This post is between us white men. But everyone else can round it out.
Maybe you are insecure, but you are perceived as confident.
Maybe you are full of doubts, but you are given the benefit of the doubt.
Maybe you don’t know what to say, but people listen to your voice regardless.
Maybe you don’t feel powerful, but your words have twice the weight as others.
Maybe you feel like a faker, but people see you as qualified.
Maybe you like you are stuck, but you have many doors open to you (always have).
These are just some of the privileges of being a white male, and I didn’t even talk about earning potential, inherited wealth, and inflated self-esteem. If you are already throwing up your hands in protest that you don’t experience such privileges as a white man then please skip to Step #1 (Educate Yourself) and “Unpack Your Invisible Knapsack”).
More Than a Posture
Mandy Smith’s wonderful post earlier this week (“Five Ways White Males Can Address the White Male Privilege Problem”) addressed the postures privileged men should take to live productively with others. And it prompted me to think about the context I generally find myself in, a mostly white context.
So this post is between us white men, and I want to be a bit more directive about what we can do. Certainly we need to adopt the postures she mentioned while with minorities, but what about our practices when we are with the majority?
The truth is, us white men spend most of our time with…(wait for it)…other white men. We live in segregated cities. We live in segregated suburbs. We watch white TV shows and white news and white movies and listen to white music. And most of this is organized for and by white men.The truth is, us white men spend most of our time with...other white men. Click To Tweet
What Are You Doing with the Privilege?
So my question is, What are you doing with your privilege when you are with others of privilege?
1) Educate yourself
Believe it not, but you have a great deal of “time” compared to others. Use this time to educate yourself on your situation, on the situation of others, and on what can be done about it. Read Unpack Your Invisible Knapsack, or this short cartoon on the Short History of Privilege. But those are really just the beginning.
Change your media and social media streams to include minority voices. This is the best education, listening in on how others experience and live. Find Efrem Smith, Christena Cleveland, Kathy Khang, Soong-Chan Rah, Brenda Salter McNeil, Anthony Bradley and others on Facebook and Twitter and follow them regularly. Subscribe to their blogs (and read them).
If nothing else, read “How to Listen Well as a Person of Privilege” series by Christena Cleveland. Really, you should stop reading this and just head over there (right now!). I mean it.
2) Give your voice to others
Really, why are you still here? Stop reading this and look at the above resources, and then share them. (Chances are very good they are staying the same things I’m about to say, but better, with more authority, and fewer blindspots.)
Learn to use your voice, platform, and privilege to give voice to others. To stop talking is not enough. Keep talking, but talk about and elevate the voice of others (and then stop talking).White males can learn to use your voice, platform, and privilege to give voice to others. Click To Tweet
3) Make people check themselves
Be known as the guy that others can’t make racist remarks around. Be the guy that causes others to say, “Well, Geoff, I know you see it different but…”, or “I know you won’t approve but…” on their way to some stereotype about laziness, bad driving, lack of education, or inadequate job skills.
If you aren’t willing to make others cringe for their careless and destructive words, then well, you are just resting within the problem of your privilege without turning it into an opportunity.
4) Bless and Empower others
Bless others with your words. Actively empower and affirm. Do it all the time. Vocalize what you see in others: “You can do this.” “You have the authority to make that tough decision. You don’t need more input or permission. Trust yourself.” “You are doing a great job.” “Remember, we need you to be yourself and no one else.” “I really admire how you…”.
Everyone “knows” that words of affirmation from a white man SHOULD NOT mean more, but because of all the cultural programming, the truth is that a white male voice is more powerful and meaningful to others (even if we all hate that fact). So along with advocating for others with less privilege, we should actively bless and empower them.
(Now certainly this can easily come off as patronizing and condescending, so this should only be done amid relationships and from a place of hope and love, to actually practice empowering others. See next step.)Along with advocating for others with less privilege, we should actively bless & empower them. Click To Tweet
5) Take a Step back
The above will only be window dressing (or actively duplicitous) if you don’t step back and let non-majority people speak, lead, create, and criticize. Sit down at the back and be happy there.
And once you do that, well, you should probably read Christena’s and Mandy’s posts again. You’ll need them.
Bonus step: Repeat all these again until you don’t need to think about it.
Even if you feel insecure, full of doubts, with nothing to say and no power to use, and are stuck in every way in your life, the truth is you have many opportunities that others simply do not have. So make use of them, for the sake of others.
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