Another Perspective

White Is the New Black

Things are looking up for an aging white demographic.

By 1.3.13

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After the presidential election, Bill O’Reilly decreed that old white guys like him have become a minority, a virtual fringe group. As you can well imagine, I felt pretty bad about this at first, until I realized that, in fact, this now makes me part of a soon-to-be new hip ethnic group. Maybe we didn’t help re-elect Barack Obama but we won’t be silenced. For now, like Obama, we can only hope for change.

Old white guys have trouble getting much media respect these days, but our sudden position as outsiders should change all that. Being old, and white, and guys, makes us a triple minority, with diminishing power every day. We’re on the outside looking in at all the fun that the now-trendy former outliers -- Hispanics, women, blacks, Asians, gays, Native Americans -- are having, just partying the night away.

Clearly, this new elite doesn’t need us and ignores us, even laughs at us, ridiculed it seems by everyone except skinheads (making us even further scum). We go virtually unnoticed, but if I know America this won’t last long. Formerly disparaged ethnic groups are sure to take pity upon us in time. The new GOP and Democratic parties, in an effort to seem all-inclusive, to show their diversity, will surely want to bring aging male honkies into the big tent, if only to mollify us.

I’m sure there are middle-aged white guys on the horizon who, to paraphrase Dr. King, will be recognized for the content of their character, not the pallor of their skin. I’m certain there are good men out there, white and over 65, who will be welcomed into the mainstream again; even the Democrats may give us a minority voice at future conventions.

None of this is new to me. For 20 years I’ve realized that I am now part of the counter culture, which once ruled. I listen to Frank Sinatra, I wear a belt, even a tie and slippers, my head is not shaved and I don’t sport a three-day stubble. I don’t eat at food trucks, bicycle, wear jeans or a baseball cap, listen to rap, go to dance clubs, drop “F-bombs,” enjoy casual hook-ups, or carry a bottle of water with me. I’ve never read a graphic novel and do not own a Kindle. I am not even a vegan -- shocking, yes, but there it is.

Now and then, if nobody is looking, I will order a steak, use butter not olive oil, and consume products containing white sugar and corn starch. I do not smoke pot nor do drugs, unless you count baby aspirin and Lipitor, aging white guys’ drugs of choice.

As a member of the emerging counter culture, I subscribe to newspapers and magazines, watch movies on a TV screen, do not use an iPhone or have an account on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn. I don’t download tunes on an iPod. OK (full disclosure), I do own a cell phone but I don’t know the number and keep the cell in the glove compartment for emergencies only. I’m not afraid to admit that I watch the “CBS Evening News,” Jay Leno, and “Cheers” reruns.

Despite feeling left out of American political, social and cultural life, I remain a proud old white guy whose time is sure to come. One day, an older white guy might be elected president again, but only after a woman, a Hispanic, an Asian, and a gay have served in the Oval Office. Probably by no later than 2050, an aging white male will be returned to the Rainbow (formerly White) House, and one might even be appointed to the Supreme Court again. It’s not entirely out of the realm of possibility. After all, this is America, where anybody can grow up to be president, despite their race, age, or gender.

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About the Author

Gerald Nachman is a writer in San Francisco and most recently the author of Right Here on Our Stage Tonight!: Ed Sullivan's America (University of California Press).