OPINION: Esquire Magazine’s tone deaf cover story about middle class white boys shows why we need diverse newsrooms now

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On the glorious 12th day of Black History Month, Esquire Magazine decided to share their March cover story of “An American Boy: what it is like to grow up white, middle class, and male in the era of social media, school shootings, toxic masculinity, #METOO and a divided country.” To the shock of no one, social media was set afire, as the story trends as the number one topic of the day—likely the goal of posting such a triggering piece. It furthers a gross trend we are seeing in the tone deafness of media surrounding the coddling and protecting of white teenage boys who are assimilating to terrible ideals.


Esquire March 2019 Cover

Many of these ideals are listed on the cover, leaving one to think what exactly is the danger of a white boy having to grow up during a cultural shift fighting racism, patriarchy, misogyny, rape culture, and gun laws? There is none, except the possibility of losing power, privilege, and an entitlement that allows white boys to practice ideologies of oppression while absolving them of any accountability due to “age”, allowing them to become some of the wealthiest and powerful people in the world.

We must continue to focus on the blind spot and tone deafness media is continuing to take on these white teens—an empathy that is never afforded to the plight of Black teens, especially those who identities intersect with multiple marginalized groups. Esquire  reportedly claims that stories on growing up “Black, LGBTQ, female” are coming up. We shall see.

Media Accountability

The Esquire team and everyone defending this nonsense has taken the issue personally, rather than holding themselves to any professional standards of what the real issue is. In addition to seemingly not having any Black people on their masthead, it clearly reflects the beliefs and thoughts of the people in their editorial rooms making these decisions—something that is mirrored across newsrooms which are still heavily white, and male dominated. Look no further than the issues they decided to place on the cover juxtaposed against the young white boy who is “just an ordinary boy” trying to navigate these tough times.

School shootings have become a major issue since the Parkland massacre. But this time around, the fight is being led by a young white man against guns. Toxic masculinity was recently challenged by the Gillette ad, causing whites from this same faction to take up the issue. MeToo has started taking down powerful white men from all industries, a shift in rape culture that hasn’t been seen before. And then there’s social media, the tool that now allows us to call out these issues immediately and challenge dangerous ideologies every step of the way.

To push a narrative that young white men are facing “cancelation” is a dog whistle to white nationalism, patriarchy and the upholding of these principles to protect white supremacy. For media to take the position of telling the story from the oppressor’s angle takes power away from all who continue to be harmed. Media has the power to turn Black boys like Mike Brown and Tamir Rice into “adults” and “no angel”, while turning white boys into naïve victims of an ever-changing environment who feel threatened because the heinous acts they once felt entitled to are now being taken away.

There is no attack on young white men, but rather on ideology and principle, two things that continue to fuel the danger that has become the young white male as they grow into anti-blackness, not out of it as media pushes for us to believe. There is also an attack on policing outrage from communities that are tired of the media’s attempt to absolve our abusers, while silencing the victims who truly deserve to tell their stories.

It’s important for us to remember this. White children who are taught oppressive ideologies become teens who practice them and adults who run this country. So, no, we will not shed a tear for the tragic life of the young American white boy, who has everything except the expectation of being held accountable.