For the past few years, the media has been reporting on the anger of White men. And make no mistake, there are plenty of White women who hold the same views; Juan Williams argues that they are even angrier. I’m a White dude and I’m married to a White chick (a term with which she self-identifies), so just based off of our lives on paper (pastor married to someone who runs a small business; massive student loan debt; live in a Republican heavy county), you’d imagine us something like this:
Now it is time to play everyone’s favorite game, “Can you spot the spelling and grammatical errors in the signs?”
But of course, we’re not. Neither of us feel caught up in the zeitgeist that is gripping so many who feel that we need to take our country back, who believe President Obama has made the country racist, who believe politically correct culture is weakening our country,or who regard the Black Lives Matter movement as a terrorist organization. In fact, we believe the exact opposite. I’ll stop writing on behalf of my dear wife and just stick to my own ideas, but when it comes to “White” America we’ve got cred. We have White people in our ancestry as far as the eye can see.
I realized pretty early in my life that so-called White men have probably caused more death and destruction than any other “racial” and gender group. I wrote yesterday on the myth of whiteness and how pernicious it is. There comes a time in each White man’s life–at least if he is thinking–when he has to realize that he has been pushed and shoved into a certain identity. Everything around us informs us that we are important, even in the most dire of circumstances. While money is the ultimate divider in this country, race and gender are huge as well. Laws have been codified giving us the “right” to touch and violate women. We are taught that our gaze does not need to be controlled, but rather that women who wear revealing clothes know what they are doing. That they are asking for it. That it is for our benefit. As White men, we are taught that all the “founding fathers” looked like us; that we are the creators and the innovators and the masters of all we survey. Anyone who tries to challenge that is seeking to usurp what is rightfully ours. Our notions of freedom become such that any slight inconvenience or redress to us is an assault on our God-given liberty. We are taught that our feelings are more important than is the oppression of others; we are fed and many of us believe a narrative that the sins of the past have no bearing on the present. We are encouraged to be defensive and to hear any criticisms of structures that benefit us as a critique of us as persons. As though they are attacks on us individually, and we are provided venues in which those views are repeated, held into the light, and are manipulated by self-serving politicians and religious leaders who tell us that the enemy is everyone who is not like us or refuses to act in ways that we deem acceptable.
So, White men, we should have rage. We should have rage exploding from our every cell because we have been sold a bill of goods. I cannot tell you how much time, reflection, prayer, anger, agony, frustration, and embarrassment I have had to undergo in order to get woke. How many POC had to take time and energy to assist in my education. How much of a waste it has been to mentally dismantle this shit that should not exist in the first place. Think about this, guys: things could be different. I believe that most of us want everyone to have equal opportunities. Most of us want schools to be better, neighborhoods to be safer, prejudice based on race, sexual orientation, gender, bodily ability, etc to be erased. We’ve been taught to believe that other people want to punish us for the work of our ancestors; that the culture is shifting against us, despite the fact that the country is for us; we not only have to fight against this narrative, we have to change it. We have to continue to educate ourselves about the structures and systems (legal, economic, political, educational, penal) that promote white supremacy, and to work toward either transforming or eradicating them. Our rage should be against not only a system that keeps others oppressed, but also a system that brought us up with such a skewed view of the world. A system that made us racist without our consent, without our volition, without our desire. A system that gives us not only a backpack filled with privileges, but also a backpack filled with toxic shit that destroys lives. It perverts worldviews.
The thing is, it doesn’t have to be this way if we reject. It. Sadly, I don’t see it going away in my lifetime. But maybe within my niece’s. If we do the work. If we take this opportunity, here and now, and rise up against the ugliness that is Donald Trump and talk to one another. The anger many of us feel is from fear. That’s what monied interests want; our continued separation and division makes money. It sells advertising on news shows. It supports toxic publishers who churn out hate-mongers like Ann Coulter. Many of us want to replace this system with something more equitable. And I am not saying that I have all the answers. But what I am saying is that we in the so-called White community have to talk to one another. We have to address the ways in which supremacy culture impacts us. That also means talking to people who have bought in to the lies, but who are reasonable. People who honestly do not harbor hatred or prejudice in their hearts, but who do not understand how racist structures undergird everything in American life.
One privilege we no longer have is the privilege of silence. That’s it. Over. Finished. Each one of us, in our own ways, have to seriously address these facts. Especially those of us who ask communities of color to refrain from violence. We can’t do that if we are not placing our bodies and lives on the line, too. It means going into areas that are hostile to us and holding difficult conversations. It means calling out racist language and behavior in our presences. Silence is complicity. Silence is privilege. Silence is death.