A rebuttal to an article penned by Brianna Wu on white men
Brianna Wu penned this article on what white men can do to “stay neutral”, and having been born a white male, I personally find it to be arrogant, sanctimonious, and frankly, bigoted, and here is why.
(Original in italics, my comments in regular font)
Thanks for writing me. I wanted to respond directly to your feeling about white men in their 20s being under attack right now.
While I can’t speak to your experience, I do know what it’s like to be white in a year that’s seen Fergurson, Baltimore and Sandra Bland. Every day, I hear from black people expressing anger and frustration at white people over the systems that are literally killing them. What I’ve come to understand is that black people aren’t angry about white people for being white — they’re angry at the unconscious privilege we consistently display. They are frustrated at being 40 percent of prison inmates. They’re angry about police violence. They’re angry about unconscious discrimination.
First, I believe this could have used a little proofreading. Second, Ferguson, Baltimore, and the case of Sandra Bland were indeed tragedies, but no one was justified in the first two of rioting just because they weren’t handed white heads on a platter in the cases of the whites charged with offenses during these times. Police or general white misconduct is deplorable in any event, but the riotous mobs who destroyed property and threatened lives threw away their legitimacy and abandoned their constitutional right to peaceably petition for a redress of grievances to commit crime. As for the case of Sandra Bland, her death in police custody was, as I understand it, self inflicted. The incident prior I concede had a police officer use more force than was possibly necessary to secure her cooperation with the law, and I agree that is deplorable, but that is all.
As for black people being angry about our unconscious white privilege, beg pardon, but I can’t help being born white, nor am I ashamed of it, nor will I be, and while I don’t consider that any excuse to consider myself superior to any other race, I still don’t see why any white male should be ashamed of genetic fact, and implying we should flagellate ourselves for the color of our skin over a perceived injustice is just reactionary nonsense.
As for being angry they are 40 percent of prison inmates, I recall the cooler heads in the black community conceding a lot of them are there because they chose to resort to crime, and while I agree police violence needs to be curbed, constantly stirring up hate and suspicion of every police officer will only sow more hatred instead of solving anything. Also, “unconscious discrimination” is, again, ridiculous, as it implies we whites have an automatic bias simply because of who we are when, as I stated, we were born white due to unalterable genetic reality.
Brianna Wu is white, I might add, as am I, but neither of us have any inherent advantage of blacks as a result, nor have we ever.
And yet, when black people try to talk to white people about our privilege — we get defensive instantly. It upsets our idea that we’re a good person. We don’t want to think about the privilege we enjoy. We don’t want to consider the ways we dehumanize black people. We shut down emotionally. Academics have coined a term for it, white fragility.
I looked up what “white fragility means, and frankly, in light of the scorn Wu and her allies have heaped on whites to hate themselves and how whites should feel shame for being born, I would counter even if what they say is true, they themselves are perpetuating bigotry against whites by saying we should feel guilt for circumstances beyond our control, because if we take this ideology at face value, it’s original sin through a racist lens: “You can be white, but as a result, you’ll never not be a bigot despite whether you choose to be one or not”.
As a consistent supporter of civil rights since childhood, this just the exact same bigotry perpetuated against blacks when chattel slavery was legal in reverse, only then former Confederate vice president Alexander Stephens said (and I paraphrase) “Subordination of the black race to the white race is his natural or normal condition”. By contrast, this reversed ideology is saying whites are inherently racist, so we will never overcome being bigots even if we choose to reject bigotry as valid, essentially going back to repackaging original sin as reverse racism (and yes, I believe in reverse racism, as that’s exactly what this is).
According to the Bible, where the idea of original sin is derived, it says we’re born in sin and no one is righteous, but it also says we should strive for it and that salvation is possible, so since this ideology Wu is promulgating is basically that through a secular lens, I contend it’s possible for whites to overcome their inherent prejudices, else the acts of every white abolitionist and civil rights advocate are little more than cynical hypocrisy.
While I could certainly tell myself, “I’m a good person!” and just shut out the critiques of white behavior. But, the truth is, really being a good person means hearing the critique. It means using my privilege to educate other white people about how we unconsciously hurt black people.
Here I have one rebuttal: We hurt blacks as whites by allowing them to be treated as social, political, and economic inferiors and doing what we can to keep them that way. We DON’T hurt them by the simple fact of being born with white skin.
Similarly, women in the tech industry aren’t angry at white straight men. We are frustrated about the unconscious privilege that white straight men consistently show that hurts us. The absence of privilege is not oppression, yet it seems that way to a group of people that don’t understand just how many social and economic advantages they have.
As a white straight male who bears no animosity towards women and even recently wrote a complimentary email to a feminist writer encouraging her game development efforts, this makes my head spin. Just because I was born male doesn’t mean I have an inherent advantage over women when it comes to the technical skill required to make a game, that all comes down to technical prowess in the field of game development, and my skin color cannot help worth a dot in that regard. As for the part in bold, I’d like to point out Brianna Wu’s own game had a very lavish budget that ran into hundreds of thousands of dollars, Wu lives a fairly prosperous life if all the Apple products and celebrity mentioned on Wu’s own Twitter is any indication, and from what I understand has lived a fairly comfortable life according to their own biography, so on the charge of educating others about their privilege, I would say Brianna Wu has more than I do, since I’m not half as wealthy nor prominent, nor ever aspire to be.
Sexism is not a problem for women to solve. Frankly, it’s a male behavior problem. And if you’re trying to stay neutral, what you’re really doing is saying yes to the status quo. As Anita Sarkeesian recently so brilliantly said, “You can’t stay neutral on a moving train.”
More things that make my head hurt. Sexism is discrimination based on sex, which can affect ANYONE based on their gender, so yes, where applicable, it’s a problem that affects both men and women and requires mutual effort to remedy, especially given the scorn Wu and related parties have heaped on men for being born male, something I consider just as sexist as the callous acts of a Men’s Right’s Activist who considers women little more than sexual conquests, and I consider the demeaning of men and women equally disgusting and without any outcome except to perpetuate hatred based on sex.
In regards to the statement about wanting to stay neutral being impossible, that’s the same as saying “you’re with us or against us”, which has always been one of the key ingredients to the perpetuation of bigotry and hatred, and the fact ANYONE could advocate such a policy fills me with horror.
Also, Anita Sarkeesian is wrongly attributed here, it’s actually a misinterpretation of a quote by Howard Zinn. A WHITE MALE, I might add.
Reading your email, it’s clear you want “my side” to stop making you feel uncomfortable. What I need you to understand is, this cannot get better without making you uncomfortable.
Ordinarily, I’d agree with this, but the problem is, Wu is telling this man he needs to accept he’s evil based on his skin color and gender and needs to sit down, shut up, and acknowledge he will never have anything valid to contribute except constant self hatred of his gender and skin because these basic facts somehow contribute to making other people suffer simply by being true.
The odds are high that you’ll read this and shut it out, responding with “male fragility.” My challenge is to push past that discomfort, and realize my equality is not about your feelings.
Now this is just arrogant. Equality cannot be achieved by perpetuating the premise other people are unequal due to inborn factors they have no control over, that’s the exact same argument whites used to justify slavery in the pre-antebellum South.
All the best,
PS — Threats of violence are never okay.
This ends on a bizarre note. The original letter by Steve contains no hint of violent intent. In fact, I haven’t read a meeker, more subservient question by anyone in quite a long time, so this is just an odd non sequitur.
In conclusion, I reject everything about this advice as critically flawed and perpetuating the very hatreds and bias it seeks to address by merely reinforcing it from another direction.