Government Should Aid White Males In Tough Transition

Our nation’s democratic values face unanticipated dangers, as society moderates the higher status once ascribed blue-collar white males. A generation of white men (born between the end of World War II and before meaningful racial integration and equal opportunity for women began to take place in the late sixties and early seventies) who grew up in homes with blue-collar, working class fathers are not prepared for a true meritorious democracy. A growing number of this class of Americans are marginalized on the fringes of society.

Prior to the civil rights movement, by law and tradition, white males held society’s highest social status. Members of their class could expect to work at the better paying jobs. They were afforded greater opportunities in the professions and in the military. They held the highest political and government positions. With only a few rare exceptions, white male athletes dominated professional sports. In every aspect of life, white men were privileged. They never held positions inferior or subordinate to nonwhites or women, regardless of talent.

Today and in the future, many working class white males will not occupy the higher social status their fathers held above minorities and women in society. This “perceived” downgrading of status challenges the social expectations of this transitional generation of white men. Congress may want to consider legislating programs to soften their passage from the old social order, based on white male privilege, to our new society based on academic achievement and meritorious credentials.

Consider this: When World War II ended, the nation focused its vast war fighting capacities on building infrastructure, and creating middle class communities. This was a period of unparalleled social reconstruction within our society which primarily benefited white men. Congress created an array of programs and benefits, referred to in the vernacular of the period as the GI Bill.

Countless veterans, using GI Bill assistance, enrolled in college becoming the first in their family to do so. Large numbers of veterans became small business owners using GI Bill loans and grants to open their doors. Many of these new small businesses found their niche in suburban communities. These suburban communities manifested the American dream for the masses. Buttressed with government benefits, the dream of home ownership became reality for millions of Americans. Suburban communities sprang up as fast as they could be built. Suburbia was different from the mill-towns and tenant farms from which most suburbanites originated. Children grew up in suburbia isolated from the existing racial social strata This was the “Ozzie and Harriet” and “Father Knows Best” generation. Many of their class and status are not properly socialized for our present equal-opportunity based society.

The question that must be answered today, is this: Is the government responsible for reducing the plight of some of these individuals who are not prepared to live and work in a meritocracy? Programs to assist marginal white males may be cost effective. I am reminded of the crop support programs that have aided small farmers and buffered them from the increasing competition of larger more efficient farms. These farm subsidies helped a generation of small, mostly white, farmers to hold on to their land and families and continue farming long after the efficiency of such farms rendered them impractical. Farm support aided many families to smoothly transition away from farming. Congress recently passed legislation to end these subsidies in seven years.

We need programs to infuse these men with merit-based values to bring them back from the margins of society. Governor Fob James’ proposed bond issue to repair Alabama’s highway infrastructure is such a program. The bond issue would create hundreds of construction jobs paying a living wage. While these men will have the opportunity to compete with women and minorities for this work, many would be hired and on their way to becoming contributing members of our meritocracy.

The political stability of the nation is at peril as long as this class of men languish at the margin of society. The criminal acts associated with the anti-government militia movement, murder and violence committed by racist skin-heads, the rash of black church burnings and the Oklahoma City bombing are only a few examples of the social pathologies stemming from this demographic group.

Just as we do not expect illiterate and impoverished people to become productive citizens without access to help (education and services), we should not expect men raised with unrealistic expectation, inadequate ability, and delusions of power and control based on the privilege of race and sex, to remain productive citizens without enlightenment.


Originally Published: 21 May 1997, Montgomery Advertiser.

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