Old white guy comments on ‘Old white guy’ article in last week’s Press 

Letter to the editor graphic/Hearst Connecticut Media

Letter to the editor graphic/Hearst Connecticut Media

Contributed photo

I’m an old white guy who was amused and a bit concerned by the kerfuffle over Kay Gelman’s comment during a BOS meeting in which the name for a Ridgefield Cultural District award was being discussed 

Given the context of the discussion, it’s clear Kay was making a case for considering a more diverse group of candidates to name the award after than just “old white men.” There is a healthy debate underway in our society right now, all the way up to the Supreme Court, about whether affirmative action is still needed to address past discrimination and marginalization of segments of our society, and whether the goal of diversity in selection decisions trumps pure individual merit.

Reasonable people can disagree on these issues, but it’s hard to argue against the fact that women and minorities have long been overlooked in the naming of awards, monuments, buildings and other forms of institutional recognition. I personally think that Cass Gilbert is a suitable choice for the award in question, but I also believe it’s healthy to ask the question about whether a broader, more diverse group of candidates should be considered.

Second, granting that Kay could have framed her view less dismissively and more as a question, I find it fascinating that some were “offended” by her comment. White male privilege is a thing, so it’s not equivalent to dismissing the concerns of women and minorities that have been marginalized for generations, and whose names are only now beginning to be recognized.

What I find particularly fascinating, is that it is often the same people who complain about “snowflake liberals” being overly sensitive to racial and ethnic slights who feel most offended when they are treated the same way. Two wrongs don’t make a right, but let’s not overreact to a good person whose passion was expressed less delicately than we would have liked.