Working With White Men
Recently, I have read a lot of writings by both Black and white women, criticizing white women for not being significant allies in working towards equality. I’ve not read much focusing upon white men.
We are the core of Trump’s support. Many of us seemingly find something wrong with every potential female candidate for president in the 2020 election. Some of us speak out frequently on various issues, but what do we really do to go deeper and work to bring serious positive change.
Being a white man at the Refounding Conference of the National Alliance Against Racism and Oppression (November 22-24, 2019 in Chicago) was most interesting and challenging. I am not used to being in a setting where many people may believe that I am “irrelevant” or that my motives may be oppressive because I am white and male. It was a useful experience.
More than a few times mentioning my involvement in Organizing White Men for Collective Liberation (OWMCL) (Facebook link) brought doubtful looks and responses such as: “You’ve a really tough road ahead of you” (often with the implication that the listener wouldn’t believe my relevance, until s/he saw a LOT more visible results). Never did I hear, “we’d like to work with you”, though one woman wanted us, when we get better organized, to meet with one of her groups as “white men.
I took various clear messages from this incredible experience (as a white man). We have a lot of catching up to do if we want to meaningfully be a part of ending racism (and classism and sexism) in the United States. We need to work with other white men on our own personal issues. More importantly we need to build a movement of white men.
We have a responsibility to successfully reach other white men. We need to listen to them and their concerns. If that is all that we do, we will help support and build the white male supremacy that is the problem that we must oppose.
We need to actively support those we have helped subjugate for centuries. These include at a minimum: People of Color, women, lesbian/gay/trans/non-binary people, and working class people. Our support must be substantive, not token. We must no longer be seeking to lead and dictate to others. We must recognize our privileged power and help to dismantle it through consciously supporting the causes of those we continue to hurt through white male supremacy.
Becoming accountable to others will not be easy to do. We must prioritize the dismantlement of white male supremacy in our daily lives. Through such work, over time we may become accountable. Externally we will need to begin and sustain doing a lot of work supporting others.
We will also need simultaneously do a lot of work with white men. Besides doing internal work, as already noted, we need to reach out to other white men. If we simply confront them related to how they oppress others, similar to what we do as (normal) white men, they will ignore us, continuing to support white male supremacy. If, we limit our efforts to listening to and supporting them, we will actively support white male supremacy.
Initially, we will face both apathy and rejection of significant parts of our efforts. White men will have other priorities in their lives. They will not see advantages of working with us. Indeed, many will recognize their privilege and not want to give it up. Others, will take time to recognize the importance of doing the necessary work.
We will need to have strength to persist in doing this important work. Significant to persisting will be having internal support with other supportive white men, whether locally or nationally. We will need such support, because finding our support significantly through women and People of Color will perpetrate the status quo, continuing to support white male supremacy.
We will need to be visible in doing our work, so that People of Color, women, non-cis-het people, and working class people can readily see what we are doing. We will need to face their potential disbelief at our efforts, as well as criticism they may give us related to work that we are doing.
We will need to do our work simultaneously in various parts of our lives. We will need to work at home within our (extended) families. We will need to work through our places of employment.
We will also need to work within existing institutions. Such work may include working within religious institutions (churches, synagogues/temples, and mosques for example). It will obviously include working within our public and private schools, as well as colleges and universities. Similarly, we will need to work with governmental authorities from local, through national.
We will want to use a lot of readily available resources in our work. The writings and speeches of innumerable People of Color such as: Michelle Alexander, Maya Angelou, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Angela Davis, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., bell hooks, Audre Lorde, Jane Mock, and Ijeoma Oluo are examples of possible useful individuals. Similarly, the works of Robin DiAngelo, Andrea Dworkin, Paul Kivel, James W Loewen, Gloria Steinem, and Paul Touch are also potentially of assistance.
In doing all that I have suggested, we need to listen a lot! We need to do our best to overcome the horrible things that we may have done in the past.
None of what I speak of can be done without serious thought. We need to listen to a lot of anger and recognize that it is justified. We need to regularly remind ourselves People of Color and Queer Folk (for example) are dying, being incarcerated and harassed all the time, while we remain largely complacent in our comfortable privileged worlds. We will make mistakes. We need to be vulnerable. We need to work through our hearts seriously to build a new movement. We need to confront and support each other. We need to finally become accountable to others.
(Note: This writing represents my personal views, not necessarily the views of Organizing White Men for Collective Liberation (OWMCL)).
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