White Men of Nebraska

Updated: Oct 17, 2021



So, what are white men good for? They seem to be good for Trump. According to recent pieces by Michael Sokolove (10/25) and Charles M. Blow (10/26) in the New York Times, they are the group that gives Trump a chance to win, if they are angry enough and resentful enough to vote in droves.

I certainly do not belong to this group, but as a white man of Nebraska, I have to consider what happened to them that did not happen to me.

Let’s consider the “Great Seal of the State of Nebraska.” A man takes up the center. Not just anyone, but a blacksmith. Strange as it may seem, among other things, my father was a blacksmith, and I learned the trade working with him during the summers when I attended college. I learned how to heat metal in a forge and to reshape it with a heavy hammer on an anvil.

Above the blacksmith you read: “Equality Before The Law.” Imagine: Nine years before the Battle of the Little Big Horn (1876) and twenty-three years before the Wounded Knee Massacre in 1890, Nebraskans ‘believed” in “equality before the law.” This should be a clue about what happened to some white men in Nebraska.

The seal is filled with agriculture products, the Missouri river, the railroad, and the Rocky Mountains in the background. Doesn’t it look nice?

What happened to some white men in Nebraska is that they took this picture as the truth. They didn’t see what was sealed off: the Pawnee communities that lived on this territory for generations, the Sioux who fought to save it for their communities, the Chinese who built the railroad, the African Americans who provided cheap labor, the women who made human life possible, the families who created homes, and the earth as a living system. This was the world of good men, who believed in “equality before the white man’s law.”

Now, the seal has been broken. (Excuse the play on words) The picture was a lie. It’s not that white men do not belong in the picture. Others belong as well. The white man’s fear, of course, is that they will no longer be at the center. Here is one of the many paradoxes: Even though the picture shows abundance; the mentality of scarcity dominates the white man’s world.

In fact, the most important things in life don’t decrease through sharing; they increase. White men will not have less. They will actually have more. Still, there is resistance to breaking the seal for a variety of reasons. It will be broken, and what will happen next is unknown.

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