Eric Stoller's blog

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Why I blog…

14 comments



For the record, I believe that writing about white privilege and patriarchy is a positive thing to do. I feel very positive when I write about these particular barriers to social justice.

I feel that working towards the elimination of racism and sexism is a positive thing. It’s not an easy thing to do. It often hurts. There are comments that make my heart pound as I attempt to digest scattered remnants of thoughts that have been buried beneath piles of words. Sometimes it keeps me awake at night as I try to negotiate how to respond. It hurts to see comments from friends who say that I only talk about negatives. It is challenging.

Sometimes I think about shutting the whole thing down. Then I am reminded by an internal alarm that tells me that yes, as a white heterosexual man, I can walk away from this blog. I can go through my entire life on this planet and never have to think about my race, my gender, or my sexual orientation. It’s the combination of a set of unearned privileges. However, I am an anti-racist, feminist, ally. My dignity is linked to those who are oppressed because of their race, gender, sexual orientation, etc. My dignity is maimed and suffers because of racism, sexism, homophobia, heterosexism, etc.

I don’t approach my blog posts as if this is a debate. This is personal for me. Blogging about topics that cause a lot of fear and anger is not an easy thing to do.

There are some men who email me and say that I am no longer a “man” because of what I write. Derogatory words that are used to describe women are hurled over and over again at me. The irony of this is not lost on me. Sexism meet irony, irony meet sexism.

There are some white people who say that I don’t value the work of white people because of my views on white privilege. I am white and it is not about the quality of the work. It’s about the social construction in which the work takes place.

  • Hard work minus the burden of institutionalized racism = advantage. An advantage that you did not “earn” via your hard work is a privilege.
  • Hard work plus the burden of institutionalized racism = disadvantage. This is the absence of privilege. (This model also works for institutionalized sexism.)

There are some heterosexual people who say that I am gay because of what I write (as if that is some sort of insult for someone who is a flaming ally ;) )…

The genesis of this post came from a recent comment:

G-Dub: “If you want your arguments to sway people who may not see your way, you need to point out positives, as well as negatives. Harping only on white privilege, patriarchy, etc just preaches to your choir. It does nothing for many, and for those that need it pointed out the most, it just hardens their hearts.”

Vic: Quoted for truth and emphasis.

By labeling what I am doing as “harping” it sets up what I am saying as having little or no value. I like to think that the choir that was mentioned is my support network… If you think that my blog is furthering the hardening of the hearts of white men, please tell me what I should do differently…

The positive aspects of writing about topics like white privilege and patriarchy is that hopefully people who benefit from their skin color (white) or gender (men) will think critically about what I have written and then maybe they too will speak out about it. Sometimes people do… sometimes people try to diminish what I have said via various tactics. Every once in a while, white guys like FinanceBuzz, G-Dub, and Poor Boy will say something that makes my soul smile as I perceive that they actually seem to read what I say. These bits get lost in counter-comments and fields of block quotes, but I savor them when they occur.

I remember when I read Janet Helm’s White Racial Identity Development Theory. It made me really angry and it took me a year to process those feelings and the thoughts that had emerged because of them… Developing a white identity was not an easy thing for me to do.

Being white is easy, being critically self-aware of being white is not.

I appreciate everyone who reads this blog. I am humbled and honored that you take the time to read my posts, submit comments, and spend time engaging with me and the rest of the readers of this site.

  • http://rhetoricalwasteland.blogspot.com Dennis

    Go Eric!

    ….

    When I see “you need to talk about the positives of white people more,” what I hear is “don’t mention the negatives of white supremacy, ever.”

    After all, the positives are mentioned – and lived – all over the place every day.

    So thanks for being such a level-headed advocate for justice.

    Thanks for knowing that we, as white people and as men, have a responsibility to speak out against injustice, and an obligation to make sure we never try to speak for someone else.

    And thank you for being willing to sound like a broken record at times – we are suffering a collective inability to get past a few notes, so it’s only fitting.

  • G-Dub

    Eric,

    Excellent post. Your passion is not misplaced.

    Harping is just a word. “To talk or write about to an excessive and tedious degree; dwell on.” is how Dictionary.com puts it. Belittling your argument was not my intention. I was making a plea for more variety and susbtance in your argument, and less pointing and shaming.

    I do not believe that what you say has little or no value. On the contrary, I wouldn’t have bothered to comment if I felt that way. I don’t think anyone would.

    Please don’t take my comments as aimed personally at you. All I meant was the thrust of your arguments sometimes seems to be mostly “railing at the man”. It’s true that there is a lack of opportunity for some in our society. It’s also true that things are, for the most part, better than they used to be. I’m not asking for a big pat on the shoulder for white or male America, but maybe an acknowledgement of that fact and a discussiion of what it may have been that moved things forward and what it may take to move things further along in the right direction.

    I think some of the tension between posters stems from what is implied in your posts. When you bring up a list of mostly dead rich white guys and write only “Do you see any commonalities among the people in this list?” This leaves the reader no choice but to project for themselves what you mean, and then answer that. This leaves you defending yourself on the basis of something you didn’t say.

    My ‘Preaching to the choir” comment also wasn’t intended to belittle your supporters , or your argument. I wanted to point out that you may be able to expand the “choir” by tweaking the way you present your positions. I’ve perused some of you older posts, there are some things I agree with, some I don’t, but none that I don’t respect.

    As fo those who’ve emailed you and said you’re not a man because of what you write, I’ll just say, you’re a man because of it.

    Your blog is a good thing. You should never stop it.

  • J

    Hey Eric, write what you want. Remember, this is a free country. People who disagree with any viewpoint another has, can be mean. People like to unload for very little reason, too, at others, as sport. It’s a jungle out there. Write what you want and stand tall! Nobody on this earth is perfect. Nobody.

  • http://vegankid.solidaritydesign.net vegankid

    bra-fucking-vo! well put, Eric. We should put together some sort of “why i blog” compilation.

    while i agree with the sentiment that both “positives” and “negatives” need to be pointed out, my experience is that ppl tend to hear what they want to hear. Meaning that even when we point out the positive aspects of working to create a more compassionate world, folks often prefer not to hear it. Choosing instead, to argue that we are trying to make them feel guilty by calling them names like racist or sexist. Dialogue does need to be a two-way street. That is easier said than done for all parties involved.

  • http://slanttruth.com Kevin

    Eric, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: you are the man. Having just extracted myself from yet another nasty blog situation, you don’t know how much I needed to read this.

  • http://writingevolution.blogspot.com cest.la.vie

    Alright. That’s it. I’m linking you in my blogroll.

    Thank you, THANK YOU for doing what you do. Thank you for being tolerant. Thank you for being open-minded. Thank you for being an ally to causes that do not get enough attention. Thank you for using your privileges in order to help those who have none.

    And this:

    “There are some men who email me and say that I am no longer a “man” because of what I write. ”

    Drives me absolutely batty. My husband hears similar criticisms, and sadly, some come from women who tell him he “can’t be a feminist” because he is a man; can’t understand or criticize misogyny and injustice because of his gender.

    I am so tired of people rolling back the movement by telling their allies to “shut up”.

    We need you, and others like you, on our team. Please keep fighting the good fight, and never feel your words are unappreciated.

  • Noah

    My dignity is linked to those who are oppressed because of their race, gender, sexual orientation, etc. My dignity is maimed and suffers because of racism, sexism, homophobia, heterosexism, etc.

    I just wanted to say that this made me uncomfortable. I know this was part of a paragraph where you seemed to be saying why you have a reason to think about this stuff, but I just want to perhaps make it a little clearer and say that for me, my obligation to think about this stuff is not because of “my dignity” but because I am an oppressor. I haven’t read any of your other posts, so maybe this is not a fair criticism, but I feel like this post doesn’t acknowledging that. I do not think that disadvantage equates to mere “lack of privilege.” The advantage comes from standing on the backs of women and people of color and keeping them down. We have an obligation to think about their burdens since we are causing it and benefiting from it.

  • http://ericstoller.com/blog/ Eric Stoller

    Everyone – Thank you for your kind words and support.

    Noah – This post was in response to some comment threads on white privilege and gender privilege. I needed to say some things that I thought needed to be in their own unique post.

    I completely agree with you. I should clarify that I blog because of my role as a member of oppressor groups and of the affects of that oppression on folks in targeted groups as well as my own soul. I hope this clears things up. My post on the Meritocracy Myth and the comments on it touch on your point. Cheers!

  • Noah

    I’m not trying to be a jerk, but I am trying to figure out how to talk to other white people, so I hope you don’t mind me practicing here. (But don’t worry, this will likely be my last comment.)

    I got here from the Erase Racism Carnival, so that might be part of the problem because I had high expectations. It’s really great that you’re blogging, but I was disappointed by the post and I felt like it was included in the Carnival because “ooo a straight white man is talking about racism.” I get that it’s just a post saying why you are blogging, but that seems all the more reason to implicate yourself.

    “my role as a member of oppressor groups and of the affects of that oppression on folks in targeted groups”

    Your “role” as a “member” of “oppressor groups” and the “effects” on “folks” feels to me like a lot of distancing and dancing around the truth. You and I are oppressors. We oppress people. Period. Yes there is a system, and that is our role in it: oppressors.

    I read the The Meritocracy Myth post and those quotes are doing the same thing you did in this post. I’m talking about implicating yourself, not intellectually saying these things. To me talking a lot about “privilege” and “advantage” obscure reality since the second half of that thought is missing. Privilege and oppression go hand in hand.

  • http://ericstoller.com/blog/ Eric Stoller

    Noah – I don’t think you’re a jerk and I hope you come back again :)

    I think that this post and the meritocracy myth post were addressing specific aspects of oppression. I have written about being an oppressor on other posts…

  • Tom Autopref

    Eric, a lurker here, I’m new to this stuff, always feeling like the slow kid in the class, and I’m glad you do blog about it.

  • Pingback: A Closer Look at the World » Blog Archive » Erase Racism Carnival()

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=19706170 Julie McLaughlin McCann

    Hi Eric,
    Found your blog while doing searches on white identity.  I am finishing up my dissertation on “White principal examine power and privilege: The Challenge of leading for equity.  How amazing that you are at OSU  too and live in Corvallis.  I was a teacher, principal and administrator there for 30 years.  Are you still writing about this?  I am also now an equity trainer for an amazing experience called CFEE that transformed me as a person and showed me I am white.  Duh huh?  We have trained over 300 school leaders and are excited about the possibilities.

    Julie

    • http://ericstoller.com/blog/ Eric Stoller

      Hi Julie, I recently moved from Corvallis to Columbia, SC.  I haven’t written recently about white identity, but it’s always something that’s on my mind and part of my critical awareness of self. Sounds like your dissertation is going to be amazing!

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