The Problem With White Men

The Problem With White Men

More than any other single demographic, it’s infinitely arguable that white men are responsible for the vast majority of America’s social ills.

By David Todd McCarty | Thursday, October 29, 2020

White men are a problem. 

You can either take this as a statement of self-defeating virtue signaling, or as the least controversial observation in human history, but after decades of research and massive polling over the past four years, it would appear that white men are responsible for most of our problems in America. I realize this sounds like the start of a bit, but it’s not. I believe it’s actually something we should discuss, at least partially in earnest.

It’s hard to know which to approach first, the race or gender of white males overall. Is their particular dysfunction primarily a product of being born men or white? Historically speaking, you’d have to go with white of course, but being male certainly is closely tied to it. 

Of course this didn’t start with Trump, but the election and continued popularity of Donald J. Trump is due almost exclusively to the dominance of white men in America. Even as his popularity has lagged with other groups that initially supported him, there is one group that has stayed defiantly loyal, and that of course, is white men.

When it comes to Trump at least, there are two other defining characteristics worth noting that get to the core of his base and that is evangelical Christianity and those without college degrees. Lest you think this is some small subset of the population, whites without a college degree make up 40% of the eligible voting population and nearly 60% of the Republican Party. In fact, since 2008 when the split was even between Democrats and Republicans, there is now a 25 point gap with white Americans without a college degree favoring the Republican Party. A massive 70% of Americans identify as Christian. 

While it’s true that I’m making the assumption that fealty to the current President of the United States is a qualifying example of our cultural malaise, there are other factors that point to the fact that white men in America are a significant cause of our obvious demise.

As a white man myself, this is slightly disconcerting, as no one relishes the idea of being part of a group of oppressive, misogynistic, bigoted boors with a history of violence, but at some point you have to come to grips with reality. I don’t identify immediately as a white man in my mind, but by process of elimination, there is no doubt that is what I am. Like a soda cracker in a world of exotic pastries, the straight, white man is both a dominant force in our culture and yet somehow the least interesting thing about it. That’s quite a conundrum.  How can we represent such unbending mediocrity and lack of aesthetic appeal and yet rule the world?

I don’t have the headspace or time to get into how or why white men came to dominate culture, and there are plenty of books you can check out at your local library that can explain the history of Western civilization and European colonialism, but suffice it to say it involved a lot of money and violence, in quantities that should disturb you. Not really sure why that worked, given how often outnumbered they were, but I’m sure it came down to steel and gunpowder.

The best I can tell is that most people are generally pretty amiable creatures, willing to go along to get along and not all that interested in fighting. So when someone comes along and demands that you move along, at the tip of a sword, you move along.

The other issue is that power begets power. If you have money you can buy more effective weapons, and the loyalty of men willing to wield them. From there, the world is pretty much your oyster. Add a little sexual violence along with a paternalistic religion and you have a pretty decent recipe for world domination.

The British managed to rule India for quite some time, relying on 100,000 white Brits to control 300 million Indians, against their will. The fact that the British realized their position was untenable  was likely less a spiritual awakening on the evils of colonialism, then a quick mental calculation that concluded that it was ultimately an unwinnable fight, especially once the Indians decided they’d had enough.

But, despite the threat of violence, it’s really rather stunning that so few white men have continued to dominate humanity for so long. Even after the end of Apartheid in South Africa 30 years ago, it remains one of the most unequal countries in the world with the 20% white population still controlling 90% of the wealth and 25% unemployment.

In America, the days of white, dominant rule are coming to an end through a simple process of global migration and demographic changes over time. By 2050 America will no longer be a white majority country with white non-hispanics making up less than 50% of the population. America will soon become a minority-majority country.

Photo by Christopher Campbell on Unsplash

If you combine this with the steady decline of Christianity as the dominant faith tradition in America, and you can see why white, evangelical Christians are so worried that their magical thinking, tax exempt enterprise could one day be in jeopardy. But rather than strengthening the forces of liberty that protects things like freedom of religion, they have been trying to manipulate the system into becoming a theocratic state, enshrining only their religious tradition into law.

Throw in gun culture, an insidious American pastime that you can track historically but that still makes no sense from a practical, responsible framework for a modern society. It’s a hobby gone nuclear and treated like a theological principle akin to a belief in God.

And finally penises. For whatever reason, from raging hormones and an evolutionary sexual desire to dominate, with a culture that mixed puritanical views on morality with inspired violence, you end up with the red-blooded American male. The work of Hollywood in the last 50 years hasn’t helped.

That’s where we stand today. Awash in toxic masculinity and white normative culture, a small but vocal band of miscreants waging war on the forces of gender and racial equality because they feel threatened by the very notion of losing power. Once again, white men have assumed that all progress is a zero-sum game that requires someone to lose in order for another to gain.

If you’re a white man without a college degree living in America, you already view the world as a hostile environment defined by shrinking job opportunities, reduced wages and increased competition. If it weren’t bad enough that you’ve got to complete with with cheap, foreign labor, now you have these liberals who want to give your livelihood away to women, minorities and immigrants. If you can’t afford to support your family, not only are you financially insecure, but your very identity as the head of household is now being undermined and ridiculed.

If you can get past what might be very understandable rage, you can actually begin to empathize with the plight of the working white man in America. That they have been reaping the benefit of while male privilege for centuries, is beside the point for the moment. As Dave Chappelle says, just because children are starving in Africa, doesn’t mean you don’t still want lunch.

From their perspective, the future looks pretty dim, and since no one feels sorry for the straight, white man, no one is fighting for them. They have no support group. No champion. Every day is white boy day, so get to the back of the line while we help all these other people your forefathers screwed raped and lynched. 

You can begin to understand their affection for Donald Trump. Despite all his outrageous flaws, he unapologetically fights for them. You don’t have to agree with everything he says or does to recognize that he has your best interests in mind, even when you realize he doesn’t personally care what happens to you. His interests are your interests.

Unfortunately, that’s as far as I’ve gotten. White men are a problem in America. I do not have a solution or any particularly useful insight at the moment. But it seems like understanding the problem is a big enough place to start, as we can’t just continue to ignore the white man in the room.

Pit bulls might be misunderstood creatures but you can’t deny that their very existence, while based on a regretful and shameful past, can nevertheless still be quite dangerous to women and children.

If you’re more concerned about my characterization of pit bulls than of white men, I might ask you to check your own biases and ego at the door and be willing to listen and empathize with the understandably difficult-to-imagine plight of an individual who is told he holds all the power but sees no evidence of that in his own life. Generalizations, as with all aspects of sexism and racism, are particularly damaging because it allows the perpetrator to remove the victim’s humanity.

I am not an apologist for white men. We’re going to have to suck it up like everyone else. But if you want to get the dog to stop biting people, you might want to stop poking it with the stick. A kind word won’t magically right all the wrongs, but it won’t hurt either.

Personally, I don’t identify strongly enough with the ideal of male masculinity enough to be offended by accusations of toxic masculinity. I don’t like those assholes either. But I feel like I can see their conundrum and if we don’t give them a way out, they’re going to lash out more and more viciously, believing their backs are against the wall. In the big scheme of things, it might be worth showing them a door they can walk through with dignity.

It’s worth talking about anyway.

Follow David Todd McCarty on Twitter @davidtmccarty and The Standard @capemaystandard

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