Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying the world ever needed white men, but there was a time when many people were convinced that it did. White men did a pretty good job of convincing and bullying all the non-white-men (women of all colors including white and everyone else) that white men were essential to civilization. Lately I’ve been struck by the bloated sense of self-importance that fills the prose of my favorite writers – Steinbeck, Hemingway, London, Kipling, Maugham, Verne, Melville, Stevenson – these guys were convinced of their place in the world and how important it was to keep it. White men – the keepers of order and civilization. White men – the last bastion of sanity between the encroaching primitive civilizations and the hysteric female imperative. White men. Yes.
I think – and I’m not sure of this – but I’m pretty sure – I grew up in the last years that white men were the self-acknowledged and self-proclaimed masters of the universe. The 1970s and early 1980s were a time that the world was still processing the movements of feminism, Native Americanism, Black Pride, Hispanic pride, Asian pride, and multi-genderism. I don’t know what to call all of these movements – but they can all be lumped together under the banner of “Straight White Men Are Not Better Than Anyone Else” movements. These movements took place mostly from the late 1960s through the 1990s and during much of that time – white men still held the keys to the kingdom.
It was a time when it was still okay to tell black jokes (if there were no black people around), it was okay to characterize Asian people with a language that sounded like ching chong and with slanted eyes, Hispanics were still considered lazy and sneaky (the men) or lascivious and waiting for rescue from white men (the women). It was fine to demean other white men with descriptions about how they had female genitalia, how they were homosexual, or how they were (fill in the blank) like a (fill in the blank). To be a straight white man was the ideal.
I think I can pretty well pinpoint when it began to change. Bill Cosby and the Cosby Show – a black doctor wearing colorful sweaters and raising a respectful family. Whoopi Goldberg becoming a wise character on Star Trek: The Next Generation. All of this right around the 1984-1988 period. The world was thrown on its head – suddenly there were African-American characters who didn’t speak with a ghetto accent, Hispanics on television who were not drug dealers, and Hillary Clinton – the First Lady, actually had the audacity to take on real political issues like healthcare and gender equality. Mind you, it was still fine to tell gay jokes through much of the 1990s – but much of the mythology of the straight white man being the pinnacle of civilization had worn off by the time I graduated in 1990.
Perhaps it was that sense of being thrown adrift into a world heading towards equality that pushed me to join the US Marine Corps – a last bastion of white masculinity. I’m happy to say that in the USMC, I was part of a multi-racial fraternity – that while still heavily self-segregated (whites and blacks tended to sit at different tables in the mess hall) introduced me to African Americans, Latinos, and even Eskimos – but I’ll be brutally honest here – it was much easier for white guys to get promoted even in an equality Marine Corps. And it was don’t ask/don’t tell – which translated to it not being okay for guys to be gay. As for women in the Corps – they were treated as inferiors and sexually harassed almost constantly during the time I was in.
Between 1994 when I got out of the Marines and 2008 when I graduated from the University of Hawai’i – things changed even more drastically. I majored in Anthropology – I suppose in part because I grew up reading Tarzan, Robinson Crusoe, and other books where white men encountered and learned to live with the ‘savage’ other. I was always fascinated by the pre-Christian, pre-Muslim, primitive cultures of the world. I was drawn to the wild blood drums of howling fires in far off lands. I sought the pageantry and intense passion of intense humanness. I wanted to peel the onion layers of civilization back to see the reality of the human condition. I gazed at the other with a white man’s eye. My advanced level of civilization – looked down on the people of the world with a paternal eye born of thousands of years of white men dominating everyone else. Our society, however, was moving on.
Now, in 2016 – I live in a rural Oregon town where straight white men still rule supreme. From the time I graduated to now, I’ve traveled a good bit of the world. I married the daughter of an Arab shepherd I lived with in a poor African village. I left my country for nearly half a decade and then returned to this region of ignorant white men in huge gas guzzling trucks who look down on the world with a paternal eye while they cut down ancient trees in exchange for paper money to buy gas and vegetables grown far away by non-white laborors on multi-million dollar corporate farms owned by rich white men.
And all of this has led me to a conclusion that I should have come to long ago. The world doesn’t need white men anymore. It really doesn’t. And it never did. The reign of the white men is coming to an end. They won’t give up without a fight, they will continue to dominate for as long as they can. Donald Trump carries their banner. To some extent Hillary Clinton carries it as a proxy for her husband – a man who was the most powerful man in the world and used his position to fuck an intern who was just barely out of her teens – and got away with it. Bill Clinton would carry the white man vote if he were able to run – and for that reason. Hillary Clinton might win because she brings Bill with her – she was the ‘Good Wife’ who stood by her man. White men don’t hate Obama for his policies nor because he is black – they hate him because he is not a white man. It’s why Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio stand no chance of winning – they are Latino – they are other. Bernie Sanders is a different story – being a non-practicing Jew who likes guns – he stands as an almost white man other – but not quite. He may get the white man vote – it’s hard to say.
I’m saying a lot here – I don’t expect this kind of honesty to go without harsh responses from white men and from non-white men both. Let em go. I’m happy to hear my blind spots. Thank you.