Those angry white men

Somewhere in the hills of Kentucky, the dental hygiene profession has a Mrs. Smith trying to win enough votes to go to Washington. If you have any involvement in organized dental hygiene, you`ve probably heard of Virginia Woodward by now. If she`s elected to Congress next fall, her fellow Kentuckians probably won`t be the only ones represented by her. Dental hygienists everywhere will now find a sympathetic voice inside the "Beltway."

Mark Hartley, Editor

markh@pennwell.com

Somewhere in the hills of Kentucky, the dental hygiene profession has a Mrs. Smith trying to win enough votes to go to Washington. If you have any involvement in organized dental hygiene, you`ve probably heard of Virginia Woodward by now. If she`s elected to Congress next fall, her fellow Kentuckians probably won`t be the only ones represented by her. Dental hygienists everywhere will now find a sympathetic voice inside the "Beltway."

I`d say, "It`s about time."

Virginia Woodward`s campaign for election to Congress first came to my attention about a year ago - thanks to a phone call from RDH board member Carol Weldin. I was never in the same vicinity as Woodward, though, until the recent Empire Conference, where she addressed the Dental Hygienists` Association of the State of New York.

Woodward delivered a terrific speech about ethnic diversity in the workplace - with an emphasis on gender balance. Her statistics and comments were in line with everything I`ve seen produced by the U.S. Department of Labor. The gist of this reasoning is that male Caucasians will be in a demographic minority within a very short time span. This change in our demographic makeup will also carry over into the workplace. Racism and sexism will still likely exist, but it won`t be as blatant since everyone will be in a minority.

I`d say, "It`s about time."

I probably committed a faux pas when I went to New York. Before leaving, I wanted to say goodbye to the group publisher. I found him at the tail end of a conversation with one of our colleagues. She was talking about the same sort of thing Ms. Woodward was, except she kept referring to how "angry white men were not going to be running things anymore." So we stood around with the vacant expression that white men have and listened to the rest of her spiel. Afterwards, my boss and I started walking toward the door. He wished me well in New York, particularly with accepting an award that the state`s hygienists kindly presented to me.

I flippantly replied, "Yeah, I guess I`ll be the last angry white man to win an award." It was meant as a joke, and he laughed.

But I turned and found myself face-to-face with the security guard. He`s African-American, and he`s giving me a puzzled look (as in, "Where did that comment come from?"). The security guard, I should point out, is an extremely kind man. Since he reads a Bible at his workstation, the assumption can also be made that he is a deeply religious man. He did not appear offended - just puzzled. Nevertheless, since he did not know the background with which I made my remark, I felt a twinge of self-consciousness passing his station the following week.

I see many of Woodward`s comments coming true in my daughter. She`s a very bright, articulate girl. She knows exactly what she wants to do every day. She learns in school because she enjoys it. She participates in extracurricular activities that would exhaust most of us. She wants to be an achiever in life. In athletics, she is as physical as I`ve seen any female athlete in a "sneakers" commercial. As she does exactly what she wants to do with her life, she is setting her own rules. I hope that positive spirit continues. I certainly hope she doesn`t experience the syndrome of Odumbing downO for men as she gets older.

I don?t perceive myself as being an angry white man, but I know some who are. In fact, I talked with some angry white men at the recent American Dental Association?s annual session in Washington, D.C. RDH publishes the Perspective column that is written by Heidi Emmerling. She has this ability to turn pleasant white men into snarling, angry white men. Even as her editor, I probably spend half of my conversations with her in heated arguments. I am, however, a big believer in free speech. Heidi is a very literate and effective communicator through the written word. She offers, as opinion columnists are supposed to do, an interesting perspective on our world.

A downside to my job is that I spend time listening to male dentists degrade her not just as a writer ... but as a human being. One fellow, for example, kept repeating how Osick and twistedO Heidi is. But the one who alarmed me simply said, OWe?re going to take hygiene away from them (hygienists) and do it ourselves.O I?ve heard this before, of course, but this individual is in a position of influence in organized dentistry.

So now we?ve got this case of angry white men thinking, OIf these women are going to change the rules, I?m going to change them too.O

The rule changes that these men have in mind are nowhere close to the rule changes that, say, my daughter is pursuing. She is in pursuit of freedom of choices with her life. The rule changes they seek are merely retaliatory in nature.

When you attend your next local society meeting, someone will likely alert you to the fact that the American Dental Association endorsed preceptorship at its annual session. For two consecutive years, organized dentistry has belittled the hygiene profession at its primary gathering. Last year, it was the so-called 2020 Plan. This year, preceptorship. What this means is that you have some angry white men who are treating you in a very demeaning manner. You can?t let them get away with it. So support your association?s efforts to stop the nonsense. But, more importantly, heed their pleas for help and get directly involved in fighting back.

I?d say, OIt?s about time.O

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