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.