I am not a politician. I am not a minister. I am not an activist nor an expert. I am a white man. A middle aged white man that owns a small construction business in the midwest. I’m not sure I could be any more white. I also lead a Christian men’s ministry called MAN CAMP, where thousands of men regularly get together and go into the woods for a weekend to get closer to each other and God. I love it. It is powerful, amazing, and fun. While lots of men of color are part of our brotherhood, we skew pretty heavily white. I’m talking, “let’s start a fishing podcast” white.
White men, I’m speaking to you. (If anyone else wants to read on, feel free.)
The white man, knowingly or not, carries power to change the narrative of racial injustice. Power to come alongside those that have struggled for generations to overcome the system that the white man created. The truth is that, in our America, the white man nearly always wins the fight. We need only choose which fight we want to join.
This battle has been raging for a very long time. There are warriors fighting it every day. Some of them white. One of the terrible ironies in the fight for racial reconciliation is that the white man’s voice can be incredibly effective, yet most of us remain silent.
In the fight to retain our power and dominance, we win.
In the fight to assuage our guilt and deny our responsibility, we win.
In the fight to reduce complex issues into sound bites and political posturing, we win.
The White Man Wins.
What if we joined the fight to dismantle the systems that, even passively, hold others down?
What if we decided to join the fight for true equality?
What if we decided to join the fight to become a nation healed of its bias and prejudices?
Which fight will we choose?
I know we all want this world to be a better place. That we want to stand against injustice and alongside those in need. That we want to break every chain. Lots of us see the current state of race relations and our hearts break for our brothers (and sisters) of color. We are men of action and purpose. We want to get involved and have no idea where to begin. We know we’re unqualified and uneducated about this issue. We can’t truly understand what it’s like to face systemic racism in our daily lives. As true as all of that may be, there is one area of this problem where we are undoubtedly experts. Where we, possibly unwittingly, have been educated, indoctrinated, and inculcated our entire lives.
White privilege is a real thing. We’ve been born into a society that has been built for us, by us, to work to our benefit. I am not going to try and convince you of the truth of that. There are thousands of articles, tons of data, and over 400 years of history that show that to be true. (Lots of us seem to be ignoring that stuff.) So either just trust me or pause here and go dig in and come back once you’re ready to move forward.
To be clear, I’m not saying you didn’t have a tough time growing up. Or that you’ve had every advantage in the world. I’m just saying that no matter what challenges you’ve faced, you faced those challenges on your own home court. Don’t get me wrong—whatever you’ve gotten in life, I’m sure you worked hard for it. If you’ve busted your ass to overcome a terrible childhood or addiction or whatever form of brokenness this world put in your path (like I did), you should absolutely be proud of yourself. I am just saying, the real deal no bullshit is this—the whole game is set up for us to win.
That isn’t a guilt trip. It’s just facts.
- We are more likely to have a father figure in our homes.
- We are more likely to live past our first birthday.
- We are more likely to make it to 18 without being locked up (and I know I should have been).
- We don’t have to teach our kids how to not get shot when they get pulled over.
- We are more likely to have a network of associates in places of influence to help us get jobs.
- We are more likely to own property and businesses.
- We are more likely to be in leadership roles.
- We’re rarely the only one of us in the room.
All of that means it is pretty damned great to be a white man in our America. It also means our country’s problems are ours. We own them. We have, actively or passively, created them. And we have power to help correct them.
I am prompted to write this in response to the recent tragedies of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor, as well as the shocking number of similar tragedies that preceded them. And I am here to tell you that our problem goes much deeper than those dramatic losses. Those are obvious evils, blatant, and shocking. If we don’t feel moved by those, we are lost. It is the more insidious, more ingrained, more subtle evil that I am calling on us to engage. We need to recognize and rage against the evil of systemic racism. It is not enough to be outraged at the murder of innocent people.
We need to be outraged at the fact that there are Americans who still do not get to live fully in the freedoms that you and I enjoy.
I’m not saying life should be fair, but I absolutely believe it should be just. God never promises us fair, but he is super interested in justice. Regardless, we need to move beyond debating and shaming and guilt. Those things all distract us from progress. We need to do something. Let’s not let the fear of offending someone keep us silent. Let’s not let the confusion around what role we have in this keep us still. Let’s not feel powerless or wonder how we could make a difference. All of that serves only to stop us. Let’s just move.
Real change isn’t made up of grand gestures and fleeting attention. Here are some small, powerful things you can do every day.
- Get into relationships with people of different races and backgrounds.
- Stop telling yourself this doesn’t exist or it isn’t that bad.
- Don’t feel guilty. Feel convicted and motivated. (On that note, don’t make this about you. Because it isn’t.)
- Speak up and stand up when you have the chance.
- Listen and learn. Don’t ask others to do your work for you. Dig in.
- Use your influence to blast this message.
- Make sure you’re paying attention and having these conversations six months from now, and beyond. Never start something you aren’t willing to finish, even if it’s hard, or it isn’t trending anymore.
As I said, I am far from an expert. Those folks exist, and we need to listen to them for guidance on what other things we can do. There are tons of resources for us to explore. Luckily, we don’t need to be experts to take action. Sure, we can get mired in the debate of what is the best way. We can wonder if we’re qualified. We can let guilt and shame color our views so deeply that we’re unable to see any action as legitimate. Shame is useless. Guilt is worthless, and actions taken out of guilt aren’t sustainable. Only conviction can motivate us, sustainably, towards redemption and reconciliation. We can stand impotent in the middle of one of the greatest battles our nation has ever faced, or we can stand up and fight.
I believe in our hearts for good. I believe in our power for good. I believe in us. All of us, of all colors, together.
Join me in this fight.
Process, journal or discuss the themes of this article - here's a few questions to get the ball rolling...
What strikes you most about this article? Why?
Describe your general reaction to racial tension—grief, apathy, guilt, confusion, discomfort, etc. Where does that come from in you, and how might you be able to most past it?
What action step listed in this article jumps out to you most? Forward this article to a friend, and tell them how you want to act on it. Give them permission to encourage you to make it happen.
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(This stuff helps us figure out how many fruitcakes to make come December)
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