The impact of white cis-male privilege

Question: So, I am in a group called Dear White America. Someone posted an article saying that white men are the new terrorists. Though I question whether that is something actually new, I agreed with the premise of the article. The comments really bothered me. One woman was saying that white women are responsible for the violence of white men. I totally disagree with that! Though the privilege of benefitting from a relationship with a white male and the attendant privilege is clear, to say that white women are not simultaneously victimized by white male violence is just not borne out statistically, at all. When I brought this into the discussion, I was accused of being a typical white feminist deflecting responsibility for my privilege.  Even though I clearly stated that I see a distinction between systemic racism and personal racism. So my question is, how do I handle this? Because as of right now, I am not going to say that women bear responsibility for violence inflicted upon them by men! And though the metaphor is poor, that logic leads to saying that slaves were responsible for the violence inflicted on them by masters. No, I am not ignorant enough to think it’s exactly the same, but the logic employed leads to that conclusion. I am at a loss.

Response: So, I will start to respond to this question by saying, survivors never bare responsibility.

I think an article by Dick Bathrick and Gus Kaufman, Jr., Ph.D.  titled “Male Violence and Male Privilege” can help us a bit in this discussion. In it they talk about their research working with cis-male sexual abusers and the impact of male privilege. They say,

To understand how all men “benefit” from battering is to see something of the complicity we all share in the act. While many of us don’t rape or batter women, those of us in relationships with women find that our partners frequently make decisions based on how to avoid subjecting themselves to male violence: decisions like where and when to walk, whom to talk with and what to wear. These decisions are often powerfully influenced by whether or not a man (spouse, lover, friend) is available to accompany a woman on that walk. They have an unspoken agreement that she depends on a man to protect her from being raped or threatened by violent men. So men end up determining if women get to go out and where they go. And we don’t mind having that control. More than once, batterers in our program have noted the irony in their partners’ relying on them for protection from “those violent men out there.” This form of control never gets named. It’s classic male privilege, in all its invisibility, with all its power.

The learning I take from the article is that living in a society which privileges cis-men sets up situations where women and trans people are often not believed and thus at times may feel the desire to have a cis-man to offer protection, physical protection but also as a male witness, since maleness is privileged in our society.  Continue reading

Educate yourself about the Charleston massacre

There are many great resources out there for white people to learn about history. Especially for those of us who grew up in predominantly white communities in the US, we were often not taught the truth about our country, about racism, or let’s face it… we were not taught about anyone except the white colonialists, and maybe MLK.

It is our responsibility to learn. It is our responsibility to educate ourselves. Below are a few resources pulled together, specifically regarding Charleston, SC. Please add more in the comments area.

Continue reading

How to support your black friends at this moment.

After the terrorist massacre at the AME church in Charleston, SC, many white people are wondering how to support their black friends. The question is “how do you offer support?” One of my black friends summed up what many people are saying and feeling right now, saying the following *:

I know that there are many of you who care deeply for me and who are also white. I know you don’t really know what to say and that you want to say something to let me know you care. I know my sadness, rage and terror frighten you and make you uncomfortable.

Right now, I need to leave you to deal with that without my acknowledgement of how hard all of this is for you. I need to wrap myself up in my own skin and texture, to gather my kin close and then even closer.

I know you’re not used to feeling shut out of my often visible process, but I can’t worry about that or you right now.

Please know that I’ll be as safe as I can be in the embraces of my people, yes even those with whom I fight for parts of my existence.

While I’m doing this healing work, take this opportunity to talk to other white people about why this is hard and what y’all can do to make it safer for me and others that you love. Hold them close and speak truth to them. Say a prayer and then get up and do something more to undo that which benefits you, but is killing me. I know you didn’t ask for it, but here it is and wishing it weren’t so doesn’t make it go away.

I don’t care for you less because I need this time to love me more. It is my hope that we can sit and share something other than trauma and responses to it in the future.

White people, we need to address and dismantle white supremacy, the system that privileges whiteness in all aspects of life! One of the many ways we can do that right now is to talk to our white friends. We need to call this massacre what it is. It is NOT an isolated incident, this is the reality that black people face in the United States and around the world. The violence comes from police, from corporations, from the health care system, from individual white people. The root is a system that privileges white skin in all aspects of our society. Black people encounter violence on the streets, in stores, when driving, when applying for jobs, at the pool, in the church. We need to stand up and say NO. We need to call this terrorism, we need to call out the hate.

Listen to your black friends, hear what they need right now. Give them space. Don’t tell your friends how to mourn. Don’t tell your black friends how to rage. Not all people process things the same way, your friends might feel differently than my friend above does. That is ok. Listen.

*Note: my friend gave me permission to post their words here with or without their name. I chose to not use their name because this sums up what so many folks are saying right now. Posting the words of people of color without their permission is NOT OK! White folks have a long history of stealing the words of people of color. In today’s world it is also not ok to share your friends personal thoughts without permission, especially if it is clear that you, the white person, are the one who ends up benefiting from sharing. Think first!