Thursday, April 29, 2021

White Men

I just finished Ijeoma Uluo’s book MediocreThe Dangerous Legacy of White Male America and am both impressed with her eloquence in putting her finger directly on the pulse of our national sickness and depressed by the truth of it. (Note how relevant that sentence “white men who think they have been stolen from…” is in relation to the Capitol assault!)


Many white men have the expectation that they shouldn’t have to climb, shouldn’t have to struggle, as others do. It’s the idea not only that they think they have less than others, but that they were supposed to have so much more. When you are denied the power, the success, or even the relationships that you think are your right, you either believe that you are broken or you believe that you have been stolen from. White men who think they have been stolen from often take that anger out on others. (70% of school shooters are white men).White men who think they are broken take that anger out on themselves. (70% of the 47,173 suicides in 2017 where white men).


She goes on: 


White male identity is in a very dark place. White men have been told that they should be fulfilled, happy successful and powerful, and they are not. They are missing something vital—an intrinsic sense of self that is not tied to how much power or success they can hold over others—and that hole is eating away at them. I can only imagine how desolately lonely it must feel to only be able to relate to other human beings through conquer and competition. The love, admiration, belonging, and fulfilment they have been promised will never come—it cannot exist for you when your success is tied to the subjugation of those around you. These white men are filled with anger, sadness and fear over what they do not have, what they believe has been stolen from them. And they look at where they are now, and they cannot imagine anything different. As miserable as they are, they are convinced that no other option exists for them. It is either this, or death: ours or theirs. 


I don’t want this for white men. I don’t want this for any of us. When we look at the history of white male identity in this country, it becomes clear that we are only stuck in these cycles of reactionary violence and oppression because we have not tried anything new. We have become convinced that there is only one way for white men to be. We are afraid to imagine something better. 


I’ve mentioned the Men’s Group I’m in that has met once every two weeks for over thirty years. We are all white men who came together for that very purpose of trying to “imagine something better.”  In both our professions and our life outside work, we’ve dedicated ourselves to helping heal others through therapy, healing children through medicine, helping those in need of legal aid, helping create character and caring in the Boy Scouts, helping a spiritual practice group dedicated to peace in ourselves and the world, heading a school designed to help children feel their intrinsic worth and meet their “intellectual, imaginative and humanitarian promise,” bringing insight into political issues that divide us through rigorous and revealing analysis freely given online, writing postcards, knocking on doors and helping neighbors, bringing music, ritual and ceremony into the lives of kids and adults to express beauty and to connect us. In short, the polar opposite of the mindless, misplaced anger of some of our fellow white men who refuse to take responsibility for their own soul’s growth and think that some powerful leader (with an exponentially greater wounded soul) will save them.  


All of this is worthy of a pat on the back, but only for a second before returning to the work of looking how that legacy has wounded us and continues to harm us and our grandchildren. How we have unconsciously perpetuated it and continue to in unseen ways. How we all could work harder to turn things around, to “start asking what we want white manhood to be and what we will no longer accept.” (Uluo)


Immeasurable thanks to Ijeoma Uluo for her courageous work, meticulous research, articulate eloquence and her medical genius for finding exactly where the bleeding wound resides and reminding us that we are the medicine that can heal us. 

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