Opinion Columns & Blogs

White folks can still say what they want, but this part of that freedom has changed

We have quite a large and diverse group of folks running for the Democratic Presidential nomination. I’m having a hard time keeping track of them all, to be honest. Every couple of weeks it seems like one of them drops out of the race and I usually don’t even know who they are.

One candidate who is doing well enough to be in the top five or six spots in most of the recent polls has been a bit of a surprise to me. Pete Buttigieg (a man whose name I doubt I will ever be able to pronounce correctly) has been the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, since 2012. He is only 37 years old, and the mayoral position is the only political experience he has.

Of course his youth and inexperience aren’t the biggest factors that distinguish “Mayor Pete” from the other candidates in the race and, for that matter, from every other serious contender for a major party’s presidential nomination in our country’s history. Buttigieg is gay, and married to a man.

Until recently that fact was subject to surprisingly little discussion in media coverage of the nomination process, maybe because he only began to poll well enough to draw much attention in the last few months. But the issue was pushed to the forefront last week when video footage of a Tennessee county commissioner loudly complaining that “we got a queer running for president” briefly lit up the news cycle.

And he had a lot more to say, too. He went on to suggest that he could pull better candidates out of the county jail than the Democrats have running for their standard-bearer, assured his audience that he was definitely not “prejudice,” and bemoaned the fact that “a white male in this country has very few rights and they’re getting took more every day.”

I won’t spend much time delving into the situational ethics of people who are mortified by the prospect of a gay president but seem to have no issue supporting a man who has consistently cheated on all his wives, including his current one. What really fascinates me about this gentleman’s tirade was that bit about white male’s having few rights and more of them getting “took” every day.

I recently celebrated my 53rd birthday and I have been a white male all my life. I can’t think of a single right that has been taken away from me during my time here on this troubled planet. Not one piece of legislation has been passed at any level of government, as far as I’m aware, that has had the effect of taking away any of the rights that Caucasian males enjoy in this country.

I suspect that what this gentleman was referring to were not changes in the law, but changes in our culture that cause public backlash over certain actions that white males may have been able to engage in in the past with impunity. One example would be lighting into someone over their sexual orientation without any push back from the press, as we have seen in this case.

If that’s what he meant, he certainly has a point. There are now public consequences for white males who say derogatory things about homosexuals, women and people of other races that didn’t exist in the recent past

Those are not “rights” that I miss having, but I know that some people do and they’ve been more vocal about expressing their frustration about it since a certain orange-hued reality star was improbably elevated to leader of the free world. Unfortunately for them, time and changing demographics are not on their side.

Old white dudes like me had a good long run doing and saying pretty much as we pleased without consequences, but that time has passed. Women, people of color, and even gay folks are demanding their share of respect and power in our country, and the genie isn’t going back in the bottle.

Bill Ferguson is a resident of Warner Robins. Readers can write him at fergcolumn@hotmail.com.