A White Man's Burden

Posted: May 16, 1991

New surveys show that white males in this country have begun to complain of job discrimination, surely one of the seven signs of the Apocalypse.

The men claim affirmative action has given women and racial minorities unfair competitive advantages. The upshot is that many white males now feel they are an oppressed minority.

It hardly seems possible that our white patriarchy has become so vulnerable so quickly. Wasn't it just last week that Gov. Bob Casey was trying to nominate Lee Iacocca for the U.S. Senate? (A chicken in every pot, an air bag in every car!)

The good old days. Now, the old boy network must face the fact that in 10 years white males will account for only one in five entrants to the workforce, making it virtually impossible to get a foursome on a Friday afternoon.

In order to gauge the seriousness of white male anxiety without actually having to contact real people, we thought it would be a good idea to create what we journalists call a "composite."

A composite is a valuable and expedient reporting tool, because it is comprehensive, detailed and of course completely fictional. (Best of all, the spurious nature of the account in no way disqualifies it for a Pulitzer nomination.)

Our composite white male is 35, plays golf, has 1.5 Merle Haggard albums, secretly looks forward to using his weed-whacker, and wishes people would get off Dan Quayle's back.

We asked him the following question: "Have you experienced workplace discrimination as a result of the influx of women, African-Americans and other minorities?"

"Yes."

"Be specific."

"Well, little things mostly. Like the handshakes are getting a lot more complicated."

"And?"

"OK, the other day everbody was talking about this new wave of black cinema and discussing which was their favorite, and eventually the conversation got around to me."

"What did you say?"

"Mandingo. I don't think it was the right choice. Everyone moved away from me."

"What else?"

"No more Muzak. It's been replaced by jazz. I'm trying hard to keep up, but there are so many artists, each with his own seminal period. Who can keep track of them? The other day people at the fax machine were talking about Charlie Parker. I thought he was the guy who managed Elvis - how humiliating. It seems I never say the right thing anymore. I feel I don't fit in."

"Maybe you should try harder to make friends. Get involved in group activities with other people at the office. What about joining the softball team?"

"They got rid of that. Cultural male imperialism, or something."

"Surely the company sponsors some kind of recreational activity."

"They do, but I'm no good at field hockey."

"Have you tried?"

"Yes, but I didn't like it."

"You've got to give it a chance."

"If you must know, I didn't like those kilt things. I felt as though people were staring at my legs. I felt like a piece of meat."

"I'm sorry."

"It's starting to get to me. It's like I'm isolated, alone."

"Sounds serious."

"As serious as it can be. I'm starting to have trouble performing."

"You mean . . ."

"That's right. I'm leaving all my putts short, and I've developed a chronic slice."

"How awful."

"It's pretty bad. I stick out like a sore thumb at the office, and I'm starting to have nightmares about it. The other night, I dreamed that when I showed up for work everyone was staring at me because . . ."

"You were naked?

"No, I was the only one not wearing a dashiki."

"Sounds like paranoia."

"I'm not so sure. I was eating lunch at my desk the other day, and I could have sworn people were laughing at me."

"Why?"

"I think it had something to do with my lunch."

"Anything unusual?"

"Nope. The same thing I eat everyday - a Velveeta sandwich and a Fresca."

"Yum."

"Hey, I like Velveeta. It may not be hip. It may not even be cheese. But it's damn good."

"The bottom line is, though, that you don't feel you're on the fast track anymore."

"The fast track? Hardly. I'm a museum piece. People look at me as though I were some relic of a dead culture, like a pottery shard or a pictograph. I think they have a hard time believing white males ever ran this country. Of course, I understand how they feel."

"Really?"

"Yeah. I get the same feeling when I watch 'Hee Haw.' "

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