By any objective measure, we live in an incredible golden age. Archaeologists can study the distant past via high-resolution cameras flying aboard state-of-the-art satellites orbiting the planet. You can pick up a computer the size of your hand and access more knowledge and information than giants of the past could have ever dreamed. We have more than the great and fabled Library of Alexandria available to us anytime, anywhere, at the touch of a screen and a few keystrokes. We race toward a vaccine and treatments for a coronavirus pandemic that might have killed many many more in the past than it has in our amazing technological age.
But as Paul Simon warned in his song “The Boy in the Bubble,” these days of “miracle and wonder” can lead to violence and mayhem. The same technology that can spread peace, love, and understanding today can be used to organize violent riots in Portland. The same technology that enables you to speak with relatives and friends on the other side of the world can be used to trigger a bomb hidden in a baby carriage or a truck. Golden ages have come and gone in the past. From peace can emerge destructive hate -- and in our age, the media and culture increasingly direct focused hate at white men. We’ve seen too much of that in this divisive year of 2020.
2020 is by any measure a strange year. Hate seems to be everywhere. The New York Times seems intent on destroying our golden age with its insidious, extremely anti-American 1619 Project, which attempts to take a sledgehammer to America’s founding to discredit the freest and least racist nation on earth. To what end? Would the Times prefer to office in North Korea or Beijing? And why? Because America’s founders were white men?
Into this bizarre, divisive, and hateful year comes a witty, cheeky, and even unifying new book: White Men Are Okay Too: Heroes Throughout History, by Tim Constantine.
Constantine uses humor and truth to battle the rage of the age, and it works. White Men Are Okay Too is a fun read as it glides through subjects as diverse as literature, music, movies, medicine, space, philanthropy, fashion, sports, and more. Mario Mariani’s amazing caricatures of the legends of the past and present this book catalogs bring another spark to White Men Are Okay Too’s pages.
White Men Are Okay Too’s title springs a surprise: It’s not really about white men, at least not as such. It’s truly about the contributions people of all races and backgrounds, in all ages, men and women alike, have made to human progress. Constantine knows his history and spins quick-fire yarns linking LeBron James and Tom Brady, Mother Teresa and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Constantine’s book probably could not have come along at a better time. Though we live in a golden age, such times never last forever. The glory of Rome gave way to the barbarism of the Dark Ages once the people turned against their own nation. The Aztecs rose to power before Columbus could be blamed for genocide, and committed atrocities including ghastly human sacrifice atop their incredible pyramids. In fact, Columbus reported that the tribes he encountered enslaved and even ate those they captured in warfare from other nearby tribes. Yet in our age, it’s fashionable to ignore such ghastly practices and villainize Columbus, who was a white European man. Never mind the fact that he was one of the most visionary mariners who ever lived.
The group hatred we now see directed at white men can have dire consequences. Those who say “white men must be stopped,” as leftwing Salon declared in 2015, are perhaps unknowingly pushing intolerance that if taken to heart can be deadly dangerous -- and not just to the white men in the crosshairs.
White Men Are Okay Too is a timely reminder that no one is perfect and that everyone has something positive to contribute. Spike Lee and John Wayne would probably not have agreed on much, but we can agree that both of them contributed greatly to humanity’s ability to tell and retell great stories. Tim Constantine brings them both, and many more, together in White Men Are Okay Too: Heroes Throughout History.