White Men and Me
I have not published anything here for several months. In this time I have been listening and learning more both from others doing anti-oppression work and from my sense of my own needs. The longer I do not write, the harder it is to work up the courage to publish anything. So I am offering here a short, well-liked, Facebook post to start things off again. The original conversation can be found here.
It is increasingly disconcerting that the people who have been the most mean and hurtful toward me are, in the majority of cases, white men. In many of those cases, these men attacked or undermined me in direct retaliation to my promoting transparency, cooperation, sharing, critical analysis, and anti-oppressive values.
Over and over again, with few exceptions, women and people of color have addressed things they don’t like about what I’ve done with kind and thoughtful feedback, even when they were feeling hurt and angry toward me in response to something I did directly to them, while white men have viciously gone after me or pushed me away for abstract slights, often having to do with claims to status, differences in strategy, or philosophical disagreements.
I realize this is not everybody’s experience, and that some of my fellow white men have felt victimized by women, people of color, etc. And, at the same time I believe my experience is representative of a significant larger trend, which is that we white men are patterned and trained to be inept at handling anger and power in socially positive ways, and white men often feel the most threatened by actions that challenge systemic power structures and our pre-existing beliefs.
I expect this reality is painfully obvious for most people who are not white men in America. Even after years of training, it blooms gradually in my white-guy brain, especially as I do more work in my communities.