So, yes. I do have privilege that others don’t have. And yes, the “system” seems to have been designed that way. And I fully acknowledge that many, many people who are not white or not men have been and still are disempowered. People have been hurt, both economically and physically under this system. There has been pain and there have been deaths.
And I stand ready to listen, and have been listening for a long time by now, to the stories of those who have lived with the injustices, the poverty, the lack of opportunities, and the physical and sexual abuse or the threat of those things. And I want to help change things so that everyone can thrive and be free of these harms and threats of harm.
What’s bothering me is the blame and hate speech I hear directed at white men. I could guess as to why this is going on, but as I think it’s wrong for someone else to speculate about what I think or what my motives are, I will refrain from doing the same to others. All I will say is that there have been some very public examples of white men behaving in very hurtful ways (such as marching with torches and disparaging Jews), so that is an image that sticks in the mind. If that is how you see white men, then it stands to reason that you would be upset. The thing is, I, as a white man, was extremely upset by that display as well.
What I think is hiding under the surface is the fact that we are all, ... all races, all genders, all economic classes, ... are all very diverse groups of people. To me, #NotAllMen is a legitimate complaint, just as #NotAllWomen would be legitimate if I made some generalization like “Women are manipulative gold diggers.” Ouch! Although “men” might at first appear to be some kind of unified fraternity of people who scheme together in secret to massively to exploit everyone else, I can assure you that that’s far from the case. In fact, I have little or no knowledge or access to the places and people who have seemed to do the most damage. I don’t hang out in bars or corporate board rooms and some of the things that are done there scare me just as much (or nearly as much, if you want) as they probably scare you. I had no idea that Bill Cosby, for example, was doing what he did behind closed doors, or that Harvey Weiinstein was doing similar things. The extent of it just floors me. Perhaps I am naive. That's one of my faults, I guess. I always expect the best in people.
The point is, I’m convinced that if we want to really improve things then we all have to find ways to stop blaming each other for what has happened and find ways to build bridges and work together. After all, most of us alive today were born into this world where the racism, the sexism, and the classism already existed and ran deep in our culture in complex and often invisible ways. We marinated in it from the time we were small children, without knowing what was going on. In fact, we were all brought up in a world where we humans abused the natural world around us for our own benefit, for that matter. In a sense we’re all “privileged” in that we have the means to dig up or cut down and destroy whatever we want of the world around us, just to get our food, our goods, our energy, etc. We can just flip on a light switch, or buy a frozen dinner at the supermarket, without a thought about the impact we’re having.
I think the ultimate lesson to be learned through these hard times is this: We are being challenged to love each other and love the planet on which our lives are based. And not just to feel that love, but to express it, to work to show it, to resist any means to impede it. For, ultimately, I’m convinced that this is really the only way to get through this.