Dear White Men,
This is on us. And now it’s up to us to undo it. I keep hearing us say: “we’ll be fine.” We may be shocked, devastated, disappointed, outraged but we also keep telling ourselves “we’ll” be fine. Sure, “we” will. But not all will, and not all are. If you are saying “we will be fine”, think hard about who that “we” is. Because many are not part of the “we” that will be fine. Our friends of color, our Native American friends, our Muslim friends and Latino friends, our LGBTQ friends and the women in our lives are not fine. And they are more than devastated and shocked. They are afraid of what is to come. And they will be, and already are, under attack. If you’ve ever questioned the existence of the concept of privilege, being able to say “we’ll be fine” is painful proof of its existence:
Being able to say “we’ll be fine” after an unapologetically racist bigot has been elected president is white privilege.
Being able to say “we’ll be fine” after a man has been elected president who has vowed to block people from entering the US because of their religion – that is privilege.
Being able to say “we’ll be fine” after a man has been elected president who has repeatedly called Latinos rapists and criminals, and who has promised to tear families apart by deporting millions of Latinos – that is white privilege.
Being able to say “we’ll be fine” after a man has been elected president whose choice(s) for the Supreme Court will all but certainly threaten access to safe abortions – that is male privilege.
Being able to say “we’ll be fine” after a man has been elected president who has boasted about sexual assault and who is normalizing misogynist language in the public sphere – that is male privilege.
Being able to say “we’ll be fine” when a man will be vice president who opposes laws against the discrimination of LGBT individuals, who opposes legal equality of non-heterosexual partnerships and who has advocated for “gay conversion therapy” – that is straight privilege.
Being able to say “we’ll be fine” after tens of millions of people have shown their disregard for the basic safety and humanity for LGBT individuals, Muslims, Latinos, African Americans, women and People of Color across the US by voting for Trump’s white supremacist agenda – that is privilege.
And being able to say “we’ll be fine” when racists, white supremacists, misogynists, homophobes and bigots across the country are feeling emboldened by the outcome of this election and who have no qualms threatening and attacking minority communities in schools, on college campuses, at workplaces, and on the streets – that is privilege.
And, ultimately, being able to sit this election out because we don’t agree with either candidate – as opposed to voting for who we perceive as the lesser evil in order to protect the basic human rights of communities of color – that is privilege. (And I agree: It is outrageous to have to make this decision in a democracy but, sadly, it is the reality, and this choice has been the reality for non-privileged communities long before this election).
This is on us
No, everything will not be ok. And while “we” may be fine, many will not. And this is on us. It was our fathers, brothers, uncles and grandpas who have put this administration in power. Our childhood friends, neighbors and college classmates. And some of our mothers, aunts, and grandmas, too. It is on us for not working hard enough to educate them, challenge them, convince them. It is on us for not preventing them – “us” – from making a decision that puts communities in danger and that may well result in the destruction of hard-fought progress that has been won against fierce backlash. It is on us for not having done enough to dismantle white supremacy, racism, patriarchy, dominant versions of masculinity and economic inequality.
Sure, this is also on decades of tone-deafness and opportunism in the Democratic Party. It is also on a corporate media more interested in ratings and the spectacle of the horse race than in substantive issues and informing the public. The Democratic Party is what it is because of our uncritical participation in it and the media is what it is because of our uncritical consumption of it. So make no mistake about it, this is, ultimately, on us.
It’s up to us. Get to work.
And that’s why it’s also up to us to rectify this. Not to lead, but to listen to those under attack, and to stand up for and stand with them.
As communities under threat are in grief and shock, it is up to us to tell them that they are not alone – and it is up to us to tell the bigots that they will never run our communities.
When it becomes more difficult for communities under attack to speak out and speak up, it is up to us to raise our voices and, more importantly, to amplify theirs.
And if they are coming for our brothers and sisters of color, our undocumented, or Muslim, or LGBT brothers and sisters, it is up to us to get in their faces and to put our bodies on the line in order to protect those that need protecting.
In short, rather than allowing our privilege(s) to tell us “we’ll be fine”, let us put the resources our privilege affords us to work – in the service of those under attack, and in the service of fundamental societal change.
Let’s put our time and money into progressive and radical organizations that serve communities under threat and that work towards fundamental change. Organize, strategize.
Let’s put our energy, time and effort into educating, challenging and mobilizing those around us.
And let’s listen to those most under threat. And let’s use our resources to support them in their struggles.
Only then will we all be fine. Let’s get working.
Markus Gerke & Cliff Leek, Nov 2016
Illustrations by Clay Darcy