Tuesday, May 26, 2015
Whining white guys
Yesterday I referred to Jim Webb appealing to aggrieved white males, the guys who seem to think life would be just fine if we could just return to those halcyon days when women and minorities knew their place. For those whining white guys, whenever something doesn't go right or they don't get exactly what they want, it's always the fault of affirmative action or quota systems or those damn illegals stealing jobs. They're seemingly incapable of recognizing that you don't always get what you want or think you deserve. No matter how good you think you are, there are going to be times when the other job candidates really are better qualified than you, your test scores are too low, or you lose out on stuff for no reason whatsoever other than sheer bad luck, like your application falls behind a desk or gets lost in the mail.
Thinking about whining white guys after reading Webb's book triggered a memory of one of my fellow grad students. He was in his final year, i.e., he was making final revisions to his dissertation and job hunting. He applied for a position at a major university, a Midwestern school that was the equivalent of Virginia Tech. He was totally convinced they were going to hire him because the posting seemed like a perfect match for his research interests.
I can't recall if he made it to the interview stage, but I do remember the ranting he did when he found out they'd hired -- omigod, the horror! -- a woman. He did a lot of pissing and moaning with his cronies about how affirmative action and political correctness were driving hiring committees to select applicants who had no apparent qualifications other than a vagina. What were the actual facts? Academia being a small world, it didn't take long for the rest of us to learn who had beaten out our colleague for the job.
The whining white guy in our program was ABD (his dissertation wasn't done yet), had zero publications, had done almost no presentations at professional meetings and had minimal teaching experience. The "unqualified" woman had her Ph.D. in hand (and it was from a more prestigious program than ours), multiple published peer-reviewed journal articles, and a book in press. She'd been out there building her c.v. and networking since her first day of grad school; the whining white guy had done what would have been normal behavior a couple decades before but didn't exactly make him competitive in the 1990s.
The fellow did manage to find work eventually, although it wasn't at the research university of his dreams. It would be nice to believe that sooner or later he grew up and recognized he'd simply lost out to a better qualified applicant, but I doubt it. He's probably still whining to his friends that he wouldn't have been stuck at Podunk U. if it hadn't been for affirmative action screwing him over. Once a whiner, always a whiner.