In Praise of White Men

Nothing is more fashionable in left-wing circles these days than complaining about white men. White men are held responsible for colonialism, slavery, racism, a multitude of genocides, both world wars, various other wars, and pretty much anything that has gone wrong in the world over the last five hundred years. The only solution then seems to wrest power from the hands of white men and to entrust it to the capable hands of morally superior women and people of colour.

Speaking as a representative of white men (what I learned from the proponents of identity politics is that any member of a group speaks as a representative of that group, whether the members of said group agree or not), I say: guilty as charged. Lenin, Stalin, Hitler, and countless other white men committed horrible atrocities. Of course other groups are also guilty of colonialism, slavery, racism, genocide, and war, but white men have indeed committed a disproportionate share of evil over the course of the modern era.

However, white men are also responsible for a vastly disproportionate share of all the good done in the same time period. Yes, Lenin, Stalin, and Hitler were white men, but so were Michelangelo, Shakespeare, Newton, Euler, Hume, Mozart, Beethoven, Goethe, Darwin, Rockefeller, Einstein, Neumann, and Borlaug. For every villain, you can find a hundred heroes, and the good done by white men vastly outweighs the evil. As evidence, just consider how much life has improved over these last few centuries when white men have wielded most of the power. Thanks to the scientific, technological, and economic advances brought about chiefly by white men, even relatively poor people living in countries dominated by white men now enjoy luxuries that would have made them the envy of the greatest kings of previous ages.

White men have been dominant in culture, art, science, philosophy, technology, and business for the last few centuries, so it is hardly surprising that most of the great deeds, positive as well as negative, were committed by white men. During this time, white men have wielded, and are continuing to wield, more power than any other group throughout history. And although they have at times abused that power in horrible ways, on the whole they have wielded it about as well as could be expected, human nature being what it is. Compared to other hegemonic groups in history, white men have been fairly mild and benevolent masters. And above all, they have been oh so productive and produced such unprecedented greatness.

To the extent we have feelings about broad groups of people, our primary attitude toward white men should be gratitude. I do not endorse this kind of collectivist thinking. Each white man, just like everyone else, should be judged as far as possible as an individual. As a white man, I deserve neither blame nor credit for the deeds of those who happen to share my race and sex. Nor should the relatively successful track record of white men be a reason to regard them as morally superior or to give them legal privileges. But it certainly cannot be a valid reason to regard them as morally inferior or to saddle them with legal disadvatages.

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