Last weekend I was honored and blessed to participate in a circle with community organizers and activists from all over the area. It was an amazing weekend that dove to the depths of sorrow and despair as well as reaching for the heights of hope and vision. I guess you could say; it was intense.
But that word doesn’t really do justice to what we experienced. Or, what I experienced. Cornerstone to the work we did was the subjectivity of our shared experiences. I have heard a lot of feed back from folks that it was intense for them as well, yet still, I have no idea how each person moved through that space.
We went to the intersection of race and gender. Hung out there. Observed what revealed itself. Sat in that space of deep discomfort all weekend. There was tears, laughter, silence, anger, relief, frustration, awareness, mobilization,… I will not even attempt to describe what transpired in that space for two reasons; confidentiality for all the participants and the simple reality that my writing falls so very short of the poetry and sublime wisdom that revealed itself at that time.
Not to say that I have nothing to say.
Anger. That was a huge theme for me, and even now, a week afterwards. Anger to know how white supremacy is killing and harming Women of Color, White Women, and Men of Color. Anger that despite the raging voices from these people, we white men STILL can’t bring ourselves to end the violence. Anger with my white brothers, who can witness the trauma, death, and violence, and carry on with supremacy as if nothing had happened.
We need a change now. White men have been sitting in this privilege, built upon the backs of… everyone else, for far too long. A single day would have been too long, and we are going on centuries of this horror. We need to confront this supremacy head on and take the steps of dismantling the structures that continue to feed upon people’s bodies and lives. It is up to us white men to do this.
I have heard many of my brothers say, “but what can we do?” The answers are all around. Women of Color have been shouting from the rooftops what needs to happen for as long as this violence has perpetuated itself. The answers are sitting right in front of us, and yet, we are paralyzed with a fear. Fear of losing that privilege. Fear that if we give up supremacy, we will be subjected to the same violence that we have perpetrated for so long.
Part of me wants to write a list of actions for others to read. That will come. First I just want to narrow this down to one simple step that all white men can do. A first step for some, a reminder for others (myself included), on the path to liberation.
Step One: LISTEN.
Just do that much, please. Listen and believe what you are hearing. Quiet that supremacist mind long enough to let the message in. Don’t think about how to respond… yet. Don’t formulate a counter argument. Don’t rationalize or defend this death machine of white male dominance. Don’t say or think a damn thing. Just listen.
And specifically; listen to the voices of Women of Color. There are plenty out there speaking truth to power. Google is your friend. Please, when listening, there is no need to ask questions or demand an education. Women of Color have been educating us for centuries. Listen actively. Seek out places that are already sending out the message. Do some research. Do a LOT of research! Read what is written by Women of Color. Give money to them for their efforts. For a moment, imagine that their words are as full of truth and worthy of recognition as the words of any white man who has ever put thought to paper (imagine it, because it is true).
This is just the first step. It needs to happen now. This is not a project for tomorrow or next week. This cannot be a matter of convenience or spare time. This must be prioritized. Our privilege as white men is killing people. White male dominance must end. White men have the power to end it.
4 thoughts on “Step One”
Thanks for this writing, Scott. I was honored to participate in that same workshop. I can relate to the feelings of anger–I call it outrage. One white man who has been important to me in my understanding of undoing racism, as a white man, has been Miles Horton, of the Highlander Center in Tennessee, who found ways to quiet down yet still aid the anti-oppression cause.
Been thinking much about how to move through the world in a different way—for me, the challenge is about finding ways to use my power and privilege. I feel like simply using it perpetuates the system–but then if I don’t use it, I am just sitting idly by. There is a balance to be discovered.
Thanks again for writing this, Scott, and for sharing.
Solidarity is one thing that I try to do. But it’s not enough. We need to challenge the very notion of superiority in ourselves and then undo the systems which perpetuate that false superiority.
Let’s get together soon. There are other white men out there feeling the same things. Together, we can make a change.
So glad you posted again. I will have to read again to take it all in. Have you heard of the book called Humble Inquiry? It is about listening and asking questions. It might be a tool for those who are learning/yearning to listen more.
I will check out that book.
Thanks for checking in on me!