The End of the Great White Male: After More Than Two Centuries of Running the Nation, American White Men Are Being Threatened with Loss of Power

By Graham, John R. | USA TODAY, November 1993 | Go to article overview

The End of the Great White Male: After More Than Two Centuries of Running the Nation, American White Men Are Being Threatened with Loss of Power


Graham, John R., USA TODAY


FIVE CENTURIES AGO, the foundations of the world were shaken. So called immutable truths toppled forever as man was replaced by the sun as the center of the universe.

Equally as wrenching is the current shattering of white males' world view, in which they long have seen themselves as the central characters on society's stage. All around are the effects of a revolution that is both painfully distressing and totally confusing to what well may become known as the last of the great white males.

As the turmoil continues, white males are the inevitable scapegoats--and their difficulties only are beginning. The illustrations are everywhere. Even though there have been rumblings for more than a decade now, the Earth really shook when the national United Way organization was disrupted in 1992.

The white male who built and ran the powerful agency for two decades was knocked out of his seat of power and replaced by an Asian woman. To focus on the fact that she is Asian and female is to miss the point. She happens to know the current rules of the game: You don't turn the business into a private sandbox. Limos and other self-serving luxuries aren't part of the bargain today, a lesson that has been lost on white males, many of whom continue to believe that they possess a divine right to the perks of power.

The cracks in the Earth's surface widened as the quakes have come fast and furious with the deposing of great white males throughout Fortune 500 firms, such as Robert Stempel at General Motors, John Akers at IBM, Paul Lego at Westinghouse, and James Robinson at American Express. The great white males feel threatened and somewhat confused about why it is happening. Until now, the great white male had considered it no one's business what he takes out of the company, the way he conducts business, how much he is paid, or even how he treats his subordinates, particularly women.

Throughout the last several hundred years, the great white male has lived by the strict code of the old-boy network. Just ask George Bush, the last great white male American president, about loyalty and friendship. When all is said and done, what more is there?

Bush (as other great white males) is totally confused by ideals other than his own. This was clearly the issue during the 1992 presidential campaign, when Bush spoke derisively about "the vision thing," an issue he clearly considered a non-issue. Asking about his "vision" is irrelevant, utter nonsense to the great white male.

The confusion has come to Bush and those deposed Fortune 500 leaders who discovered that their hand-picked board members have betrayed them. Barbara Bush, for example, was openly contemptuous of those close to the President, namely James Baker, who she felt had betrayed her husband by not mounting an effective presidential campaign. It is interesting that the messenger was the great white male's wife. He could not come to break the old-boy bond.

The monumental change is here. The Bush election debacle and the dismissal of corporate leaders symbolize the fact that the old-boy network is being replaced by quite a different code of behavior-competence. Who you know is giving way to what you know, a sure sign that Americans finally have entered the information age full tilt.

The great white male is threatened by several factors. One of them is sheer numbers. The Huns once again are invading, but this time they come masked as Hispanics, Asians, and, yes, women.

Even though Americans are told in a dozen ways that Hispanics are the fastest growing segment of U.S. society, the great white male mentality can not accept change, just as many refused to acknowledge that the sun was the center of the universe. Meanwhile, sheer energy, drive, and education soon will give Asians the upper hand in American business. Although they may be today's small merchants, they will emerge as tomorrow's leaders in manufacturing, education, and finance.

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