"Dead White Males"

Where did this expression come from, anyway? It sounds like just another ignorant “label.”

Question or trollery? You decide.

Your Quadell

Sorry, Quadell, I don’t know what “trollery” is.
There was a story about a journalist doing a feature story in the Ozarks (northwest Arkansas/southwest Missouri). The journalist happened upon a small house; the elderly native was rocking on the porch and whittling. A small radio was playing “hillbilly” music. Suddenly the music stopped and an announcer said:
“A tornado warning has just been announced for [the locality].”
The journalist was concerned; the local continued to sit and rock and whittle.
The journalist asked anxiously, “Don’t you think you should do something about that? A tornado is coming!”
The local drawled, “I wouldn’t pay no attention to that, heck, it’s just a little old dime-store radio.”
In other words, the medium was more important than the message.
So it is with “Dead White Males.” That is just as bigoted a term as Hitler’s epithet for Einstein’s findings: “Jewish physics.”

My point is that you aren’t really asking a serious question “Where did this expression come from?” Your real intention is to stir up heated debate and discount thse who use the term as morally equivalent to Adolf Hitler. Which means that this thread doesn’t really belong in GQ (unless you’re willing to lay off the moral judgements), but should really be in the Pit, perhaps under the topic “People who use the term Dead White Males are racists!”

Just my 2 cents.

Your Quadell

OK, Quadell; perhaps I phrased my question wrong. Maybe I should have asked: “Why is a notion like this MAINTAINED?”
All the same, your point is well taken; I’ll transfer this to Great Debates, if it’ll make it more objective and more likely to engender a proper answer…

As a live white female, I really don’t take offense at the term, and I don’t see it as derogatory. In “olden days,” white males were the ones who had the easiest access to education, expression, and dissemination of their work, etc. So of course the majority of art, literature, philosophy comes down from “dead white males.” It’s only in the past 100 years or so that the work of women or “non-white males” has gained if not equal, then more, acceptance. Sure, I find it annoying that there weren’t more female writers, artists, composers, in the 18th or 19th centuries, but I understand the historic reasons for it–and I do enjoy the works of such “dead white males” as Bach, Dickens, Ingres.

Thanks, Flora. :slight_smile: Did you agree with the point I intended to make with the “hillbilly” anecdote?
I’m sorry I could not find the source.

Unfortunately, I have heard with my own ears a tenured professor maintain that it is wrong for courses on 16th-century English theatre not to spend 50% of their time on female playwrights.

Frankly, ever since that day, I get nervous around anything labeled “feminist” until I’ve had a chance to check it out. Lunacy scares me.


John W. Kennedy
“Compact is becoming contract; man only earns and pays.”
– Charles Williams