The piece below was originally published during the second week following the announcement that Donald Trump was the next President-Elect of the United States of America. From the time that this was announced there have been hundreds upon hundreds of hate crimes committed in this country. The vast majority of which have been committed in the name of Donald Trump or as a result of being emboldened by his divisive and hateful rhetoric, and even further encouraged by the white-supremecists he has continually aligned himself with as he makes his way towards the White House.
The night I published this piece I received a threat on my life and personal safety via email. It was written by a weak-minded sheep of a man that thought I could be intimidated to stand by and watch as people I may not know personally, but have true love and compassion for in my heart, continue to be the targets of hate at the hands of narrow-minded and easily swayed white nationalists. After reading this email a few times over I realized that I recognized the voice coming through. I had heard these speech patterns I was reading. So I called him. His reaction to my phone call was all I needed to confirm that I had solved this little puzzle. We talked. He called me an embarrassment and told me to watch my mouth. I offered him the opportunity to do it himself since he seemed so threatened personally by my sentiment. He declined as I knew he would. Not long after, as I was running errands in preparation for my trip home to visit family for the holidays, I ran into him. He was with a mutual friend. I said hello and proceeded to tell our mutual friend what had transpired. The weak man’s face grew red and his head began to lower as if trying to hide from what he had done. Our mutual friend began to berate him and educate him on the error of his ways. Reminding him with surprising force and conviction that he is, in fact, very wrong for taking this stance of defending hate and bigotry.
I am not sharing this little anecdote out of pride or even out of spite for the man. As it became clear to me throughout the confrontation that he had no grounds to stand on when it came to his arguing in favor of maintaining what I can only assume he identified as justified white rage. I am sharing this because this is happening all over this country. White people who have been told that equality is a threat to their existence, or who have been told that they will somehow lose their country, are being mobilized in opposition of progress. For generations they have lived with the amnesia that allows them to forget that this country was never their country to begin with. It was stolen from the Native Americans who have lived here and have called this land their home for countless generations since long before Europeans supposedly “discovered” it. They live with the convenient amnesia towards the fact that this country was built on slavery and the exploitation of Africans and many others who were kidnapped and dragged from their homes to come and do the work the people who had stolen this land were not willing to pay for or do themselves. And those without this convenient amnesia often choose to take the stance that the history of genocide and slavery in this country gives them the right to argue that these horrifying facts prove them to be superior to those who have been disgraced for generation after generation.
I won’t stand for it. I will not sit idly by and pretend that this will not have grave consequences in the very near future. I will not use the privilege I was born with as a white man in this country as a shield against the truth. The skin I was born in represents a responsibility to stand up for what is just and right in the face of prejudice and hate and bigotry. Over the last two weeks I have received an astonishing number of emails in response to my recent postings on the Rodda Trials. Many of them have been positive, and I thank those of you who have reached out to show your support. I am humbled and touched that you took the time to contact me. If I haven’t responded to you yet I will. But for every few positive emails I have received there has been at least one from the other side of the fence. Old friends who feel the need to tell me how to present myself or feel entitled to educate me on one issue or another. These emails have unanimously come from white men of the Baby Boomer generation. And I am not surprised. These are the men I’ve been around my entire life. They are my father’s age. They are the men I grew up emulating and looking up to. These are the men whom I have watched get away with virtually anything they’ve wanted to from the time I was old enough to objectively observe human behavior. When I was younger I viewed this as a strength. That these men had some kind of unseen power to control their environment and the people around them. They do. It’s called history. I have debated and argued with these men my entire life and up until recently it has garnered very little consequence. I have watched and listened as they congregate in comfortable isolated groups and find entertainment in what they deem the weaknesses or hilarities of difference and oppression. These same men telling me to watch my mouth are the one’s that have felt free enough for long enough to uninhibitedly throw around racial and sexual slurs knowing there would be little to no consequence. These same men I am receiving emails from feel free to start one-sided arguments and pontificate and expect the person on the receiving end to sit on their hands and take it without the slightest hint of rebuttal, taking offense when they are confronted.
These men are wrong. These men have been comfortable for too long and I have been guilty of letting them remain comfortable for as long as I’ve known them. I am guilty of having laughed along or staying silent when I could feel that what I was willingly being party to was wrong. I knew I could hide behind my privilege and be safe while they casually targeted women and children and minorities. The bridges I have built with these men are being burned to the ground. I will not sit idly by and allow this to continue. I will not sit on my hands and seal my lips and put on a smile while grown men use ignorance and privilege to justify bigotry.
Below is the originally deleted post. I have changed many of the targeted “you” statements to “we” statements. Because we all need to wake the fuck up.
Last Friday a segment on BBC aired where host Emily Maitlism, author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, and founder of American Spectator R. Emmett Tyrrell, Jr. were discussing Donald Trump’s racism and the involvement of the KKK during his campaign for president. In a clearly frustrated, incredibly condescending, and painfully un-shocking way, Tyrell proceeded to attempt to explain away the presence of racism and white supremacy during this election. Saying the argument was “ridiculous” and referring to Donald Trump as “dignified”. In response Chimamanda presented an incredibly calm and concise argument against why a white man has no right to not only define what racism is, but flat out deny its existence. Watch the video here.
Since the video aired I have had the opportunity to discuss and argue why a white male can or can not presume to define what racism is. Let alone argue whether or not it exists. Just this morning as I was perusing my Facebook feed to apparently fuel my daily dose of frustration, I came across a post on a friend’s page where a debate between a frustrated white male and my friend who had posted the video had been taking place. As I read through the comments it dawned on me that I was seeing the same arguments, specifically from white men, repeated on nearly every thread I had encountered since the video had aired. It was the argument that somehow claiming open-mindedness was enough to grant this white male or that white male the right to define and explain racism in a way that excluded them from being implicated in the discussion. It doesn’t. Especially if you are one of the hundreds upon hundreds of thousands of white men who voted for Donald Trump.
Quite frankly, if you voted for or are in patient support of Trump because “democracy” then you are not likely to understand this argument and you are the problem. As white males we have to accept the fact that “being open minded” does nothing if we do not engage in constructive debate and allow ourselves to be taken to school on what racism is and what our privilege means. As a matter of fact, it’s a chicken-shit cop-out to cite your open-mindedness as a reason for people to not call out, and for you to not recognize, your privilege. Especially as a white man. If we want to engage and be viewed as an ally we have to earn it. We, as white men, do not have the right to identify as an ally until we’ve done something about the spread of hate and racism in this country. We have to look it in the face and change ourselves and work to change others in our communities. We have to effectively alienate ourselves from our comfortably white communities by not allowing the casual racism that is a part of daily white guy life to continue. We don’t have a right to the space to explain away racism or define it on any terms. Because we’ve never had to live with the fact that we are being discriminated against simply because of the color of our skin or what does or doesn’t dangle between our legs. Go ahead and be mad when someone tells you you can’t define racism or truly know racism because you’re white, but you’re doing yourself and your community zero favors by continuing to be narrow minded and defend your right to define something that you know nothing about.
The fact is, we, as white men, need to shut the fuck up, listen to what we are being told, digest it, and work at bettering ourselves. We’ve had our place at the table since the founding of this country, when we were the only humans allowed to sit at that table. Accepting the truth is hard when you feel like it takes your power away. It’s even harder when you are in outright denial of the power you were born with and have never had to question or doubt or reflect upon. We have never had to live with discrimination. Period. And if you want to argue that we have, you are weak and afraid to face the truth. If you as a white man have ever had to fight for a job or equal opportunity in any arena, multiply the difficulty you experienced by hundreds of years of oppression and systemic hate. Stew in the fact that you have never had to deal with being considered another human’s property or traded as currency. Sit with the fact that you have never been dismissed as an animal because of something you were born with and have absolutely no control over.
It’s time to wake up and face the ugly truth that women and people of color have been living with for hundreds of years in this country. And if my saying this makes you mad, then tough. The truth is still the truth whether you choose to accept it or not.