This guest column starts a new feature, Perspective, which periodically will offer different viewpoints on lifelong learning.
The inaugural Perspective is offered by Jim Dunn, who has worked in public education for 40 years as a teacher, communications director and consultant. His 2014 book, Old North Side Cafe, celebrates small town life and the art of storytelling. The book has inspired three plays, over 300 articles and two songs. Jim lives in Liberty, MO with his wife Kathy and continues to help school districts with strategic planning and crisis management.
I have wanted to write about Old White Men for a long time. I wanted to share some stories, defend my aging brothers and take a closer look at the legacy we are leaving behind.
First, it is obvious we have had it good. We rigged the system a very long time in our favor. Minorities and women need not even apply for those unlisted positions of power and authority that come up from time to time. Some old white man has been carefully groomed, given the secret map that shows where the landmines are buried, and then filled to the brim with confidence, energy and a righteous expectation of unearned success.
I am one of those guys! Honestly, it drives me crazy when old white men talk about how hard they have had it. Nothing has been particularly hard for my cohort group. We never had to be twice as good as a woman to get a job. We never had to worry if we might get arrested on the way to the interview because of our color. We are the heroes of almost all the world’s great novels. We are the hunters and the protectors. Our sports get top billing. We rule the kitchen in the world’s great restaurants. When we dress up, we wear black tuxedos that make us look striking, cummerbunds that make us look slim, and our aura is that men don’t need to be paraded in designer gowns and jewels to look good. We look good just as we are.
I don’t really know how we did it, but we managed to make taking care of infants and children less important in our culture than making and selling widgets. We get paid humongous sums of money for doing the most meaningless things. The important things like teaching, creating homes, providing care to the sick and having babies …. well, we get women to do those things for almost nothing. Men make money! Men get to put women on pedestals where they are out of the way. The only thing hard about being an old white man is trying to remember all the ways we have it good.
Even the greatest narrative of all literature tilts toward men. It is the story of a man who wins the love of his princess and then overcomes amazing obstacles….. things like witches, dragons, entire armies, death potions and impossible odds to save the woman he loves so much. After saving her, that woman belongs to him. They settle down, have children in a house with a white picket fence and live happily after. Oh yes, literature has a thousand stories and men are the heroes of every one.
Now, some cranky self-righteous people have the audacity to question why there are no women on the local city council, the board of education or even in the boardrooms of major corporations. These cranks say things like, “These are the same tired old ideas that failed 50 years ago.” And, “The best man for the job is a woman.” Oh yes, it is getting a little testy out there for us old white men.
So here is what I wanted to say. I predict us old white men will continue our good run. Because, unlike old white men, women and minorities are not so interested in revenge or keeping score. Turns out women like to get things done without drama or conflict. They are a lot more forgiving and seem to like it when people get along. They don’t need to get all the credit for everything they do. Good outcomes alone seem to work for them.
Minorities, women, gays ,the handicapped and younger people on the rise are getting wise to us. Us old white guys might actually be forced to play on a level field one day. But, here’s the thing — a lot of old white guys like that the world is changing. Having it good all those years was fun for sure, but it never did feel right to lot of us…. never seemed like the world we wanted for our kids. Today we see our own daughters and sons — the ones women raised while we out making money — wanting fairness and equality. These kids don’t abide by all the gender rules. They want to challenge each other and to share equally what life has to offer. Our kids are more than happy to dump the mud of rigid expectations.
It was a good run. And it got us past the hunter-gatherer stage and into the modern era. Us old white guys did take advantage of the culture we were born into. Now however, we are presiding over the end of an era. Our sun is setting. Forgive us if we grieve just a little.
Want to explore more about Jim’s perspective? He suggests the following resources:
- Oscar Voters: 94% White, 76% Men, and an Average of 63 Years Old
- Musing of an Old White Man
- Patrick Stewart: “People will not listen unless you are an old, white man, so Im an old white man and I will use that to help people who need it”
- Yes, politics is still dominated by old, white men. Here’s why.
- If old white men feel maligned, they should take their own advice to minorities
- Last Hurrah For The Old, White, Angry Crowd