SPOILER ALERT: THIS IS AN EMBARRASINGLY LONG AND VULNERABLE POST THAT IS SOCIALLY AND POLITICALLY CHARGED.
For those of you that know me well, or have tracked my patterns, you recognize that I have a personal policy when it comes to using social media. I don’t use these platforms to express anything beyond pictures/comments about my family, things I find funny, or things that inspire me. Posts that hopefully many years from now, myself and my kids can revisit for key memories.
To be candid, I recently took a 3-month break from social media because I was annoyed by all the negativity that’s been surfaced, primarily since the election a year ago. What once was a place I could check-in to see what family and friends were up to, or get tuned into something interesting, was now a place where it seemed anyone could impulsively rant, or argue about a politically, or socially charged issue. It’s not that I disagreed with any of the rants. I just found them exhausting (probably no different than how you get exhausted with posts of my family).
So why am I about to break my policy? Well, first it’s because I (well, men in general) were called out by someone that I consider a good friend, amazing activist and one of the strongest female leaders I know, to have a stronger voice. This is not about doing her a solid (maybe a little). After being irritated at her call-out first, I realized that she’s right…I’ve been insecure to express my position because of both my race and my gender (more on that soon). Second, and probably most important – I have daughters and a son, and I don’t think I’ve expressed a clear enough point of view with them on where I stand with any of the social and political craziness that’s been surfaced as of late. Said another way, I might be leaving room for them to assume I condone what’s been happening in the world, or that I don’t think it’s serious. Last, I committed to myself going into this year that I would take a few more risks. While this post may be experienced as minor to you, it’s a big deal for me.
So, whether it’s social media, or just in general, I’ll lead with four excuses (it’s a build, so stay with me) as to why I haven’t had a stronger voice in regard to #metoo, #equality, #blacklivesmatter, #equalpay, #impeachtrump, #(fill-in the blank).
Excuse #1 – I’m a positive dude. I loathe negativity. There’s not a lot in the media today that’s optimistic, so I frankly avoid it. I also hate politics (I wish I had paid more attention to this subject in school) because I don’t understand them. So, I avoid the topic at all costs.
Excuse #2 – I am wired to be overly empathetic…sometimes to a fault. It’s not easy being a human being. I also don’t believe being good, or evil is binary. There’s not a single shitty thing happening in this world today that doesn’t have a highly complex backstory. Not a reason to justify the actions of treating others poorly, but these backstories involve addiction, emotions, abuse, religion, mental health issues, etc. I believe everyone (even the worst of people) is doing the best they can with the awareness, tools, and knowledge they have.
Excuse #3 – I’m in denial. Period. This leads to my last excuse.
Excuse #4 – I’m insecure, because I’m a white privileged male. For those of you that are confused, or have an immediate allergic reaction (you’re probably my white male friends) to this statement, I’ll share a quick story.
My daughter just had a minor surgery, which took place at Doernbecher Children’s Hospital this last week. Admittedly, leading up the procedure, I was anxious for days thinking about her being under anesthesia, potential complications, being scared, and being in pain. As expected, it all went well and we checked out of the hospital late in the afternoon. However, as I was exiting the hospital observing all the children not able to leave because they are fighting for their lives, dealing with more serious medical conditions, I was overcome with guilt and sadness. Why are we so lucky, and they’re not? What did those innocent kids do to deserve the torture they are going through, but mine gets to go home with just a sore throat? I felt a deep sense of guilt and shame. This was likely exacerbated by the shame I was already feeling over the holiday, when a close friend of mine lost her 5-year old daughter to cancer.
This is the exact feeling I experience when I see the behaviors of our white privileged male president, and see/hear about the treatment toward women and people of color. I feel nothing but confusion, guilt, and shame. Why was I so lucky to be born into a gender and race that doesn’t have to experience the magnitude, or mistreatment that minorities deal with? Has my lack of voice, or past actions contributed to any of this? And, where is my voice in all of this? If I do express my voice, will it be rejected? Will it be misinterpreted? Will I be rejected, and/or mis-casted?
I’ve been paralyzed. Paralyzed, because I don’t know what it’s like to be in other’s shoes. Paralyzed, because I don’t want to say the wrong thing. Paralyzed, that my fellow white male friends might not have the same point of view (specifically, accepting the fact that we’re privileged), and potentially reject me. All of it is straight up awkward. And, it’s not right for me (us) to let that be an excuse. Our lack of voice is deafening.
So, while I acknowledge it’s passive, as I’m stating this over Facebook. As a white privileged male, I want to be crystal clear about what I believe, and what I stand for.
Every human being on this planet deserves to express themselves authentically, regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, and sexual identification. I may not understand all the choices individuals make, but we all deserve to live in a world where everyone is treated with respect, dignity, and feel safe being themselves. I believe our world, and certainly our country is not that way today. Racism and bigotry is real, and it shows up in all shapes and sizes. It shows up in what we say, and what we don’t say.
I believe women, with comparable skills and experience, deserve fair and equal pay to men. It does not exist today. Period.
More focus and effort needs to be made in making any work environment safe for every employee. I believe weak laws, weak company policies, unconscious bias and under-qualified leaders/influencers absolutely impacts the safety, and success and of minorities (if not clear, this is inclusive of the female gender). Yes (fellow white males), it impacts us too, but not near to the extreme of others.
We have a president that is doing the best he can with the awareness, tools, and knowledge he has at his disposal. AND, it’s not enough. I believe he’s unfit, and under-qualified. I believe the only reason he’s in office is because he tapped into the single most powerful emotion that exists, which is fear. It’s this emotion that drives his behaviors, decisions, and frankly brings out the worst in everyone. His integrity, and ethics aside (at this point, I could give a shit that he allegedly slept with a porn star), I’m scared for our country because his attitude, words, behaviors and misuse of power is dangerous, and likely to get people killed. I believe he must be removed from office.
I believe any wrong-doer deserves a second chance. Don’t lie, or make excuses. Just own it; e.g., David Letterman, and try to be a better person.
I believe every human being has the right to their opinion. If you disagree with my beliefs, or where I stand, I respect you. However, if your words, and actions hurt others…I don’t.
Last, as a white privileged male, I believe I have a higher level of responsibility to stand up for those that are not being treated fairly. I’m not exactly sure what it looks like, but I believe collectively; our voices and actions can probably have a bigger impact on change than any rally, social media campaign, march on Washington, etc. It just requires some courage.
So, I’m not looking to become an activist, or even start a campaign. Frankly, this is likely the last you hear from me (on social media) about this topic. However, I am inviting those of you (emphasis on my friends that are white and male), that read this and remotely feel the same way to have a voice.
If you’re feeling courageous, put a comment out there. If you don’t know what to say, simply ‘like’, and forward. If you have a good hashtag for this…great, make one up and pass along. It will start a dialogue. It will support change. And, it’s our responsibility as privileged human beings.