Ruben Navarrette Jr., San Diego Union-Tribune, January 28, 2009
What is it with white males? You would think that a group that occupies so many powerful positions and controls so much wealth would be secure enough not to be rattled by a few silly comments. But in the aftermath of the inauguration of the first African American president, skins are thin. It’s a new day–one in which, as some people see it, white males are both convenient villains and our society’s newest victims.
Even the fact that white males are overrepresented in the Obama White House staff and Cabinet doesn’t do much to reassure them that they haven’t lost their place at the head of the line. And now some in the blogosphere and on talk radio seem to be cracking under the pressure.
What set [Michael] Savage off were comments by former Labor Secretary Robert Reich who, in testifying before Congress on President Obama’s plan to create more than a million new jobs as part of the economic recovery, said:
I am concerned, as I’m sure many of you are, that these jobs not simply go to high-skilled people who are already professionals or to white male construction workers. I have nothing against white male construction workers, I’m just saying that there are other people who have needs as well.
Certainly, Reich, who is today a UC Berkeley professor, could have chosen his words better. But the former Clinton administration official was making a serious point about expanding opportunities for those who sometimes miss out. Naturally, “white male construction workers” should not be singled out or excluded from the recovery. But nor should Reich have been vilified as some kind of racist–not just by Savage but by more than a dozen other radio hosts and bloggers who took offense.
–After watching Obama’s inauguration, CNN’s Larry King announced that his 8-year-old son Cannon “now says that he would like to be black.” As King noted, “There’s a lot of advantages to being black. Black is in.”
–During an interview that took place just moments after Obama was sworn in, comedian Chris Rock joked with the white male interviewer. “Can I just hit you right now?” he asked. “Wouldn’t it be funny if I just punched you in the face right about now? If I just walked around here, smacking white people. He’s president. Pow!”
–Appearing on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” on Inauguration Day, Tom Brokaw said: “Having been in the South in the ’60s and Los Angeles and Watts and Northern urban areas, umm, uh, when we were evolving as a country–I’m thinking of all the bigots and the rednecks and all the people that I met along the way, and I’m saying to them, ‘Take this.'”
–Even the Atlantic magazine offered up the article “The End of White America?” It concluded: “As a purely demographic matter . . . ‘white America’ . . . may cease to exist in 2040, 2050 or 2060, or later still. But where the culture is concerned, it’s already all but finished. Instead of the long-standing model of assimilation toward a common center, the culture is being remade in the image of white America’s multiethnic, multicolored heirs.”
These worries are a waste of time. This is still a country of limitless opportunities where anyone can succeed–as long as they don’t spend all their energy coming up with excuses for failing.
[Editor’s Note: Selections from the Atlantic article “The End of White America” can be read here.]