Pale White Men

Here’s a recent quote from Steve King, the sitting Republican Senator from Iowa:

I’d ask you to go back through history and figure out where are these contributions that have been made by these other categories of people [other than white males] that you are talking about. Where did any other subgroup of people contribute more to civilization?

I have just two words to say to Mr. King: Hedy Lamarr.

Hedy Lamarr was a Hollywood starlet through the 1940’s and 1950’s. She also happened to be an inventor who worked out (and patented) a method of frequency-hopping intended to be used by the military to avoid frequency-jamming of radio-controlled torpedoes during WWII, and which is a core component to modern WiFi and Bluetooth interfaces.

Did Lamarr contribute to civilization? Do Hollywood sex-kittens contribute to civilization? Do women contribute to civilization?

No. They don’t. Not nearly as much as they could, or should.

The implication — the innuendo — that King lays down is that these others are incapable of contributing to civilization. The reality is that they are prevented from contributing to civilization, and when they fight through the hurdles and contribute anyway, their contribution is plagiarized, minimized, or covered up entirely. History is written in such a way as to make their contribution completely invisible. As though it never happened.

Our nation is much poorer because of this.

So yes, Mr. King, if you search through a biased history of a nation founded on sexism and racism, you will find damn little evidence that anyone other than white men ever contributed anything to civilization.

Mr. King, there may come a day when white men like yourself — ignorant, arrogant, sanctimonious, hypocritical white men like yourself — will be painted out of history in the same way you have painted out women, and darker-skinned people. Because I am also a white male, that brush will paint over me, as well. We will become the Fomorians, the Pharisees, the ghost-people of myth: a symbol of evil, and decay. People will ask, “When did a white man ever do anything good?” and they will shake their heads and pity us. They will hold up their own biased histories, in which no white male ever did anything but rape, pillage, cannibalize, and betray. And if any white men are left in that world, they will be wretched creatures barred from any opportunity that might allow them to contribute anything of value to civilization.

Or perhaps… perhaps it will play out differently. Perhaps the women, and the darker-skinned, will not be so arrogant, hypocritical, and thin-skinned. Perhaps they will find a way to make a place for white males, in a way that white males could never make for them.

Maybe the women and the colored peoples are better than white men.

You are certainly not setting a very high bar for them to surpass.

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