I am at a loss for the right words other than Black Lives Matter and institutionalized racism and oppression in the U.S. must be dismantled now. I don’t know how these words become a realized principle of life immediately and I do not know the role I play in it.
I am the embodiment of the problem. I am so privileged that I am absolutely oblivious to the myriad of ways in how it has benefited me. Through the randomness of birth, I was awarded a position of power. I did not earn any of the advantages afforded to white men. I did not fight for any right that I naively assume is universal. I have never been without privilege so I don’t appreciate the value of it. It is embarrassing that I fail to always acknowledge it and I have the luxury to forget it is there. But it is. It is real and powerful and differentiating, regardless of my ability to be so blind to it.
I am ashamed of my ignorance. I am ashamed that I treat others as equal because that denies the inequity that benefits me.
My dis-ease with this system and the guilt I feel about being a white male ebbs and flows. Mostly the tide is out; I am blind. But when I get glimpses of the world beyond my whitewashed filter, my humanity and empathy screams and cries. I feel pain, injustice, and anger. But, do I take action? No, I freeze. I don’t know what to do, aware that I represent the oppressor. When this discomfort passes, I relax and choose to look away again. This is how it has ebbed and flowed in my life.
How do I work to correct this when I don’t understand the nature or scope of power I have?
I am in a system that affords me power over others not like me, but I don’t have any actual power within the system.
I can renounce the power the system gives me, but that will not reallocate the advantages to the marginalized and oppressed where it belongs. Power stays trapped in a system designed to create and enforce inequity. It stockpiles power like the rich hoard wealth.
I can use my voice in the choir of the victims of the system. But, (a) my voice is not authentic because I cannot speak from experience or a point of reference, and (b) the system is designed to vilify and stomp out voices of the oppressed. The system has a sinister dichotomy that paints dissenters and critics of the system as traitors and supporters of the system as idols. Vocalization is not the change, but it raises awareness to those who can influence change in the system.
How can I influence the system from the inside?
From what I can tell, the system was built on the abuse and larceny of free will. A white man used his free will to form a thought: “I” have more value than “you” or “them.” This thought became a belief, and this belief became codified in the state and religion. The white man’s free will stripped away the free will from every person that doesn’t look like him (or me) from that egocentric thought. Then, he had the audacity to label this system of skewed imbalance as “equality.”
The power I have as a white man is the same power that generations of white men have wielded over every other human: the ability to strip away free will. If I am to help dismantle this system, I must find ways to remove the free will from those that seek to preserve the inequity. This is accomplished through the pressure points the system has exploited to further its cause: business, education, resources, government, etc. It is not enough to “compete against” the interests of the system because it was never a competition to begin with. It’s about actively working against those interests with the barriers and tactics so essential to maintaining inequity by the system.
As a white man, my obligation is to use the extent of my power to dismantle the system that creates and maintains inequity, oppression, and abuse. This is not an effort that will be won with handshakes and promises by those in power. Those in power must lose power or have it stripped from them. The only way to correct an imbalance of power is to redistribute the power. Power is not created; it is seized.
My insipid self-questioning of “but how” is no longer valid. The answer to how is simple: use my power. Wage war on those that maintain the system with the weapons they armed me with.
Will I have an impact? It doesn’t matter. I see the division between the system and its victims and cannot look away anymore. It is a line so stark that it compels me to act with urgency and accountability. I don’t know what these actions look like right now. Yes, this system will continue to benefit me, and I must use every one of those advantages in a way to diminish the power in the system. In a sense, I must point the ship’s weapons at its own deck every chance I get.
I have resisted writing anything on this topic because of how ashamed I am at this system and how it elevates every white man at the expense of every non-white, non-male, and non-heterosexual person. It is fucking outrageous. It always has been uncomfortable to me and I have never identified with any of it, yet it has always rewarded me in some way. I kept my hands to myself and my mouth shut. Fearful, compliant, and complicit. These old excuses are the refrain of the system spanning generations. It is long past the time I should be accountable and do something with the power given to me.