2020 may go down as the year of anger directed like a laser at white men. The death of George Floyd, who was black, at the hands of then Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, who is white, sparked rage across the nation that continues to this day. Riots have plagued American cities for months. More than two dozen Americans, mostly minority men, have died in the violence. That rage has found targets in accusations that “systemic racism” makes America inherently and irredeemably racist and wrong.
White men founded America. Ergo, in this line of thinking, white men are terrible in every way and must be stopped — and more. Never mind the fact that our nation’s founders also sowed the seeds of emancipation and freedom into the Constitution, to end a diabolical institution that had plagued humanity for eons before America’s founding.
The mainstream media often adds to the division. CNN’s Don Lemon, never known for his self-awareness, once quipped, “We have to stop demonizing people and realize the biggest terror threat in this country is white men.”
Are white men not people too? Is this where we are as 2020 races toward its final, possibly climactic, quarter?
In December 2015, Salon magazine declared “White men must be stopped. The very future of mankind depends on it.”
Rage against any group can lead to dark places. It has in the past, worldwide: the killing fields of Cambodia, the Holodomor in Ukraine, the Holocaust in Europe, even the tribal wars of the Aztec empire in pre-Columbian Mesoamerica. Group hatred negates the value of the individual and, to borrow language from some on the left, can lead to a dehumanizing “othering” of people based solely on one or two characteristics they cannot even control — such as being born white and male.
Into one of the darkest and most divisive years in decades comes one of the cheeriest and most unifying books: White Guys Are Okay Too: Heroes Throughout History, by Tim Constantine. This book could not be more timely, and its contents could not be better suited to this difficult time in our national and cultural life.
Constantine brings his deep knowledge of culture and public life, and his Irish humor, to bear in White Guys, with chapters covering music, literature, movies, space, the culinary arts, and more. Constantine also brings an even-handedness to the issues that is missing in much of our media and discourse. For instance, the chapter on movies points out that some guys who happen to be white have contributed much to the celluloid arts — such as Sean Connery and John Wayne — and so have distinguished black filmmakers such as Spike Lee. White guys named Mozart and Sinatra are some of music’s most successful powerhouses.
In the field of literature, Constantine points out that Cai Lun may have contributed much to the written word by inventing paper — in second-century China. William Shakespeare, Charles Dickens, and Ernest Hemingway built on that to give the world the culture we know and love today.
White Guys Are Okay Too is a brisk, informative read that will leave readers chuckling instead of steaming. Its caricature cartoons, by the inimitable Mario Mariani, bring the many figures discussed throughout this humorous book to life.
Throughout White Guys Are Okay Too, Constantine springs surprise after surprise as he makes the case that people from all backgrounds have made significant contributions to the world — including the villain of our age, the white guy. And that white guys might not be the monsters that some are cynically making them out to be. White Guys Are Okay Too is the perfect antidote to an angry, often hateful, year.
Dan Perkins is a Florida-based Registered Investment Adviser with over 40 years of investments experience investing in all asset classes all over the world