In defense of old white men

And yes, a greater proportion of white men have had it easier than members of other demographic groups for all of America’s history. But just as we wouldn’t make sweeping statements about members of other groups based on race or gender, we shouldn’t paint with too broad a brush when it comes to white men, either. We are not all the same.

For example, many white men are poor. As a 2013 AP story noted, “More than 19 million whites fall below the poverty line of $23,021 for a family of four, accounting for more than 41 percent of the nation’s destitute.”

Yet because of the advantages that white men as a larger group have historically enjoyed, today’s poor white men don’t engender all that much sympathy. As Ross Douthat noted a few years ago, “The most underrepresented groups on elite campuses often aren’t racial minorities; they’re working-class whites (and white Christians in particular) from conservative states and regions.” He also cited a study which found that “while most extracurricular activities increase your odds of admission to an elite school, holding a leadership role or winning awards in organizations like high school R.O.T.C., 4-H clubs and Future Farmers of America actually works against your chances.”

White men are not all rich and powerful, nor are we all villainous sexists. (Indeed, I would like to think that most of us are not!)