Mitt Romney is clearly a very nice white male. But he made some big news this week. During the second presidential debate on October 16, Mitt took some major criticism for his answer to a question about gender equality in the workplace. In trying to extol his own record of enthusiastically hiring qualified female candidates during his tenure as governor of Massachusetts (and he did hire many), he blurted out his now infamous “binders full of women.”
Now, I will not get into why “binders full of women” is offensive. It is. What I’d like to talk about here is why Romney, the extremely nice white male that he is, let those words escape his lips. And I’d like to help him, and other nice white males (of which there are many, by the way) avoid making that same mistake again.
We all have thoughts. Then some of them make it to our lips. In reality, very few of our thoughts make it to verbal discourse. It is what I call the “Thought-to-Mouth Percentage,” or TMP. Most people have a TMP of 15-20%. Smart, discerning people have a TMP of 5-10%. George W Bush’s is around 50%. I do not make this claim about our former president without evidence:
“You know, one of the hardest parts of my job is to connect Iraq to the war on terror.”
“It’s clearly a budget. It’s got a lot of numbers in it.”
“There ought to be limits to freedom.”
He even once said, “See, in my line of work you got to keep repeating things over and over and over again for the truth to sink in.” A smart liar with a low TMP wouldn’t have said that.
So how can white males achieve a lower TMP? How can Mitt Romney never let anything like “binders full of women” leak from his mind again? The formula is easy.
He and other nice white males like him must employ “the black rule.” This nation went through a long struggle for black civil rights, and if white males know anything, they know what sounds offensive to black people. So, if something sounds offensive when said about black people, it’s probably offensive when said about others. I would suggest using “the black rule” and repeating it three times for it to truly sink in. For example, Mitt could have easily undertaken the following short exercise:
Mitt (to himself): I’m
Mitt (at the debate): So we took a concerted effort to find women who have backgrounds that could be qualified to become members of our cabinet. I went to a number of women’s groups and said, “Can you help us find folks?” And they brought us a list of highly qualified candidates.
See, the main problem here is that white males, of whom the overwhelming majority are very nice, law-abiding citizens, do not intrinsically understand what it means to be discriminated against. All the rest of us do. We’re sensitive to it. For instance, sometimes when I tell nice white males that I’m Arab, they say, “Wow, you don’t look Arab.” Then they flash a smile, the sort that follows a compliment. By simply employing the “black rule,” they might realize that statement could be a bit offensive.
A white male can’t truly understand prejudice and bigotry. He’s never been a victim. How can you be when you’ve had 43 ½ presidents?
In the final presidential debate, Mitt will have a chance to redeem himself. His third encounter with the president will focus on foreign policy. Hopefully, he can take my advice. I pray he isn’t tempted to say “binders full of Arabs.” Incidentally, there are binders full of Arabs. It’s a whole wing at the CIA.