Including White Men

 

boring white guy

 

Despite the above image, I swear this isn’t a clever lead-in to a sarcastic piece about white men. Including White men is my reflection on how hard I have to work sometimes to avoid re-installing the divisive, white supremacist mindset by stereotyping, dehumanizing, and vilifying any group – including white, straight, Christian, able-bodied men. After all, they’re human beings too.

 

monopoly guy

 

I know this group starts life with a big stack of Monopoly-style passes, leaps over other players, and sometimes even comes to the game with a pile of cash. Yet I also know that white men didn’t invent the sys…oh wait, white men did invent the system. Let me start over. White men alive today did not invent the system. In fact, many are authentically oblivious to very the system that advantages them and that they unknowingly perpetuate.

 

really?

 

This is nearly impossible for people of color, who've been getting the shaft for centuries, to believe. All I'll say about that now is that I've been there — the inability to 'see it' is real.

If I perceive white men as power hoarding, the urge to point the finger can feel overwhelming. Yet experience tells me that more than suffering from selfishness, most white men are merely misguided by the warped reality that whiteness engenders. And so, when the finger gets pointed their way, they don't feel enlightened, they feel unfairly blamed.

misunderstood

 

What I’m hearing from white men is the human pain of feeling stereotyped, unappreciated, and at times unwelcome. I’m also hearing fears that political power may fall into hands unfit for leadership. Hmmm, sound familiar? Aren't these the very fears and pains that have burdened people of color, women, and other marginalized groups for so long?  Isn’t that what we’re trying to deconstruct?

For people who’ve felt historically marginalized by white men, it can be deliciously seductive to create a sense of solidarity by pouncing on white men's perceived cluelessness and/or arrogance. For those of us who can muster it, however, compassion and education are what’s needed, not finger pointing and mocking. Many white men feel unable to speak up about their concerns for the future, and the growing ostracization they feel, for fear it will further mark them as clueless and ungrateful. Again, sound familiar? It's the same damn horse, just in a different color.

Here's the problem: Every time I fall for the fleeting pleasure of contempt for ‘other,’ the real enemy is somewhere smirking, vigorously rubbing its greedy little palms in full-on glee to have escaped notice once again. So, who is the real enemy?

 

dr. evil

 

Exuberant and brilliant racial justice educator Heather Hackman calls this common antagonist “Super Whitey” and “The Wizard Behind the Curtain.” I love this! With one quick personification of the system that strives to convince us we are one another's worst fears, Dr. Hackman’s language has the potential to gather us up and galvanize us. Deflating Super Whitey’s power is an all-hands-on-deck effort. We need everyone, including, perhaps most of all, white men as we seek to break down barriers and reclaim our common humanity.

cirlcle excludine one

 

Boston-based marketing maven Colette Phillips is a thought leader in this department. For her annual March Get Konnected event, Ms. Phillips choose White Men Who Can Jump as the 2014 theme. Recognizing the need to lift up white men who are making the paradigm shift and taking action, Colette and her team chose these 12 white men to honor:

 
  • Academia: Dean Barry BluestoneDirector of the Kitty and Michael Dukakis Center for Urban Studies at Northeastern University 
  • Financial Services: Robert RiversPresident and COO of Eastern Bank
  • Financial Services: Eric Rosengren: President and CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston
  • Life Sciences: Dr. Peter SlavinPresident and CEO Massachusetts General Hospital
  • Mentoring: James Geraghty Executive Director, Morgan Stanley Private Wealth Management
  • Non Profit-Advocacy: Rob Leikind, Executive Director, American Jewish Committee
  • Politics: Mayor of Boston Martin J. Walsh
  • Politics: Massachusetts State Treasurer Steve Grossman
  • Public Sector: James RooneyExecutive Director Massachusetts Convention Center Authority
  • Social Innovation: Alan Khazei President & CEO Be The Change and Adjunct Professor Harvard Kennedy School of Government
  • Sports Philanthropy: John Henry, Principal Owner of The Red Sox and Owner of the Boston Globe
  • Sports Management: Larry Lucchino, President & CEO Boston Red Sox

Ms. Phillips began by asking the question, "Who are Boston's white men who occupy seats of power and what are they doing to move the dial?" Part of her inspiration came from a recent study by David Thomas, dean of Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business, and the Seattle consultancy Greatheart Leader Labs. Just as I’m finding anecdotally, the White Men’s Leadership Study found that the majority of white men are neither tuned in, nor feeling included in, diversity efforts.

Among the 12 White Men Who Can Jump honorees is Jim Rooney, head of Boston's Convention Center, who uses his position to personally invite and welcome conferences centered on racial justice issues and/or populated by people of color. For those of you who may not know, Boston has one of the worst racial reputations nationally, enough so that talent of color — from world-class athletes to doctors — regularly turn down job offers with the explanation they don't want to subject their families to Boston's racialized culture. Mr. Rooney's goal is to sort through what concerns are real, and convey them to other city leaders, and what concerns are outdated, and convey those to potential convention attendees. I've heard him speak. His passion is genuine.

I’m betting that the honoring of these 12 men spurs them to up their racial justice game. I'm also guessing it will inspire other white men to up theirs. 

If ever you hear me complaining about how white men don’t ‘get it’ or are too attached to their privilege to acknowledge it, please remind me that working on behalf of my human family means working with everyone in my human family. Thank you Colette Phillips for having the courage to take the lead on this one. Including white men may just be last frontier in assuring Super Whitey does not have his way with us. 

 

keep calm

3 Comments

  1. Debby,
    Well put. I am with you on most of this. However, there is an additional point I’d like to put out there. All too often, white men, particularly those with positional power, play the naïve card as a way to deflect progress. In addition to what you have said, I’d offer that it is important for us to be able to call bs on those who avoid, deflect, and slow progress by claiming not to understand. There is little excuse for this, so if one is that ignorant it needs to be called out as a choice to be so ignorant; and if one is just trying to play the naivete game that needs to be called out as bs too.
    Best,
    …Joe-Joe

  2. Dear Debby,
    Hi, there, Debby! What a great blog article you have written! You are so right-it is very important to also include white men and to reach out to them! I have been healing in my process over the past several decades in the anger I used to feel about racism and oppression as a lesbian black woman. I am a Christian. I belong to a wonderful, open and affirming church here in Iowa City, Iowa where I live where there are many super white women and white men. I love white women especially so, so much! I have healed over the last several decades being a long-time member of this spectacular church and a member for decades of many 12-Step programs! My superb church and 12-Step programs have helped me to heal inside and to see white women and white men as people, and I have long ago let go of my anger I once felt! I truly feel that white people are beautiful inside and out, and that white people are our dearest God’s children, and it I think it wrong not to love white people and to hold on to anger and bitterness toward white people! I am so glad that I have healed of my former anger over all of these decades, Debby! Your very fine and excellent book is helping me so, so very much! I am even understanding white people more because of your marvelous book! I thank-you so, so much for your deep and great, special writings and sharings! I so look forward to more of your splendid writings! You please have a very nice, special, and a blessed day, Debby! Very Sincerely Always, Sherry Gordon

  3. Deb, thanks for writing this. It helps to move us forward. I think Joe-Joe’s point is a very good one. I am delighted that my dear sister Colette’s bold act to salute White Men Who Can Jump has so wisely injected the public discourse on race with new and meaningful insights. Let’s all keep on truckin’! With these good works, access and equity is nigh!
    Peace Out! Smitty

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