I saw a tweet this morning from Reuters. It included a video – “5 Stories You Need to Know.” The first one was about the Buffalo shooter and the caption read, “… spurring a national conversation about guns, hate and the internet.”
It’s amazing that so few words can inspire so much controversy while simultaneously erasing the most important issues about Buffalo. Namely – whiteness and masculinity. And if you feel drawn to stop reading now, I urge you to stay with me. You might not know where I’m going.
I’ve been struggling to know what to say to the Black folks in my life. Do I say, “sorry?” For what? I can’t say I know what they are feeling because I don’t. I am concerned that seeing my name on their phones or in their inboxes will do nothing more than remind them of their pain. They know who I am and what I do. But I’m still a white man. Once again, a white man killed a group of Black people and has been safely taken into custody by law enforcement. I have no words for the Black folks in my life. Just love. How meager is that?
Honestly – I’m so angry right now. I’m having a hard time focusing on my day job. All I want to do is shout and stomp and break things. I am exhausted seeing this horrendous violence playing out again and again and again. Being played out in my name. Being enacted, supposedly, for me. The shooter was very clear about why he did what he did. Protecting white people. Protecting us from this supposed threat. I don’t feel protected from anything. I feel used and dirty.
This guy got sold a lie. He was an easy mark for the seductive call of the snake oil salesman. Despite what being a white man affords us, most of us are still in pain. It’s not possible to compare that pain to the pain felt by Black folks. It’s not the same and never will be. It’s still pain.
The pain that comes from being exploited to do service for a system that promises us everything, and delivers so little. Most of us white men are struggling to find meaning in our lives, to find purpose, to find belonging. Most of us are struggling to feed our families and survive in a society that rewards greed and punishes poverty. Most white men are being given the hush money of “privilege,” which is just enough to keep us from being murdered by police (most of the time), but not enough to pay the rent. Most of us.
It’s true – as a group we have more money and power than any other group. But within that group called white men, most of us aren’t able to access that money and power to improve our lives. The snake oil salesman is telling us the reason we are struggling is because of immigrants and affirmative action and racial justice activists. The salesman tells us Black people and Brown people and Jewish people are trying to replace us. But damn – look how rich he’s getting selling us that shit. The senators and CEOs are continuing to gather more and more power and money from our hard work, while keeping us fighting amongst ourselves with stories about unreal threats.
The shooter at Buffalo was a sacrifice. I have no sympathy for him. I have anger at all of us who contributed to him being sacrificed. Those of us who stand by and watch while white man after white man line up to buy those poisonous lies. Those of us who keep shifting the blame. Those of us who ridicule and disparage working white men whose biggest concern is how to keep their children fed. That concern which leaves them little time and space to learn words like, “intersectionality,” or, “white hegemony.” The shooter is doing our dirty work. White nationalists will celebrate him while he rots in jail. Leftists will use him as an example of what’s wrong with white men. And real talk – he was in pain and found belonging in the twin lies of whiteness and masculinity. Those lies being sold over and over again by the class of people who have everything to gain from his sacrifice.
The lie that white people aren’t getting what we deserve, and it’s because of Black folks. Not true – we’re being used to make rich people richer.
The lie that men are only valuable when we do violence. Not true – our labor is being stolen from us by rich CEOs who care more about affording another yacht than paying us enough to cover the rent.
A lot of people will profit from Buffalo. News outlets, politicians, gun manufactures, social media platforms. But the families of the murdered will not know true justice. And white men will be sold more snake oil while being ridiculed for it. We will give our lives in mines, on oil rigs, on construction sites, in warehouses and factories, on foreign battle fields – give our lives in the name of corporate profits and empire – and be told that it’s either Black folks’ fault or our own damn fault.
Enough is enough.
White men – the same systems and structures that are slowly grinding our bodies in the machines of industry are murdering our Black and Brown neighbors. We have a choice. We can continue to buy that snake oil and punch our neighbors for imagined harm, or we can come together and build power to Punch Up.