds to get his shot at facing a brutish, flamboyant champion.
Sylvester Stallone never claimed that he intended any racial connotations in his now-beloved character, but it’s easy to see Rocky as a metaphor for white men who felt they were slowly losing control over a society that they felt was their birthright to dominate.
Rocky went the distance against the arrogant Apollo Creed, a cartoonish characterization of Muhammad Ali, whose over-the-top persona had been an offense to the sensibilities of many whites ever since he defied the draft and refused to go to Vietnam.
Much of the country still hated Ali for that, so seeing Rocky challenge his pompousness, personified in Creed, was a welcome draw to the movies. Even though, by the end, Rocky had lost to this bad black man, the film seemed to signify a call to action to defend what was right and just.
For much of its history, Western pugilism was one of the few martial arts dominated by white men — that is, until Jack Johnson, Joe Louis, Sugar Ray Robinson, Ali and others came along and established a black foothold, pouncing white challengers left and right, until the Klitschko brothers emerged — and they weren’t even American.
I don’t want to get too far into boxing analogies without explaining my reason for them: The victory of Barack Obama in the recent election, both in the popular vote and electoral votes, is being seen by many white male conservatives as a historic tipping point that indicates the demise of white male societal dominance. For them, America is no longer a white dude’s game, and it makes them sad.
Fox News host Bill O’Reilly announced it as if it were a declaration of America’s new identity: “The white establishment is the minority,” he said on election night as Obama ran up the electoral score, state by state.
Conservative pundit Pat Buchanan was more morbid, lamenting that “white America died last night.” His verbal requiem mourned that America had become a “socialist Latin American” nation.
As unsurprising as these notions are coming from those two, these are paranoid expressions that are probably not isolated.