When an American congressman asserts that the Democratic Party is waging “a war on whites,” my first impulse is to laugh. Surely, he is kidding?
But no, Alabama representative Mo Brooks is not smiling. And he is not alone. The notion that white Americans are being discriminated against has been around since Reconstruction.
More recently, Civil Rights legislation and Affirmative Action have helped spawn the theory that “Anglo Saxons” are an endangered species in America.
The election of the country’s first black president added fuel to the flames of racial resentment. Pictures of the Obamas on vacation at luxury resorts make some white Americans foam at the mouth.
And some – mostly unskilled – white Americans seethe at the influx of brown Hispanics competing for society’s poorest-paying jobs.
So is the deck stacked against white men? Are minorities and women getting all the breaks? And is the Democratic Party to blame?
Of course not. Indeed, the facts tell a totally different story.
Unemployment among black Americans is still twice as high as among white Americans. And the situation is almost as bad among Hispanics – despite the fact that Hispanics will often take jobs that other ethnic groups won’t.
And when it comes to household income, Hispanics do even worse than blacks. White Americans have by far the highest household income. And it’s the white male who earns the most.
Women get paid about 70 cents for every dollar men take home from the same job. Black workers earn about 65 percent and Hispanic workers get 61 percent.
And, no, white males are not necessarily smarter or more skilled. Employers are simply prepared to pay them more.
That’s the way it has always been. It’s a tradition shaped by bygone social conditions.
In past generations, white women stayed home, and employers understood the men were the family’s breadwinners. When war and other societal changes pushed wives into the workplace, they were paid less.
It was much the same in Jamaica. And Canada. When I first went to work, women were mainly secretaries and clerks – unless they were nurses and teachers.
When I went to the Timmins Press in Northern Ontario, back in 1957, there were only two females in the newsroom – the Women’s Editor and the Assistant Women’s Editor. By the time I ended my career in Tampa, Florida, a few years ago, female reporters far outnumbered the men – and often outperformed us.
Meanwhile, black Americans – black Jamaicans, black workers everywhere – struggled to overcome the legacy of slavery, which had left them far behind the mainstream workforce. Some black individuals rose through the ranks despite this drastic handicap. But too many were unfairly held back.
Hispanics, the latest wave of immigrants to arrive in America, also have to face special – and often unjust – challenges.
Yes, the Democratic Party has tried to level the playing field in America. And there’s still a long way to go.
But white males do not have to accept less so that minorities and women can be treated more fairly.
If the Republican politicians would stop blocking the path to prosperity in their kamikaze assault on the economy, there would be more for all Americans to share. As an Irish politician observed a long time ago, a rising tide lifts all boats.