65% of elected offices.
72% of Fortune 500 corporate leaders.
87% of General/Flag rank Officers in the Military.
67% of Police Officers.
89% of partners at VC firms.
80% of Hollywood Directors.
60% of college presidents.
55% of college professors.
This is the demographic breakdown of a cross section of positions of authority, influence and agency in America. Each percentage represents the ratio of those positions that are held by white men in America, a demographic that accounts for roughly 30% of the overall American population.
This list isn’t exhaustive. But it’s broad enough to make the point. Something’s off.
Women make up just under half of the overall workforce. Labor force participation is mostly consistent across race and ethnicity at around 60-65%. And we’ve had federal legislation in place that insists that we treat race or gender no differently in the eyes of the law for 50 years. Yet the gap exists.
That the gap exists and the forces coming out of the tension that gap creates is the driving force in American social, economic and political discourse today.
When we break it down to raw numbers and do what we can to remove the virtue/value signaling out of the discussion, the state of things is undeniable. In nearly every position of authority in America, white men have between two to three times representation relative to population. In order for that to be a natural equilibrium, we’d need to believe that ability or preference accounts for that gap.
To put it uncomfortably blunt, we’d need to believe:
1-White men are two to three times more capable than women or people of color to hold these positions.
2-Women or people of color are 1/2 to 1/3 as likely to want to hold those positions of authority, influence or agency.
Oversimplified perhaps, but that’s fundamentally what you’d need to believe for the outcomes we have today, to be the right ones.
Few people would be willing to admit that they believe those two things. But far more are willing to argue that there is not a problem worth solving relative to the demographics of power in America. We can see the political breakdown clearly now. In state wide or congressional district races, where the winning party most likely represents a long standing political lean instead of a circumstantial wave of sentiment, we see which parties elected who.
30 of 31 new GOP members for the 116th U.S. Congress are white men.
12 of 40 new Democratic members of the 116th U.S. Congress are white men.
The difference represents less of a shift in power within our elected officials and more an alignment of parties to the asymmetry of power systems. Democrats use the gap as a rallying cry to further their agenda. Republicans will not but will characterize those willing to do so as playing to harmful identity politics and social justice warrior-ism. The latter strategy found a rally point to push back from in Trump-ism in 2016. But the demographics of America simply don’t support it long term. The most common age for a white man in America is 57. No other racial demographic has a most common age over 28. That gap and the future face of America it will yield are undeniable.
Healthcare, gun control, immigration, women’s reproductive rights, workplace harassment, discrimination, criminal sentencing and incarceration are all issues that impact women and people of color differently than they impact white men in America. And so we should expect the battle lines in American politics and cultural norms in the near term to be drawn along those lines. And if the process of a free and open democratic society works, than it’s we’ll likely see less white men, in a relative sense, in positions of power than we saw before.
Unless of course we white men figure out how to stifle that progress. We’ve had a long and successful history in America of doing that. So we should expect significant mistrust and frustration in response to policies or rhetoric that resemble it.
So which white men lose standing?
That’s really the question isn’t it? Somewhere in the back of our minds, that question drives the fear and anxiety that part of the Trump message aimed to sooth. Is it the less educated? Is it the ones that don’t come from money or privilege? The ones whose jobs are being sent overseas or automated?
Perhaps the #metoo movement gives us a hint.
Perhaps it’s those that treat women poorly. Perhaps it’s those that expose themselves as racists or bigots in society where they are outnumbered by women and people of color. Or perhaps it’s simply mediocre white dudes among us who found themselves in positions of power because they acted most like those in power in the past.
Tell me again what Paul Ryan did to be a Vice Presidential nominee for the United States of America? One heartbeat away? Really?
And tell me again how we’ll be worse off with less of that in charge.
We’re due for a market correction. And the longer we resist it, and the more force we need to apply to keep it at bay, the bigger the bubble gets when it bursts. Minority power structures don’t end well when they do. And whether we like it or not, we white men are a minority, just like every demographic in America. Admitting it doesn’t bother me one bit.