A Credit to His Race?
(Trump and the End of -white- Men)
When I was young, the generation of my parents would sometimes use a phrase that has necessarily fallen out of parlance. These older people would often use it when referring to Harry Belafonte or Sidney Poitier. They would say, “He is a credit to his race.” The racism of such a statement is not only inherent, it is also expressed. The phrase very quickly and rightly fell out of use. From the beginning of its usage, it could have only sprung from the empowered racial majority when condescending to an oppressed racial minority. Well, demographics can and do change. And so do power structures. Sometimes both will do so inexorably.
In 1950, the United States was 89.5% white. By 2010, that percentage had dropped to 72.4%. While that may seem to only be a 17.1 % drop in total population, in terms of the white population, that is a decline of almost 20%, in sixty years. Even right now, only 49.8% of all US births are white babies. And immigration trends are even stronger in favor of current minorities. The US Census predicts that by 2050 white people will be in the minority. In other words, whether it is unspoken or not, the actions of the individuals of this white minority may reflect upon the way all of the race is seen by what will then be the majority of Americans.
In terms of education, jobs, and one day, in pay, the gender shift is equally as inevitable. Since the 1970s, American women have been much more likely to graduate from high school than men. In the academic year ending in 2010, women earned 57.4 percent of all bachelor’s degrees in the United States, up from 9.1 percent in 1971. Women now hold 5 percent of the CEO jobs at S&P 500 companies, while in 1990 there were zero such female CEOs. Women make up 20 percent of the US Congress, but fully one third of all the women who ever served in the Congress are current members.
The trends indicate that one day not only will white people be a minority, but the majority of jobs that are high pay and require an advanced education will be held by women of all races. Entrenched majority positions tend to hold back a rising tide of minority ones, until there is a “tipping point.” The “glass ceiling” may not break. One day it could simply disappear. White men will finally have to worry whether or not they are a credit to their sex and to their race. And so far the indications are not very good. All one has to do in order to imagine such an eventuality is to take the current behavior of some white men and pretend they are black. The idea of black men carrying torches and marching for black supremacy, or black police officers killing white men, or a black President of the United States inciting racial hatred against whites would be explosive now, but it is exactly illustrative of what may be a serious problem when white men are no longer in charge, and the shoes are on the other feet.
No single figure is more exemplary of this problem than Donald Trump. And no American political figure is doing more to be less of a credit to his race and sex that the President. He may have been able to win election despite admitting to sexual assault, despite mocking disabled persons, despite speaking in racist terminology, despite pushing the notion of white male privilege to the absurd extreme, by maintaining his business ties, by refusing to release his tax returns, by letting his family members run the country, and by attacking the news media and the independent judiciary and the law enforcement structure. But the numbers don’t lie. One day, that sort of thing will all be the bad behavior of a dis-empowered minority. And Trump is hastening the trends. In other words, no white male President has ever behaved so badly.
I confess to being a member of the offending group, a white male. Like all others of my white fellow males, I have grown up and old without ever having even to consider my race or my gender. Unlike a woman, I certainly never had to consider how my gender might be subject to discrimination. Nor have I had to worry how my race might be used to hold me back, as African-Americans have. But now, to be perfectly honest, not only am I ashamed at how Donald Trump is exactly the opposite of being a credit to our race and gender, I am beginning to be afraid of what that may mean in the future. I am here to tell all other white men, we are being painted by the same bad brush. And it is in the hands of the President.
If there is any silver lining at all for white men, it is that Trump will be such an emblem of how not to act that he may become a symbol and a guidepost for what not to do in order to survive in what will one day be a dis-empowered minority. Few things are as indicative of social change than language. Recently, the word “hepeating” has entered the lexicon, meaning when a man repeats a woman’s idea and it is suddenly no longer ignored. It joins “mansplaining,” “brogressive,” “manspreading,” and others. The trend in language is as clear as it is in the numbers. Perhaps my son and grandsons will be told, “Don’t Trump out on me.” Or, “Get your inner Trump under control.” And, “That is just too Trump of you.”
So my final message to all you Trumpish “sons of bitches” (a Trumpism) out there is this: “Stop making it so bad for all the rest of us.”
(Gerald Weaver is the author of the novel, The First First Gentleman, August 2016, London Wall Publishing. It is among other things a sly tribute to almost all the novels of Charles Dickens. His well-received first novel, Gospel Prism, was published in May 2015. Each of its twelve chapters paraphrases a great work, by Cervantes, Montaigne, Shakespeare, etc. Harold Bloom said it was “remarkable” and “charming but disturbing.” Weaver also has a BA in History from Yale, and was a teacher of Latin in the Maryland public schools.)