This is a bit of a departure from what I usually write about, but I have some things I feel I need to say. This post is not about the rampage in Santa Barbara. Rather, it is about how this tragedy has rekindled conversations about misogynic aspects of American culture, and the “not all men” defensiveness I have seen in response to these conversations.
It is my belief that one if the privileges of being an ally is that I get to hear the stories that non-allies would refuse to hear.
As a straight ally, I have the privilege to hear about the effects of homophobia.
As a white ally, I have the privilege to hear about the effects of racism.
As a male ally, I have the privilege to hear about the effects of misogyny.
As a well-employed professional living in a safe neighborhood, I have the privilege to hear about the toll of living in oppressive poverty and persistent violence. These are the stories I most often hear from my students.
It is a privilege and a responsibility. It is my responsibility to sit and listen to these stories. It is my responsibility to believe these stories to be true, especially because they are outside of my privileged reality and beyond my understanding.
I have the privilege and responsibility to feel sadness and hurt. The privilege come from sharing empathy with people I love. The responsibility comes from the sadness and hurt I feel because too many my fellows have yet to awaken to the harm that WE continue to perpetuate. And… by WE, I mean ME. #yesallmen.
When I feel guilt… I have a choice I must make.
On the one hand, I can choose to retreat into defensiveness.
- I do not wear a white sheet and burn crosses; therefore, I am not racist.
- I do not say, “That’s gay” or call people I do not like “faggot;” therefore, I am not homophobic.
- I do not resort to slurs or violence when a woman refuses my advances; therefore, I am not misogynistic.
On the other hand, when I feel guilt, I can choose to look critically at my own behavior. I get to see where my blind spots still are. I get to see where and how I continue to cause harm and hurt people – even without intention. I get to see where I continue to use and even flaunt my white-straight-male privilege without doing near enough work for equality, freedom, and respect for all.
Understanding that I still have blind spots, that I still hurt others, is more than a responsibility and privilege. It is a blessing.
Because that is the only way I’ll grow. That is the only way I will be better today than I was yesterday.