I am white, I am male, I am cisgender, I am heterosexual, I am financially secure, I am well educated, I am able bodied, I have no mental illness, I have a wide support network, I am Christian and live in a place where that is respected. I have security in nearly every aspect of my life.
As profiles of the people holding tiki torches in Charlottesville, VA come out I am faced with the grim reality that most of the dudes in these picture share all of the attributes that I listed above. We have a lot in common.
Shoot I wear khaki pants and polos...often.
I can barely wrap my mind around our many similarities. It fills me with shame and guilt that is almost crippling. My desire to stand up and cry out "NO!!" is coupled with a deeply rooted fear that my desire to "help" is riddled with the stink of my own privilege. The guilt, shame, and fear can be so deep that it threatens to stop me from acting at all. And yet, I must do something.
So here is how I choose to respond.
This is our mess. My privilege correlates to my responsibility in holding accountable others who share my position in life. And it is clear to me that white men are failing each other.
We pump our chest with misguided masculinity, pretend it isn't our problem, or submit to the overwhelming scope of the task and just give up. I want more than that brothers! We have a chance to be more than the cliche we've become, and it is our responsibility to make things right.
Here is what I'm willing to do:
Not be silenced by my own fear
Even while writing this I am second guessing myself, yet I'd rather be wrong than do nothing at all. I believe in the original goodness of people and think it is uncovered through relationship and community. So even if I'm not doing it "right" I will not be controlled by fear, but instead I will act on my hope.
Call out other white males.
Who doesn't love calling people racist? Just kidding! Instead, I want to use compassionate accountability to share my anger and sadness about these issues, get curious about different ways forward, and then name our privilege, set boundaries, and hold each other to higher principles. Because I, too, am a white male, I hope I can do this while also maintaining relationship and therefore make more lasting change.
Teach my son about our privilege.
My son will inherit most if not all of my privilege. As he grows up it is really important that he understands the head start we've been given. We are working hard to be intentional about helping him grow up with diversity. We talk about events like Charlottesville and do our best to learn from how backwards it feels from the way we want the world to look. We won't do it perfectly and we'll admit when we're wrong. By talking openly about privilege, we hope he'll transcend it in his own choices as an adult.
Our situation is even more twisted by the fact that our son is adopted. While he looks white, he in fact is 1/4 African American. If we are to really honor who he is this cannot be overlooked because he doesn't "look it".
Read, listen to, and learn from people who don't look like me.
Not too long ago had a scary realization about my bookshelf: it was filled with white dudes. That is not OK. So now I'm growing my network of people I read and listen too. I am also intentionally seeking out events where diversity is handled with intention and talked about openly. We all know how easy it is to be in an echo chamber and privilege can easily keep us there.
This is just a start to the conversation and I'd love your feedback and suggestions. The way I see it, the only way out of this is together. Especially to my fellow white men, let's do this together! Even if you don't agree, even if it's messy, let's talk about this stuff and fail forward.
I am currently sharing several post all under the category: Free to Fail. Failing is one of the fears I am struggling with while launching this website; so I figured I would head it off early by obsessively reading and writing about it. Here is what you can expect
- August 1: Fighting with Dragons.
- August 8: Success is My Biggest Failure
- August 16: White Male Failing
- August 23: 3 Real Life Super Embarrassing Failures
- August 30: Crushing the Second Attempt
- Sept. 6: Snappy Quotes about Failure
- Sept. 13: Shame Shame Go Away, Come Again...Never
- Sept. 20: Never Too Late for Now
- Sept. 27: The Irregular Webinar; Free To Fail
Each post will show up on Wednesdays. On Friday the post will be followed by a Tune In Tip. These weekly tips will share a practice you can try in real life. Finally the whole series will end with a webinar where we can discuss the topic in real time.
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