We’re too selfish, scared, ignorant, or silent. Or probably all four

Saturday, November 12th, 2016

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How do you tell your daughters that you aren’t the hero they might be growing up to think you are?

You sit down with them and tell them directly.

“Daddy is part of a group of people who do not speak up often enough when they see bad things happening to other people. We can do this because it is rare that people will actually target me with their anger. I don’t need to protest anything because I’m part of a group that can do nothing and always win. I am safe when others are not and I allow that to continue.”

But Dad, what if other people are better at something than you?

I will still win.

But Dad, what if their problems are more serious than yours?

I will still win.

But Dad, what if other people need to win just to stay alive?

I will still win.

But Dad, what if those people show everyone they need to win? What if they have proof that they need to win to live?

They’ll be told to stop complaining. We will tell them that that’s just how it is right now.

But Dad, you tell me all the time that I can do whatever I want. You tell me people should believe me when I say I’ve been hurt.

Well kind of. Unless it’s a straight, white man you’re competing against for that job or accusing of hurting you. I will still win.

So I can’t win?

No. But, you can come second. And that’s better than most other people.

Straight white men: we keep winning when we shouldn’t. We do nothing and we somehow win.

How do we stop winning?

Stop pretending you don’t notice that we always win. Don’t pretend that we aren’t part of a system built around our comfort and built with a bunch of us in positions of power. Don’t pretend we don’t receive the same privilege as Brock Turner.

If, as a straight, white man, I wait for injustice to come my way before involving myself in activism, I am saying I WILL NEVER get involved in activism. I have a good job, two kids and a wife. Nobody comes after straight white men with a good job, two kids and a wife.

WE HAVE TO SAY WE DON’T DESERVE TO WIN.

We have to stop saying the best person for the job deserves the job. There is NO WAY TO KNOW who the best person for the job is because we push down anyone who isn’t us. Of course straight white men will be prepared for a job—we make the rules for the job. We hire for the job.

We don’t have rights taken away from us. Nobody yells at us for living a “morally corrupt” life. We don’t get catcalled in the street when we go for a run. Nobody pulls us over when we’re driving because we look suspicious.

And most of all, we don’t get vocal when people who don’t have access to the same rights and privileges we do ask us to get vocal. We fail people more than we help them.

The challenge, for us, is that we don’t need to take action in order to continue to have a good life. When we protest, we ask to get rid of our privilege so that others may be treated more equally. Too many of us don’t do this. Nearly all of us straight white men don’t do this.

There may be reasons most of us don’t speak up about racism. I would bet fear is one of the top ones. Fear of angering people, fear of having violence threatened against us, even fear of violence being acted out on us.

All this mean is that we are afraid of the exact things that do happen to people who are oppressed. And if we fear it happening to us, we must know it’s wrong to let it happen to others. And still, we stay silent because we can.

We aren’t the heroes our kids think we are because we’ve given them a house and we read them stories and paint our nails with them. The actions we take impact billions of people around the world who don’t have those privileges. And we accept all these things and do nothing about it.

“When you’re accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression.”

Yes, we can sit back again, and ignore everything that people who suffer are experiencing. Nothing will change and we still won’t be asked to leave our country or told to sit in the back of a bus or mocked for what we wear.

We can watch on Twitter as we see other people fight to live and we can binge our favourite Netflix show while they get shot.

We just can’t say we aren’t the problem or that we aren’t the assholes who allow this to happen.

So:

  • step in when you see racism (here’s one simple guide to help)
  • donate (here’s a BLM page you can do that)
  • volunteer (a local sexual assault centre might need some kind of help—ask first.)
  • yell at your friends when they are sexist and racist
  • yell at your enemies when they are sexist and racist
  • listen to the oppressed tell their stories
  • do not pretend you understand what they go through
  • do what they need us to do
  • believe them, believe them, believe them

I have done nothing to earn the privilege I’m afforded. It sure is handy to always have some other group to blame when we don’t succeed. But let’s trying blaming ourselves for a little bit.

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