Archive for March 10th, 2011

The Thinker

White males on the decline?

Some time ago, I pilloried Glenn Beck who I said seems obsessively concerned that America is losing its whiteness and hence its fundamental character. America’s innate “whiteness” of course belies the Native Americans who were here before us, the Hispanics who populated the southwest long before our citizens moved west and the millions of slaves we forcibly imported to tend our plantations. White males governed the United States exclusively for a very long time, and the integration of other ethnicities into our power structure has been slow at best. Only recently did we get our first Muslim American in Congress. Despite the presence of many non-whites in our country throughout our history, there is some truth that early Americans largely perceived the United States to be a country by and for white people. Abraham Lincoln was among many presidents who, at least for most of his life, firmly believed this. Until about the time he became president, he believed the final solution to our racial problem was to create a Negro colony somewhere and move American Negroes there. (The bravery of African American troops in the Civil War helped convince him otherwise.)

White (Caucasian) Americans remain in the majority, but by the time I expect to meet my maker, if not before, I will become part of a mere plurality of white Americans. If you follow the demographic trends out a century or so, Hispanics will likely form a new plurality of Americans, and we white Americans will be just another sizeable minority. Like Afrikaners, we are likely to exert a political and financial power that will seem inconsistent with our size.

Or maybe not. Whites may be in the minority someday, but some people are already worried enough to help white men go to college. A few white male students at Texas State University in San Marcos have formed a scholarship fund for Caucasian males. They notice that there are plenty of scholarship funds for other ethnic groups, which is hard to deny. If you are a minority and have the talent, you can probably get a full scholarship. There is also a new fact on college campuses: women now form a majority of students. Maybe white men need some help too, particularly the B-average white male student. To qualify for their scholarships, you need to be only twenty-five percent Caucasian. Their scholarship is hardly generous either, just $500, barely enough to cover the cost of textbooks. This new scholarship fund may be one that is more to make a point than to seriously address a problem of declining enrollment in universities by white males. Their scholarship fund is likely to cause a minor kerfuffle, but it is not illegal. That it occurred first in Texas did not surprise me.

I was one of these young white males thirty-five years ago. I did not have a 4.0 average (3.5, as I recall) but my grades were not stellar enough for me to get any scholarships. I had some money of my own that I painstakingly saved from a job bagging groceries and stocking shelves. My parents contributed about $5000. That wasn’t enough to make it through college, so I compensated by overloading courses during semesters and finally, when all funds were near gone, obtaining a student loan. With such modest financial resources, a private college was unaffordable, but attending a local Florida university was not. However, I did manage to get my degree.

As I moved into my career, I was not aware that I was a benefactor of any white privilege in particular. My moving up the ladder was a struggle and never a given, but I had no way of knowing how hard it was for others. I recall a time early in my federal career when many “career ladder” type jobs were off limits to me. I did not qualify because I was a white male and they were targeted for minorities. I did not feel discriminated against at the time; I just accepted that the government was trying to right wrongs that had existed for centuries in a modest and actually quite limited way. It’s not that all opportunities were off limits, just some.

However, I am now convinced that something is going on with white males, and I don’t think it is good for our country. For better or worse, white males have been our nation’s primary movers and shakers. Increasingly white men are either uninterested in college or simply lack the motivation and/or intelligence to succeed in college. Prosperity and lax parenting may be to blame, resulting in young white males today with a tendency to be overweight, nonathletic and more interested in being online than keeping their noses to the grindstone. Young white males seem to me less focused and have less of a passionate desire to succeed in the past. Women, on the other hand, are realizing that they are better optimized for the new workforce. The new workforce requires those who can seamlessly multi-task and have advanced relational skills. In general, these skills come more naturally to women than to men. Combine natural talents in this area with advanced education (and perhaps the lower wages still unfairly paid to women compared to men) and women become more desirable to employers than equally qualified men do. I have found from my experience that those I admire the most in the workplace tend to be women. Women staff two levels in my management chain. It may be coincidence, but I feel much better managed and more effective with women supervisors and managers than I did for the many men for who I worked. It may be because they see me as a person better than the many men who supervised me over the years.

These factors and likely others appear to be marginalizing the American white male. Also contributing to their problem are fewer blue-collar jobs. What blue-collar jobs that are out there tend to fall into two types: dead end jobs that are mindless and uninspiring and those (like automotive mechanics) that require substantially higher skills than they used to. So if you are unable to make the leap into college or trade school, you are more likely to fall into jobs that are more menial, pay less and are more temporal.

Perhaps this is part of a natural course of events. However, the culture that has traditionally favored and supported the white male seems, if not crumbling, under assault. $500 scholarships are token attempts to call attention a problem that I am convinced is quite real and probably needs attention. I do not think this problem should be addressed at the expense of other minorities. However, white male energy has contributed enormously to our country’s success and may predict our future success. Social scientists should do us a favor by examining the scope of the white male motivation problem, and recommending solutions for policymakers. Whatever we are doing is not working.

 

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