“Instead of a magazine cover, he got a funeral.”
An American men’s magazine featured the story of a white teenage boy on it March cover, and liberals on Wednesday were wildly triggered.
Ryan Morgan, a 17-year-old high school senior from West Bend, Wisconsin, is seen on the front of Esquire looking utterly ordinary. He sits on his bed wearing a white hoodie and a plaid shirt. Green Bay Packers paraphernalia is visible in his bedroom.
The accompanying headline reads: “An American Boy: What it’s like to grow up white, middle class, and male in the era of social media, school shootings, toxic masculinity, #MeToo, and a divided country.”
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This quintessentially middle-class American image was enraging to progressive elites, who rushed en masse to condemn the magazine for supposedly promoting “white privilege” – and during Black History Month no less.
For HuffPost reporter Jenna Amatulli, the whole thing was an unbearable “ugh.”
Esquire dropping this ode to white male privilege that no one asked for… during Black History month is just… ugh. pic.twitter.com/v9Re5dsKt3
— Jenna Amatulli (@ohheyjenna) February 12, 2019
In another viral tweet, one man shared a doctored image of the cover with “Esquire” replaced by the word “Privilege,” though he has since deleted the post.
Out magazine editor Fran Tirado accused Esquire of “radicalizing white privilege,” while his colleague Raquel Willis complained that, unlike the queer and otherwise “marginalized,” white cisgender men “get to simply exist and be seen as worthy.” NowThis video producer Judah Robinson deemed Equire’s cover “garbage” and, somehow, “dangerous.”
What kind of garbage is this @esquire? Media really needs to stop covering the white, cis-gendered, heterosexual man in America as if it is an underrepresented group. It is fucking dangerous pic.twitter.com/x9fDGMJC33
— Judah Robinson (@judah_robinson) February 12, 2019
According to a letter by Esquire editor-in-chief Jay Fielden that accompanied Ryan’s profile – which was written by magazine writer Jessica Percy – the idea was to “look at our divided country through the eyes of one kid.” He assured readers that the article is just the first in a new series that will reveal what it’s like “growing up now – white, black LGBT, female – that will continue to appear in coming issues.”
However, that did not placate the Twitter mob.
A number of liberals announced they were boycotting the monthly’s act of journalism. They urged their followers to instead bone up on victims of hate crimes and gun violence (never mind that the story deals with school shootings at length). Other said they were reading about supposedly worthier identity groups, like gender nonbinary women – or about evil white men like white supremacist mass shooter Dylan Roof.
I could read that Esquire story or I could read this again https://t.co/I6Ekbw9cRz
— Sarah Weinman (@sarahw) February 12, 2019
A lot of people wanted to talk about Trayvon Martin, because he was also 17-years-old when he was shot by a community watch guard.
Trayvon Martin was also 17.
He also grew up in the age of social media
He also liked video games and sports and had the right to make some mistakes.
Instead of a magazine cover, he got a funeral.
We know about Ryan's experience. We need to understand Trayvon's. pic.twitter.com/Qh5NNlBQf3
— Mikel Jollett (@Mikel_Jollett) February 12, 2019
For the critics, each detail of Ryan’s life seemed to be more upsetting than the last (though they ignored the politically inconvenient ones).
He’s tall, at 6 feet, 5 inches; he’s straight, as confirmed by his serious girlfriend; and he’s white.
Furthermore, he’s conservative: anti-abortion and pro-death penalty (but also pro-gay marriage). He likes the president (though not in a “Heil Trump” way). He watches Fox News (and also CNN). He sometimes wears American-flag shirts. And he likes to hunt with his dad.
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In other words, to many, Ryan is the white patriarchy incarnate.
People even managed to get outraged about Ryan’s low GPA (which has been on the rise – he expects a 4.0 this year.)
I started reading the Esquire article, but had to stop once I started trying to imagine my black ass coming come with a 1.8 GPA in high school and my parents allowing me to have *friends*, much less a longtime significant other.
— KJ (@KendraJames_) February 12, 2019
Most horrifying of all: Ryan admitted he once “smacked” and girl back after she hit him unprovoked in the face.
spoiler: the opening to the Esquire piece on the white kid is about him fighting a girl in high school and him and his mother talking about all the ways girls lie about getting beat up. Enjoy!
— David Dennis Jr. (@DavidDTSS) February 12, 2019
Still, it was hard to deny that Ryan is an at least somewhat sympathetic figure.
He’s the son of acrimoniously divorced parents. He doesn’t drink or do drugs and thinks parties are “lame.” He’s not a jock. He doesn’t care about being popular. And he plays a lot of Xbox.
One time, he went to Oregon to visit his uncle, but he thought Portland was “weird.”
“I would look out the window and everyone was smoking marijuana,” he said.
However, in liberal minds, these biographical details were deemed problematic, too. Ryan apparently does not rank high- (or low-?) enough on the identity-politics totem pole of moral worth that to be deserving of compassion.
Oh no. Esquire wants us to feel bad for the American white boy.https://t.co/SYhNb44yWt
— The Mary Sue (@TheMarySue) February 12, 2019
Fortunately or not, Ryan’s life in a small, rural, and largely conservative town has already prepared him just the sort of self-righteous progressive condemnation that he’s now receiving. His school has gotten increasingly politicized, and just being himself has gotten complicated.
“Everyone hates me because I support Trump?” he said. “I couldn’t debate anyone without being shut down and called names. Like, what did I do wrong?”
Although Ryan doesn’t use Facebook, Twitter, or Snapchat, he is often attacked by liberals for sharing his thoughts on Instagram. He said that internet feminists tell him to shut up because he’s “stupid,” “straight,” and a “white man.”
“I guess they think since I’m not a girl, I don’t have an opinion,” he ventured.
The racism and hatred of the left is on full display this morning as they are outraged that #Esquire featured a straight white male on their new cover. I thought everyone should be treated equally and given respect despite their race and sex?
— derek schwartz (@derek_mafs) February 12, 2019
Meanwhile, Ryan plans to stay in West Bend after he graduates and work at the water-utility plant. Eventually, he’s thinking of going to college to become an engineer. But he might keep living with his mom for a while to save money.
“I’ll be five or six years ahead of everyone who goes to college,” he says. “They’ll be looking for jobs, and I’ll be buying a house.”
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