University of Mississippi The End of the Great White Male Precis

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Temple University Press Chapter Title: The End of the Great White Male Chapter Author(s): JOHN R. GRAHAM Book Title: Critical White Studies Book Editor(s): Richard Delgado, Jean Stefancic Published by: Temple University Press. (1997) Stable URL: JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new forms of scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at Temple University Press is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to Critical White Studies This content downloaded from on Mon, 16 Sep 2019 15:26:28 UTC All use subject to Part I How Whites See Themselves If any theme is characteristic of contemporary thought in the social sciences and in cultural studies, it is "perspectivalism"-the idea that one's viewpoint matters. Indeed, every chapter in this book can be seen as an effort to analyze, defend, criticize, celebrate, or examine one perspective or another about race and whiteness. Some even question, not how, but do whites see themselves? Upon looking into and beyond the mirror, whites have found their whiteness both opaque and transparent. Most whites have not thought much about their race. Few, upon being asked to identify themselves by attributes, would name whiteness among their primary characteristics. Part I offers a variety of ways whites, and some nonwhites, see the white race, ranging from biological and social-construction theory, to economic determinism and advantage and disadvantage, to innocence (feigned or real). Later parts deal with how whites see other races (Part II), how earlier periods saw whites and whiteness (Part III), the role of language and color imagery (Part V), and white consciousness and white power (Part X). As the reader will soon notice, these sections overlap thematically to some extent. The reason is simple: Race seems to be, to a large extent, relational. Whiteness, acknowledged or not, has been a norm against which other races are judged. One cannot get clear about whiteness without also gaining a sense of what it means to be nonwhite-and vice versa. The examinations of whiteness presented in this book may open a way for whites to talk about race and racial problems acceptably and nondefensively. Copyrighted Material This content downloaded from on Mon, 16 Sep 2019 15:26:28 UTC All use subject to Copyrighted Material This content downloaded from on Mon, 16 Sep 2019 15:26:28 UTC All use subject to 1 The End of the Great White Male JOHN R. GRAHAM After more than two centuries of running the nation, American white men are being threatened with loss of power. 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 our universe. Equally 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 rumblings have been heard 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. 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. The dismissal of corporate leaders symbolizes the replacement of the old-boy network 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. Several other threats plague the great white male. 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 cenUSA TODAY, November 26, 1993. Originally published in USA Today. Reprinted by permission. Copyrighted Material This content downloaded from on Mon, 16 Sep 2019 15:26:28 UTC All use subject to 4 John R. Graham ter of our 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. The great white male is no match for the Asian drive and work ethic. At one point, the Wall Street Journal noted that American business is not running as fast as it did in the past. The great white males are having a difficult time keeping up with the emerging minorities. The major threat to the great white male, however, clearly is women. He honestly believes there is a conspiracy afoot and that females are the enemy, working feverishly to take control of everything. Like most other conspiracy theories, the conclusion does not reflect the facts. What actually is happening is totally different, since the great white male is doing everything possible to hand over the jobs and to transfer the power of business and politics to women. The number of females elected to the u.s. Senate and House in 1992 affirms the direction. The most intense drama in the world of politics was presented on TV for everyone to see. This watershed event was the 1991 Clarence Thomas Supreme Court confirmation hearings that were brought to the public's attention by the Senate, the last bastion of the great white male. No single subject drives the great white male into an irrational frenzy faster than Anita Hill. The debate continues long after Thomas has taken his seat on the Court. The attempts to discredit Hill and resurrect Thomas' reputation continue unabated. More than a desire to arrive at the facts, it would appear that this may well be the last effort to help the American male become whole again. Why was it that the great white males of the Senate Judiciary Committee found it so easy to sympathize with Thomas? Or, to state it more accurately, why did they find it so hard to side with Hill? Had they found her truthful, they would be presiding over their own demise. Many women seem to understand easily what white males have difficulty grasping. When it was over and all the votes had been tallied, Thomas lost (even though he was confirmed as a Supreme Court justice) and Hill won. It is no accident that hundreds of women have burst upon the political scene following the confirmation hearings. Nor is it a quirk of fate that the great white males in the halls of Congress are dropping like flies. The number who chose to retire at the end of 1992 was the highest in history. Although they expressed disdain for politics as the main reason for leaving office on their own, they saw that their world had changed. It is fascinating that the great white male always expects to be taken care of by his coconspirators-the other great white males. While growing up, every boy learned the first lesson of manhood: "Take care of your friends and they will take care of you." Later, going to college, it was given a socially acceptable description of "male bonding." In many important ways, women are different from the great white males of the past. Women seem to harbor the strange notion that hard work, knowledge, competence, and persistence are the proper ingredients for success. On the other hand, the traditional great white male scoffs at such nonsense. "Who you know is all that counts," he repeats confidently. The lairs of maledom down through the decades-everywhere from the poker party to the private club-attest to belief in the proposition. The corollary is that the great white male harbors the illusion that, once he rises to the top, he has a right to all the goodies he can get and that he has to answer to no one. It really doesn't make any difference how the goodies are obtained. Wasn't that the lesson men learned when they were elected to the House of Representatives-to the victors belong the Copyrighted Material This content downloaded from on Mon, 16 Sep 2019 15:26:28 UTC All use subject to The End of the Great White Male 5 spoils? This applied even to accepting cash bribes or propositioning a woman in the officeor elsewhere. Those who are threatening the great white male-women, Hispanics, and Asians-hold a totally different view of the world, as different from that of the great white male as the change which occurred 500 years ago. The code of competence holds that the farther one rises, the greater the responsibility-a truly remarkable idea! Where you park your car or the location of your office in reference to the power brokers is inconsequential in terms of defining your worth, status, or importance when it comes to the business of business or the business of politics. In effect, American society finally may be arriving at the point where it's what you know, not who you know, that counts. Extinction Ahead? What about the future? Will the great white male become extinct? Will he no longer be seated in the offices of the corporation, at the head of the table? Will he be only a memory in the halls of political power? What about the u.s. presidency? These questions are far more pertinent than even in the recent past. It is no accident so many jokes about Hillary Clinton are making the rounds today. One way or another, they all point in one direction and make one point as they portray "The President of the United States and Mr. Clinton." However, Americans shouldn't be surprised that the stories bring only uncomfortable laughter. Something happened when Bill and Hillary moved to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. that is very different from the days of Ronnie and Nancy or Babs and George. Many are having difficulty accepting that Hillary Clinton is comfortable with herself, a situation that makes great white males (and others) uneasy. The critics were quick to complain that she wasn't elected to office when her husband appointed her to head the powerful commission on health care. Yet few thought it unseemly that a James Baker or Sherman Adams should exert such inordinate influence without benefit of election. Why is Hillary Clinton so different?-simply because she is a woman who has dared to enter the male lair. What abou t the future of the great white male? Whether he is destined for a final resting place in the museums of the land remains to be seen. There will be pitiful efforts to restore his feathers, to prop up his prowess and power. Nevertheless, the great white male's day has passed, along with his unlimited, unilateral power and influence. Even as noble a figure as Lee Iacocca is in danger of finding himself sadly irrelevant, somehow out of step with the times. From now on, the great white male will be one of many. He no longer will be able to say, "It's lonely at the top." Whether it takes another 500 years for the next total upheaval in the intellectual history of society remains to be seen. In the meantime, it will be interesting to watch how the great white males take to their changing circumstances. Copyrighted Material This content downloaded from on Mon, 16 Sep 2019 15:26:28 UTC All use subject to ...
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Running head: PRECIS


Institution Affiliation



White men, for the longest time, have considered themselves superior in one way or
the other. In what is found, “perfectionism,” which is one’s idea that every viewpoint matters
from the human perspective. In this book, the chapters aim at the analysis, defense, criticism,
celebration and examination of every single view on race and whiteness (Graham, 1997).
Most people who are of different races tend to question how Caucasian people view
themselves. It is upon the more in-depth observation beyond the skin that Caucasian people
have identified themselves in complex ways. White people themselves have considered being
both opaque and transparent. In this precis, we take in a deep dive into ...

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