The perfect white guy

A while back when I was talking to a female friend (who’s an avowed progressive) about the possibility of running for office, she looked at me very seriously and said,

“You’re the perfect white guy.”

What she meant was that I did a reasonably good job of standing up for people that aren’t straight, white, and male while looking very much like I wouldn’t. A donkey in elephant’s clothing, I joked.

I’ve done a lot of thinking about this since that day, and have realized that there are a lot of straight, white men just like me. We understand the advantage inherent in who we are. We welcome diversity of culture and opinion into our lives. We intervene when we see overt injustice.

But, yet, in today’s world, we’re also seen as the root of all problems. The oppressors, the 1%, the privileged. That creates an almost untenable conundrum in how to navigate our current progressive political culture.

I don’t intend this as any sort of sob fest for straight, white guys. Far from it. I know exactly how good I (and we) have it. It just makes me wonder how effective it is to amplify the far left’s “white male privilege is the root of all evil” mantra when there are plenty of white men who are standing squarely on the side of justice.

Perhaps it’s time we cool down the rhetoric and ideology and start engaging each other as individuals instead of labels.

The cost you pay for advocacy

“I think that when we get attacked by other men, that’s the cost that you pay for being an advocate. As an ally, you’re supposed to take the bullet so that other women don’t have to. If you’re not willing to pay that cost, then you are not ready to join the movement. Because women have to take backlash all day, every day, so why is it okay for them to take it, but you’re too afraid to take it, as a man, when you’re in the position of power?”

Guys who have sincerely been trying to figure out how we help fight sexism, this interview with former NFL player Wade Davis is for you. Great insight.

Standards of behavior

“How do you reconcile your love for someone with the revelation that they have behaved badly? I don’t know the answer to that.” — Savannah Guthrie

Just the other day, I made the tongue-in-cheek comment (referring to how we raise our kids) that “consequences are so 1999.” But we have to have standards of behavior and consequences, though. It’s one of the hallmarks of civil society, and it feels like we’re at a point of reckoning here in 2017.

Calling out bad behavior

#MeToo is a movement forged in both solidarity and individual bravery. I am saddened that is so pervasive, more distraught by the number of people who could have done something about it and didn’t. We all have to say enough is enough, even if it means calling out these behaviors in places of power, our families, and our friends. Even if you’re not a part of the problem, please be an active part of the solution.

Being an ally in the workplace

Working in technology, a field where men significantly outnumber women, these issues are particularly acute. This article about Sheryl Sandberg is a good primer on what men can do to be allies in the workplace.

“I know there’s pressure not to be a dorky, try-hard male feminist stereotype; there’s always a looming implication that you could lose your spot in the club; if you seem opportunistic or performative in your support, if you suck up too much oxygen and demand praise, women will yell at you for that too. But I need you to absorb that risk. I need you to get yelled at and made fun of, a lot, and if you get kicked out of the club, I need you to be relieved, and I need you to help build a new one.” — Sheryl Sandberg

Learning to be an ally

My mind is working overtime after attending a campus racial justice allies and advocates training this morning. A few initial thoughts and takeaways:

1) When we stereotype and/or expect certain cultural norms, those that don’t fit our stereotypes or norms often mute themselves in order to fit in. The quote that stuck with me was, “We go through our days dead.”

2) It’s ok, almost preferred, to be uncomfortable as we have real conversations around race and discrimination.

3) Get to know who you are, where you came from, and the societal constructs that give context to your vision. We can’t really change our organizations and communities until we know where our own minds and hearts are.

4) Personal relationships are the key to real justice. When we get to know others as humans, not as labels or stereotypes, our willingness to ignore the injustices they suffer goes away.

5) Engage in dialog, not debate. Put down your need to defend your position, listen and converse.

I’ve retired my safety pin

Wearing a safety pin is just a way for white people to feel good about themselves.

I read those words a couple of weeks after the election, while a silver safety pin graced the collar of my jacket. I’d been wearing the safety pin given to me by a friend as a symbol of love for and solidarity with family, friends, and strangers who felt betrayed and frightened by the rhetoric of the victor. So many people who looked like me — white men — had voted decisively against them. I was angry, embarrassed and honestly crushed that so many people who looked like me voted for the candidate who publicly disparaged women and minorities. I wore the safety pin not to feel better, but to somehow say to others, “I’m not one of them.” Read More

This is exactly it

For us whites to really wake up to the reality of the thick, oppressive, demonic, but (to most of us white people) invisible walls that pervade our culture, we must develop peer relationship with non-whites who will call into question some of our most basic assumptions about American culture and perhaps about ourselves.

This is exactly it. The more real relationships I cultivate with others who don’t share my cultural background (not just race), the more I understand. Empathy and love cannot breathe without understanding.

via Racism: Why Whites Have Trouble “Getting It” – Evangelicals for Social Action.