Dear Fathers of White Boys: What Color is the Future?
"If you're [a] white man in the USA, it's open season on you."
— Bill O'Reilly
"The white man is a low person on the totem pole. Everybody else is above the white man."
— Dennis H., registered Democrat and Trump supporter
"There is no doubt that blacks, minorities, and people of color had it rough for many decades. Women, especially in the workplace, had the system tilted against them. We get it… But that was then, and this is now. And two wrongs don't make a right. The sorry truth is that the pendulum has swung way too far in the other direction."
— Wayne Allen Root, "Why 2016 is the year of the angry white male"
The way some white men tell it, they are the true victims in modern America. According to this narrative, white men face more bigotry and discrimination than any other group, and are targets of the most insults and suffering. Women, blacks, Hispanics, you name it: everybody else has more power and influence than white men. This isn't just a whisper from the digital fringe; it is a mainstream talking point I've heard repeated by friends and family.
As a white man, and the father of a white boy hurtling toward manhood, I have to ask: Is it true that white men are discriminated against? That white men don't have opportunities anymore? That everyone else is running the country?
Census data tells us how many Americans fit the label of "white man":
The shaded area marks 31%, the white and male portion of America's population. The chart also marks a smaller number, 24%, who are white, male, and age 18 or older: white men, apart from boys.
If we believe race and gender are truly irrelevant to merit, and if we believe America offers truly equal opportunities to everyone, then we should expect that people in jobs of legal power and cultural influence would resemble the overall population. Groups that face discrimination — such as white men, perhaps?—would have less representation in these jobs.
Let's take a look at government, law, business, media, and a few other fields.
Not one of these matches the U.S. population. And this is after decades of increasing diversity. If the theory is that white men face greater discrimination than anyone else, the data is overwhelmingly clear: Right now, white men run America. They have far more positions of legal power and cultural influence than suggested by a level playing field, much less one tilted against them.
So, if you're the father of a white boy, remember: Your white boy today will be a white man tomorrow. You are raising someone who is more likely to have influence and income throughout life simply for being born with a certain sex organ of a certain color. This isn't fair, but it is true today and for the near future.
I am not saying he will have it easy. Far from it. It is important to acknowledge that I have faced difficulties in life, and worked hard. But it's equally important to acknowledge that most of life's situations would have been a lot harder if I were anyone but a white man.
Melanin and genitals are traits, not merits or faults. At birth, they are received through zero effort by the recipient. Without paying attention, it's easy to overlook white and male as an advantage because it feels like normal life. But one man's normal is not a reliable measure of other people's struggles. It is also easy to feel like our identity or work ethic is under attack when someone illuminates our outsized privilege; but the honest response is humility, not denial.
Dads, our influence on our sons' values will have amplified impact on the world compared to women and minorities. We must teach our sons to value truly equal representation and fair opportunity; to believe people should advance by skill and intelligence, rather than color or sex; to use privilege as empowerment to "seek justice and help the oppressed," as the prophet Isaiah wrote.
We will only understand racism and sexism through the people oppressed, and we will only solve racism and sexism through the people in power. The next generation of white men needs a clear view of their role in this arrangement. To quote Spider-Man, "With great power comes great responsibility," although Jesus said it much earlier: "To those who have been given much, much will be required in return."
Someday, I'd like our sons to be able to write: Right now, everyone runs America.
This blog by Tor de Vries appeared on Medium on September 10, 2017.
September 17, 2017