This is a call to all the “woke white boys” out here not doing shit.
I am a white male. I identify as a man, pronouns he/him, and I am heterosexual.
While I like (and I think as many of us do) to think of myself as more than what my race is, the social construct of race makes it a distinguishing factor, and a necessity for me to understand who I am, and what my race affords me.
We hear from white males enough. In the press, in the government, in most any industry really. It is white, straight males talking about themselves.
Talking about a woman’s body (when it comes to abortion), talking about the plight of people of color (like Matt Gaetz), so desperately trying to feel persecuted so they, too, can be up in arms about something.
"A kicked dog hollers."
"If the shoe fits…"
"Was that a nerve?"
The gentleman from Louisiana clearly OWNED Matt Gaetz, and I'm here for it ALL DAY, and twice on Sunday.pic.twitter.com/ijd8wdbTcO
— BrooklynDad_Defiant! (@mmpadellan) June 18, 2020
But I want to take the time to explore what it means to me to be a white male that can’t help but feel guilty about some things. Things I have no control over, things I did not create but are still tailored to my advantage.
I’m not seeking pity for woke white boys
I want to explain this not to seek pity, but to come to a conclusion about what “woke white boys,” as we might be called, can do to help fight against injustice.
Because although our voices, in such masses, may drown out others, the blunt truth is that for some people bogged down in ignorance, they need to hear it from a white person. White males need to be leading this fight.
A few weeks ago, me and a friend (another white male) were holding a sign at the intersection of a highway. A crowded intersection, at rush hour. We were in a diverse and progressive town, though the other towns of which the road led were less so.
The sign read: “Racism is a self-fulfilling prophecy. No Justice No Peace. I Can’t Breathe.”
The honks of horns in support struck our ears, eyes strained from afar to read the sign, and thumbs were raised up in agreement and/or approval. Though with each pickup truck passing, I felt a pang of fear that one would stop to harass us, to threaten us, to hurt us.
The voices of hate are often louder than the voices of love.
Those fears subsided with the realization that for a Black person, every day living in America comes with those fears. And still, they prosper with great bravery and resolve.
One white man eventually did stop, asking us what we were protesting. He couldn’t seem to take our answer as the answer. It became clear to me and my friend that he was just interested in hearing himself talk.
“I should have asked him ‘Do you live alone?'” my friend chuckled to me later that day. People, generally older, often argue to hear their own ideas verbalized. They don’t approach willing to listen.
The man eventually left, and minutes passed before another car stopped. This time it was another white man, but just a few years older than me and my friend. He was clean-shaven, driving a nice white car. Point being, he looked like an average guy you would see at the gym.
“You guys are fucking faggots and should really think about killing yourselves,” the boy screamed. “You are white cowards, shame on you.”
My friend and I stood silent, staring at the hateful bigot, ostensibly (to him) making a move of power. My friend raised his phone to start recording him, but the kid sped away before we could get a picture or video.
To witness such hate was my main takeaway. Our sign did not read “Cops are pigs,” “Blue lives don’t matter,” or anything pointing to anger or violence. Our sign was about education, explanation, and representation.
We don’t deserve any merit or applause for standing with a sign. It was a rash decision even to go stand by the highway, a sort of “well what am I doing to help right now?” resolution.
It is not enough for white men to say “And I don’t support Trump.”
To say, “I stand with Black Lives Matter.”
What actions are you taking to help the fight, to lead the fight…
For many people, the only person they will listen to is a white man.
My whole life, I have felt a twinge of guilt understanding what has been done to African Americans. I knew I did not do that of which I felt guilty for, but my circumstances were and are a result of my white ancestors, and my black brothers and sisters’ circumstances are a result of their, and my ancestors.
In both cases, the institution of slavery, segregation, Jim Crow, played a part in shaping our current situations, undeniably in favor of me, a white man.
It always felt cheap to me more wasn’t given to Black people in this country. We learned about slavery, but did we learn enough?
Not at all.
No reparations have been given to Black families. There is no equality in this country and this world. Racism, in the design of systems, has been intently perpetuated throughout the decades to where it is 2020, and justice and equality have still not been served.
I recently read the book Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi. Homegoing follows two Ghanian half-sisters, one forced to marry a white man who sells slaves, one forced into slavery herself. Each new chapter focuses on the descendants of these two women, the former living still in Africa, the latter in America.
We do not have to answer for the crimes of our ancestors, but we are the products of them. Homegoing explores this more beautifully than I have ever known. Understanding where and who we come from helps us understand our place in the world.
And for “woke white boys”: our place in the world right now is to stand in solidarity with our black brothers and sisters and take a stand in the fight for change. The fight for equality. The fight for justice.
Hate and insecurity mire all. Babies are not born knowing how to hate. Only to love.
This is our fight in many ways even more so than it is a black person’s. We profit from the unjust systems in place.
Black people have been fighting an unwinnable battle (without many white voices in support) for centuries. If enough is enough, where will you be on the side of right and wrong when history is told?