Dear White People
I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that I’m about as “white male” as they come. In fact, I take it to an extreme with avoiding any degree of direct sunlight.
Our world sees us differently than those who are, say, not “white” or “male.” It’s an institutionalized bias that isn’t a problem for us. Because, you know, we haven’t had problems like others have… until now, it seems. Our numbers are shrinking and we’re rapidly falling into the minority.
And that’s okay.
In fact, I’d argue: it’s great.
Every step we take towards eliminating inherent inequality is a step towards greatness. That’s not a political ideal, either — it’s a rational statement which presupposes that one human life is just as valuable as another human life.
Sounds great on paper, but when we have to consciously peel away layers of reinforced cultural biases, it’s difficult. We have to look inward, and that usually causes a great degree of discomfort (especially if we are not ready to acknowledge discrepancies that others see clear as day).
We’re often blind to that which does not impact us negatively. That’s privilege, with all of its negative connotations.
The other week, someone took the time to reply to one of my tweets about the Black Lives Matter movement, suggesting that it would be equally as appropriate to say that “White Lives Matter.”
I replied with something that should hit you hard: “I’m grateful that I don’t need a hashtag.”
That’s the problem I’m talking about.
It’s not about us, folks.
Nobody’s blaming all of us just like we shouldn’t be blaming all of them.
These are the people, the races, the cultures who stand everything to lose with the election of (by all counts) a mentally-disturbed, authoritarian-leaning megalomaniac with the intellect and boorish behavior of a child.
So, don’t sit there and tell me that — this time around — one party’s leading candidate is the same as the other party’s leading candidate.
It’s not rooted in fact, and it’s a dangerous affront to perspective.
We are not those who stand to lose the most in this election.
We are white.
I’m not ashamed of that any more than you would be, but I also understand that the slowly-eroding institutional biases give you the privilege of saying that it doesn’t matter who wins.
It does matter.
And America is more than your fragile ego.
Have you ever agreed with someone else every time? Have things always gone your way? Have you ever done a job for decades and escaped from it unscathed and without controversy?
Welcome to the world.
Now, imagine if (on top of having to deal with things everybody has to deal with) you had to deal with cultural biases. This is difficult to do, I know — but it starts with understanding that the system does not treat us as equals.
Ask yourself if any individual’s actions would be perceived differently were they a different sex or gender, different creed or race, different in any way. The honest answer is that, yes, these institutionalized biases are real.
I’ll never forget the day it changed for me.
I had just moved from Iowa to San Francisco. The first time I walked into a grocery store, I felt like I was the only white person there. I gripped my backpack so tightly because I was legitimately fearful that I was going to be attacked by someone.
That fear was unfounded, of course.
That feeling was misguided, of course.
I loosened my grip instantaneously.
That was my “wake up” moment. That was when I let go of that which was holding me back from accepting that the world was more than just people who looked like me. I was safe in my ignorance because I could afford to stay safe.
Not everybody can stay safe because the system is still evolving to accept equality and rebuke intolerance.
I’ve never told anybody about that experience because it embarrasses me. I was that guy who was angry because I felt that I was at a disadvantage because I was a white male.
But, here’s the thing: I’ve always been advantaged, differently.
Just like many of us growing up at that time, I was taught at a young age that everybody was equal. You remember those songs they used to sing at Sunday School? “Red and Yellow, Black and White…”
The irony, I believe, is that I was actually taught that we are not equal — based upon the things that people said, the things people did, the way people reacted in situations which clearly showed that we were not equal.
We weren’t equal. And we’re still not equal.
But we had to be taught that we are not equal.
Let me give you a fresh example.
Last night, we needed to go to the grocery store (a location which, at this point, could seemingly be parlayed into a metaphor of sorts). As we were making our way through the aisles, my daughter of one-and-a-half years was saying hello and waving at every family who passed by.
Family speaking Spanish to one another? Hello, kiss blown. Family speaking English? Hello, kiss blown. Family of an Indian heritage? Hello, kiss blown. Those who noticed her gestures reciprocated with a smile.
My daughter knows equality because she doesn’t know of inequality.
An inequality that is constantly reinforced by those around us, by our families, by our culture, and often (unintentionally) by ourselves.
There is, however, one egregious inequality I would again like to speak to.
It is an offense to me to suggest that someone who has clearly gone out of his way to divide us by cultural lines is equal to someone who has played the political game that every politician plays.
I am not a Hillary Clinton apologist, but I can spot a bully a mile away. As a former registered Republican, I will not be party to helping elect an undiagnosed sociopath.
I will not put party above country.
I will not put my skin color above this American culture.
I will not stand idly by and allow the very existence of my precious daughter — as someone who is only half-white with both Mexican and Italian blood — to be questioned or her any part of her family demonized with unquestionable “facts.”
I will not allow you to continue to wallow in ignorance and suggest that there is no difference between the two choices we have before us this year — with only one’s doctrine being openly applauded by dictators and oppressive regimes.
I will not accept that a third-party candidate is realistic because you feel it’s your only choice this time… as a white person.
I will not accept your excuses as to why you chose not to vote because (according to you) it doesn’t matter.
And that’s why I voted for Bernie Sanders when I could. I trust him because I saw (in him) someone I wish I could be. And that’s why, when he recognized the threat of fascist proportions bearing down upon a population whose very safety is being threatened (not by nefarious forces, but by the intermingling of cultures and races), he did what any noble person would do.
He compromised in every possible way, and that’s in the positive sense of the word. That’s what politics is, after all — compromise. He knows that the only possible way that we can avert absolute disaster and years of regressive policies and open-air bigotry is to elect Hillary Clinton.
He didn’t change his ideals, he forced you to reflect upon yours.
Maybe that’s why you’re angry?
Of course, there are countless (truly wonderful) counterpoints to mine. But all I have is my perspective and experiences just as you have yours. I accept that, but I also don’t feel any less compelled to share mine.
I’m not saying I’m right, I’m just saying I’m white. That’s all I’ve got.
Did I just link off to a story that shares a radically different perspective? Yes, I did — because that’s a part of discourse which leads to practical solutions to the problems we all see in front of us. This isn’t about party lines, it’s about how politics have been failing us and better identifying socially progressive measures to further the process.
It’s a process. Some people haven’t processed that yet.
I will follow Bernie’s lead because I would rather have him on the inside to help usher in a future where those who have been abandoned by the establishment at least have a fighting chance.
I want to help him mold America into the country I love to see through my daughter’s eyes.
This isn’t about Hillary, though — she’s part of the problem that is still seeking solutions. This is about what is a clear and present danger to the American ideal that so many people have been struggling to explain to us: rampant inequality that negatively impacts those of us who are not straight & white.
Obviously, I am not blaming you for your whiteness. That’s as silly as blaming others for their lack-of-whiteness.
I would, however, blame you for the selfishness you exhibit because you have nothing to lose.
You do have something to lose, and that’s your ego — not to mention, my respect.
Recognize your privilege and understand that not everybody in America is white.
That’s who America is, and how America is always going to be.
This election is about them, not you.
And if you don’t want them in America, you’re not living in America with american ideals — you’re living in a fantasy world that simply does not exist but in your head (and shared delusions do not make them any more real).
I’m not attempting to change your mind, mansplain, or whitesplain — I just need to share this now so that others (white or otherwise) know that as a white male, I happen to find myself not aligning with the white males which seem to get a lion’s share of attention in the media for all the wrong reasons.
Fear is a great motivator — but instead of cowering to a manufactured fear, I am choosing to take my fears and attempting to be constructive with them as best I possibly can.
Without trying to sound too hyperbolic, making any moves that would further enable the installment of what is tantamount to America’s Hitler is a grave mistake that you won’t have to pay for largely because you’re white.
Take a moment to learn about authoritarianism, and then tell me who fits that mold more. And then tell me — with a straight face — that the two leading candidates are “the same” in this election cycle.
Loosen the grip on your backpack.
You’re about to mess this up for the entire world.
You’re about to teach my daughter a lesson.