“Old white men.” The words separate are sometimes used pejoratively. All together they are considered by many “liberals” and many in the media as a crucial criticism. “Old” creates the most disdain. Rather than being considered an achievement implying future contribution, the years accumulated is considered negative.
Reactionaries often attack “political correctness” as a cover for the attitude and practice of racism, xenophobia, nativism, misogyny, wealth against poor, and disparagement of different gender and sexual practices – in their array of intolerant and discriminatory practices. But beyond all the despicable perspectives, with associated practices, glimmers a point.
Well out of population proportion, Blacks are now omnipresent in most ads, plays, and movies. Obligatory Blacks, generally cast as superior or educated, are featured in almost every dramatic or commercial presentation.. While it is true, there are many aspiring and unemployed actors available, to give preference on the basis on melanin amount should not be a functioning criterion. All actors should be allowed to play different parts. Forrest Whitaker portrays an excellent “Hughie”; Glenda Jackson a riveting “King Lear”, But the converse? – a white performer in “A Raison in the Sun”, Sam Rea as Lady Macbeth? (Shakespeare’s plays, historians say, were only performed by men). A few years back the bourgeoise identity advocate Spike Lee caused a furor to make sure that he, not a white man, direct “Malcolm X” failing to do justice to the charismatic, inspiring, and politically profound leader – who should have continued through old age. (Can you imagine Gershwin writing an opera, called ”Porgy and Bess” about a poor Black community (“Catfish Row”? Who would present it, if written now?)
This color preference, with a sprinkling of Asiatics, neglects Latinos and American Indians. (Indeed, the opposite is true when one watches an Atlanta Braves home game crowd do a publicly guided “tomahawk” while “nock- a-homer” displays an Indian character dancing around a wigwam.) This constant presence has created a backlash, to excite those with conscious or unconscious race resentment, while it satisfies only a select elite with a hope it improves markets or escapes criticism. It is hard to see it justified as “reparations” or “affirmative action” – concepts themselves subject to serious challenge.
The commendable Seth Meyers features a Black, a Puerto Rican Lesbian, and an Asian as writers on his late night show. The Black and Lesbian tell jokes labeled as “Jokes Seth Can Not Tell” with apparent lesbian and Black punchlines. On the other hand, he constantly jokes about “old men.” Most of the media stars including the talented Trevor Noah (bi-racial identifying as Black) do constantly: how they have lost their wits, are politically reactionary, look disgusting in a gym, particularly naked, lost their sexuality and attractiveness, can not do many tasks. Trevor Noah started his interview with Bernie Sanders “Are you too old?” to receive the appropriate reply: “Are you a bigot?” Let us note that his message seems to resonate with the younger voters in current polls putting him first in the current carnival of Democratic candidates.
The “old white men” accusation is frequently leveled at Congress with age complaints about Judges. (Where would the Supreme Court be without Ruth Bader Ginsberg in her mid 80s?). Seniority, in the Republican Party, is a problem endemic to the Rules. But, if we remove “white” from the triad, we all should celebrate the principled leadership from Elijah Cummings and John Lewis in the Congress. We should be delighted with Alexandra Ocasia Cortez for all she says and does, as well as thrilled that she replaced a 9 term Congressman, not because of his age, but because he was a retrograde party hack. An “old white man” has a long history to evaluate while he should have learned and grown politically, practically, and philosophically. Wisdom acquired constitutes a virtue.
Making “old white men” an acceptable criticism anywhere is wrong. Individuals are to be judged on their merits and potentialities. To accept “old white me” automatically as a negative cliche is discrimination wherever it occurs. Accepting the deplorable degradation and/or inequality practiced against “people of color”, women, and the poor, emphasizing the continued damage done to Native Americans, Latinos (now particularly Puerto Rican and Mexicans) and those with “different” sexual preferences requires real action rather than an elitist attack on another group.
The general social conditions are deplorable with poverty, racism, and exclusion of the oppressed from satisfying their needs and fulfilling their potentialities. Such a horror is not reduced by selected public featuring of anointed “people of color”, gender and age, but rather creates an anger for those so stigmatized and an excuse for those who are prejudiced. Occasional fawning obeisance to a “legend” exaggerates rather than minimizes a general “ageist” culture, particularly prominent in the media. Mandatory retirement, particularly in an era with pensions (promises for future payment to forgo present payments) and public benefits destroyed, creates poverty and wastes resources for the work place. The spectacle of the “elderly” serving at fast food places is not ennobling vision.
Nothing is inherently wrong for a human being to be “white”, “old”, or “man” The first, of course, has varied in definition (once including some Italians and Jews), the second an ascription dependent on societal longevity generalities, the third a biological classification. Together the words offer only an irrelevant characterization. Not redeemed by reverse preference, it perpetuates bigotry, pure and simple. Instead of a condemned, as an irrelevant, perspective, this pernicious prejudice is prevalent and reinforced by mass media for a “balance” based a fraudulent fad of “diversity”.
“Old white men.” Honor the best of them. Respect all of them.