Skip to main content

I subscribe to the good good good newspaper. According to their website, Good Good Good is the media company that helps you feel more hopeful and do more good. I am all in on feeling more hopeful and having more good, good, good in my day. In one of the recent editions of their daily newsletter I read the following headline, “For the first time in US history, the top House leaders of one party will include no white men.” Not an unusual headline for good good good who highlights and celebrates stories of social justice and human equality. I too celebrate these stories of cultural evolution. I advocate for peace and love every day and can appreciate the gravity of the moment. But when I read that headline, I didn’t feel good, good, good. I felt some frustration, sadness, and anger. Curious I talked with a handful of folks (men and women) about this headline and shared  my reaction. I would say all of them responded in a way that was consistent with either their sex or their politics. Each was either disappointed by why I would question this development or animated by “one more attack on men.” Here’s the thing…I am not feeling emotional about something that could be seen as white men “losing their spots.” I am emotional because I felt this headline was celebrating the displacement of white men and it’s the celebration I have a problem with.

There are roughly 100 million white males in the US. That is 30% of the population give or take a few million. Approximately 20 million white males are under the age of 15. How would these young people process the sentiment behind this headline? How would explain it to your son? How will they grow into a world that celebrates their exclusion? One may say it’s just one headline, but is it? I do not argue that we have lived under a societal structure of male dominance. How and why, that happened is not for this piece. It did happen, and while changing, still is largely the case. So, many developments like the one above do seem to be accompanied with a lot of glee. Again, I can appreciate why that may be the emotion for many. But,  I wonder how we (all of us) can advocate for evolution, growth, fairness and not celebrate the “downfall” of another. How can the adults come together and not let events go so far the other way that we alienate the boys?

Did you know that 15% of men say they have no close friends, up from 3% in 1990? That men overall have a suicide rate between three and four times as high as women? That men account for almost 70% of the opioid overdose deaths in the U.S? Should we be curious about these stats? Are there folks “celebrating” these developments as well?? I hope not. To be clear, I introduce this data not to compare plights, but to show that maybe the pendulum is going to far in the other direction.

If you are not a white man, you might be reading this (hopefully you haven’t stopped) and are thinking this is bullshit. You have no idea what I go through as a not having been “born on third base” like you. You are right. I have no idea, but I am curious and am interested in continuing to learn and understand.

Men are half of the US population. For many reasons, millions are checking out. Given the numbers, I just cannot see how we (all of us) can make progress for a safe, welcoming, accountable, equitable, united society without everyone in the game. At MenLiving, we are creating spaces for healthy connection in hopes that men will leave these spaces intentional about participating in the development of a more harmonious world. We can only do that if we are included.


  • Todd Adams says:

    Thank you for writing this blog, Shaun. I personally have no problem with this headline “For the first time in US history, the top House leaders of one party will include no white men.” This is simply objective information. I would have loved for you to include the article so we can see what was below the headline to see if the author is knocking white men down, or elevating women and people of color up?
    I can understand why some might see this and think it’s “celebrating the displacement of white men” However that is not my experience. As a white cis-gender straight man i have privilege and I do take it for granted every. single. day. I have also seen friends of mine get easily offended by things that might be considered anything other than an elevation of white men. A few examples:
    By headlines like the one you mention in this blog
    The term “toxic masculinity”
    The time we I invited a female representative from “Moms Demand Action” to talk about common sense gun laws and the first question from one of my friends to this rep was not about the cause, but instead asking why it wasn’t “People demand action”

    In my experience- I and many men whom I consider privileged are easily offended by these trivial things. Instead of being offended or disappointed, I do my best to do my own work and investigate my reactivity to a headline. Instead of being “put off”, I’d rather put my energy towards better understanding how a female or person of color or non-binary person experiences their world.
    I do understand that there is a good % of men and boys in this world are getting lost and left behind as it is becoming more challenging for them to navigate their world in this ever-changing society. My hope is we can create spaces for these men to show up and “connect, heal and thrive.” However- I can only imagine what it is like for the non-dominant culture people to navigate this tricky world. It is not an “either/or”, it’s a “both/and”. Let’s raise up all and if white men need to step aside in congress to create some space for others to step in for a change, I’m all for it and the headline. 🙂

    • Shaun Emerson says:

      Todd…Thanks for the thoughtful response. Couple of things…If the piece came across as me being “easily offended” that was not my intention. In fact, I thought a good deal about my reaction to the headline and had multiple discussions to explore it. I also don’t consider it a “trivial thing” either. I consider these issues, the discussions of them, and the actions needed to be vitally important to our society and all the people in it. Lastly, i think my whole point is no one should have to “step aside,” but instead let’s all step along side and work together.

  • Michael Eatmon says:

    A headline I’d find truly good, good, good? “House leaders of both parties seek to be curious, empathetic, honest, respectful people.”

  • Shaun- very powerful work and commentary. I appreciate the comments by Todd and Michael also.

    I wonder… in this vail of “good, good, good news” why do we (as humanity) continue to separate all of us based on color, race, and even gender? I wonder if the sadness and frustration and anger we may feel is all based on the fact that ALL news- whether it is good good or labeled/ curated as “bad news” continues to divide our communities. Jill Lepore in her book These Truths truly outlines that we have not solved race/ color or gender since 1100, 1492, again during Susan B Anthony 1840, again in the 1960’s race riots- it is constant. And why? Because it keeps us divided. It keeps us from actually solving the problem and the solution and speaking about energy of being human.

    In my experience at Men’s Living, we are about energy. Positive, grateful, loving, inclusive energy. I feel energy of a person transcends the color of skin or may even transcend gender identity- we are feeling more aligned and feeling into a better future as we accept. The image posted from the article “First Time in US History” continues to make me feel divided since those in power are attracted to power and not necessarily attracted to alignment, curiosity, and a better future for humanity. They would prefer to report on race and keep us as a whole divided. There is less power in divided pieces than one united loving whole.

  • Patrick M Roach says:

    I wonder if the impact on you would be different if the headline was positioned more along the lines of, “For the first time in US history, the top 3 House leaders of one party will include a woman, an African-American, and a Latino.” More celebrating the rise of under represented folks rather than celebrating the decline of white men…
    Maybe it’s just semantics, but I do think it goes to the heart of the issue. I think most folks could celebrate this achievement as a positive and I think that can be done without trashing white men.

    I also think the article as it is could lead to great conversations with white boys about the HUMAN tendency to cling to power and the misuse of power as white men are guilty of their share throughout history. It could lead to a bigger conversation about sharing power through love, trust, and relationship.

    • Shaun Emerson says:

      Absolutely, Patrick! And I get the semantics aspect of it, but words do matter. And I applaud your suggestion to use this as the basis for a constructive going forward conversation and striving to establish a society built on love, respect and connection.

  • Scott Blumenshine says:

    Thank you Shaun

    Are the new leaders kind? Are they honest? Are they effective?

    If so, their accession to positions of influence and power would be good.

    If they are dishonest and unkind and ineffective – their hands on the levers of power is not good – in my opinion.

    Is their skin color the sole and definitive criteria for this development being good? Perhaps on some large macro level of balancing the scales of historical dominance by one particular group back to representative proportions that would be good.

    However if the new non white non male non Christian leaders were unkind unfair and ineffective – would it be good? Would it just be substituting one bad group with another?

    “No white men” a bit of a dog whistle / signaling. At a minimum a simplistic reductionist red meat kinda cheer that comes from white men bad center.

    It seems fraught with peril to use skin color as a divining criteria – particularly in this day and age of inter racial children.

    Was a heroic humble honest faith based leader who cast his vision of hope that criteria is content of character not color of skin.

  • EJ Vaughan says:

    I’ve been thinking about this post/article for hours today. No one can remove their own biases…gender and politics…completely. You feeling sadness, frustration and anger are borne from both. I did not get the vibe the article was celebrating white men being displaced…of course, I experience the article through my own biases/lens. I experienced the article as one that is simply explaining what “is”. I talk about this stuff with my almost 15yr old son all the time. His response to this? (I showed him all of this.) “If you are an asshole and try to always hold the power, you should lose your seat at the table and should not whine about it. So balance can naturally happen.” (HIS words.) I asked him to tell me more. He asserts that white men did this to themselves so they need to stop complaining and start changing. He said “no one wants to hang out with bullies.” He added, in reference to your mentioning the stats on the plight of white men, “sounds about right, white men have brought their issues on themselves.” I asked him how those stats make him feel….and he said, “like men need a rebrand.” (His words!) And, he continued, “I see dad in those stats…and I also see him refusing to change.” When I said “tell me more”, he said he also does not see himself as a part of the “group” of white men who “are” the stats you mentioned…and he doesn’t see himself or his friends as part of the group of white men that have lost the respect and trust of women or other minority groups. I’ve been very concerned lately about him feeling as though his masculinity has been diminished by the generations of white men that came before him. He said he in no way feels like that. He does not see himself as a “part” of this whole group of white men “anyhow”. He said he sees himself and his friends as a “new generation of white men.” He views this as “archaic white men getting what they deserve” and he does not feel that it reflects on him or his peers. In fact, he sees himself as separate from the white men who have caused so much harm in general. He said “white men don’t deserve a seat at the table until my generation earns the trust back.” Even though, as his mom, I want to rage against the fact that his life is burdened by this…(I’m after all, human), he said he does not feel “burdened”, he thinks of it just as “his life”. When I witness his energy around these conversations I can literally feel how liberated and neutral he actually is, even while in these discussions. I asked him how he feels about his place in society as a male, in the shadow of the white men that came before him, and he said “white men are now whining because they are getting called out. I don’t want to be a part of that. And I’m not going to whine about how shitty they’ve made the world because we just need to keep trying to fix it. It’s not like the world is ever going to be anything but a shit show because it’s just life and we can handle it.” I wasn’t sure if I should smile or burst into tears. I just thought I’d share his perspective, which is a function of his experience in the world right now…and of course, some of mine…as a 51yr old mom on 2 boys. On one hand I love that he seems to understand cause and effect in light of this discussion…and I love that he does not identify as the part of the group of “toxic” white men…and on the other hand, I see the division that generations of unconscious white men have reflected right in my own child’s eyes. Even my own son wants to be “separate”. Our kids are “other-izing” to establish a new and different type of masculinity. Some could reflect on it in terms of tribalism, some in terms of spiral dynamics…we can plop lots of paradigms onto his sentiments. There are many people who celebrate the downfall of the “old” masculinity…in an effort to usher in a new type of masculinity…and that does not mean we diminish masculinity in general…we are just trying to establish a new and improved definition of masculinity. I actually giggled when you asked about the adults coming together and not letting the events go so far as to alienate the boys…the “adults” in the room are not the ones who can control what has already happened…because it is “white men” who have been the perpetrators and thereby have alienated the teenage boys already…and my son’s sentiments reflect this. When I read what you wrote, I pictured the white men literally hanging off the pendulum screaming in fear, as it whirled back the opposition direction. What a visual it was…being super honest here. I’m expressing what I visualized…which does not mean I’m celebrating it. Adults like you, me, and conscious people we know, are living in the aftermath…as are our kids. And when you spoke of “comparing plights”…there is not way your stats cannot be construed as that…you bringing that up inherently causes comparison. And I’m going to be totally honest here, I’m angry about suffering at the hands of white men and I’m angry on behalf of all the people who have, not just myself…and I’m angry that so many white men I know that are my age feel the need now take over our experience as the victims. The perpetrator re-victimizes the victim, by trying to become the victim himself. Oh what a conundrum. I am in no way celebrating the downfall of white men by discussing the facts about where they stand in society today. The whole thing is gut wrenching. Still, I do deeply feel that the pendulum HAS TO go FAR to the other side, to then end up coming back to the middle. We’ve never lived in the middle, society, that is. I wonder what the middle will feel like? Our boys likely cannot ever get to the “middle ground” without the pendulum going the opposite direction first. Simply observing, and even writing about the pendulum going really far to the other side (as I believe the article did), does not mean the displacement of white men is being celebrated. It is simply the nature of life. What a paradox it all is…

    • Shaun Emerson says:

      EJ…Thank you (and your son) for sharing your thoughts on the subject. It can be quite a paradoxical issue. I am curious how your son would define his “new generation of white men.” I am also wondering, as he seeks to “separate” himself, does he have so much disdain for older men that he finds no value in engaging with us? I fear painting with a broad brush can cover the beauty of an individual piece.

      • EJ Vaughan says:

        I love these questions…I have been waiting for the right “moment” to re-enter this convo with him this week…I will do so using your questions as a framework. I can intuit some of what he will say, however, I think it’s so valuable to hear it directly from him without my “leading” (I can guide him into the questions with neutrality!). TY Shaun!

Leave a Reply