A White Male Problem
I hear constantly that black problems are black problems, and that they have to solve their own problems.
I also hear that women don’t really have any problems, that they should just remember their places.
Setting aside the bullshit of these lines of thinking, let’s play the game for a minute, applying the same logic to ourselves.
First, let’s admit that there are actually white problems. Then let’s admit that there are male problems. Then white male problems are white male problems, and we have to solve our own problems.
And we DO have problems. It’s just that our problems are causing a lot of others.
We raise white men who’ve committed a terrorist act and destroyed the private property of a private company to the level of Arthurian Legend and call it the Boston Tea Party, but then we feel offended when a football player takes a knee.
We admire an all-white-male government committee deciding on women’s health issues and defend it as democracy in action.
We use our privilege to call for less government interference in our lives but then:
-demand legislation dictating marriage,
-demand legislation dictating what a doctor must say to a female patient,
-defend agents of the state (police) who react with unnecessary lethal force against black citizens.
We use a white defendant’s future potential but a black defendant’s past to dictate prison sentences.
We think that saying someone is articulate is a compliment, because it surprises us that they are.
We have the luxury to sit back and assess whether someone
-deserved to die,
-deserved a life sentence,
-doesn’t deserve access to social programs,
-doesn’t have the ability to make decisions for themselves.
It is pretty clear what our problem is: we do not or cannot see others as actual human beings…
…and that is because we do not see ourselves as human beings.
We create a resume-like list of accomplishments to substitute for our humanity, a list that we hope makes up for any shortcomings or for any sins. If our job title is impressive enough, if we tithe enough, or if our kids are in good schools, or our wives have decent sized expense accounts, then it doesn’t matter that we embezzle, if we only go to church on Easter, if our kids have a bruise here or there, if we have been divorced four times.
Our identities are tied up in our jobs (does it surprise you that there are garbage men who belong to Mensa?) or our roles (provider, father, husband, regardless of being good at being these things) or status (house, cars, pretty wife). Our identity is defined by superficial qualities that can never come near to describing the depths of our humanity. We do it anyway. White-male is the default, and we are the material beneficiaries of a system that encourages us to mistake mirrors for windows.
Our white-male problem is that we are subject to a system that requires us to perpetuate racism, sexism, and every other -ism you can think of. We white-wash differences under the guise of free-market fair-play because we cannot acknowledge identity outside of our own already entrenched terms.
And this system does not allow us to recognize even the most successful of us as human.
Our problem is that we don’t recognize that as a problem.
The Cycle Continues
We tell our sons, “No, that is a girl’s toy,” or, “Only girls wear pink.”
We tell our sons, “Crying is weakness.”
We believe telling our sons that they “throw like a girl” will motivate them to be more manly.
We raise our sons to be stoic, emotionless and workaholics, to be successful, to be winners.
We fail to teach them what it is to be human.
Shut Up and Listen
When someone says, “Black lives matter,” we need to listen, because they are affirming something we cannot affirm for ourselves.
When someone says, “My body, my choice,” we need to listen, because they have remembered something we have forgotten.
When someone announces to the world they are gay, we need to listen, because they found something we lost long ago.
When our sons says they want to wear pink, we need to listen, because they are human, self-determining, and courageous.
We’ve talked long enough. Look where it’s gotten us. And by us, I mean everyone.
Shut up and just listen.