I can't sleep.
I slept late on Sunday / yesterday, I think because I could, and because I needed it, but not so late that a sensible bedtime, i.e. before it was Monday was out of the question.
No, I can't sleep because I am enraged, because I am sad, because I am struggling to feel as though I have any agency with regard to the issues that are confronting me, and considering I am a British, White, Man that is a disturbing place to be, as I won the Privilege Lottery in an accident of birth.
I am NOT equating or comparing this moment of desperation with the plight of people of Black And Minority Ethnic identity, nor with the plight of Women, or people from the LGBQT+ community, or from the Disabled Community, or from any number of Faith Communities that are disadvantaged by the society that I find myself in, nor am I looking for any kind of prize for my confusion and anger, nor any kind of support or emotional labour from anyone other than other White Men, not because I prize their support over others, but because right now I think that we need to do our own heavy lifting for ourselves and not ask those with less Privilege than ourselves to give us shelter or lift us up.
There will be those amongst you, who are tempted to make some kind of crack about virtue signalling or SJWs - I urge you to resist that temptation. Not only are there a reasonable number of activists from the aforementioned oppressed groups watching, but I have you covered, courtesy of the inimitable Patton Oswalt (from Twitter earlier):
"Y’know why you yell “virtue signaling” when you see anyone be an ally to the oppressed or abused or “othered”? ‘Cuz you can’t imagine an action not linked to a selfish motive. You can’t accept someone wanting a better world without it directly benefiting them. It’s beyond you."
(Link to the tweet on Twitter - DON'T read the comments unless you're feeling strong :-( )
So what am I talking about?
I am talking about racism and how it is undoubtedly the most important thing that any of us can do to rid the World of this cancer and one of the first steps is not kidding ourselves that it is an America-only problem, no matter how much we might wish it to be for our own comfort.
It is our moral duty not to simply reject racism or decry it from high atop our mound of Privilege, but to fight it. It is no longer enough to simply not be a racist, if you are not anti-racist you are contributing to a climate where racism can still thrive.
No one gets to say things like "All Lives Matter" any more, an end to weasel words. It's a given, ok? Black People don't think that your life is less important than theirs when they say "Black Lives Matter", they are trying to tell us that they are on fire, that the suffering and oppression that they feel is, at this moment in time, more pressing than ours. They just want us to stop killing them, and harrassing them and shutting them out of workplaces and neighbourhoods, and if you think that such kinds of systemic racism don't exist in the UK we need to have a longer conversation about the structures of White Oppression of Non-White people in British History and Contemporary British Society and we need to have that conversation real quick because I am here to tell you that there is ample proof that we are the problem, even if only that we still benefit wildly from those structures and that system, and most of the time do so in SILENCE.
And, dear Brothers in Whiteness, we all of us need to find ways to see how similar structures of Privilege oppress all the groups I mentioned above and how that oppression is actually toxic to us. I know that you have heard it all before, but the Patriarchy really __is__ hurting men too, not as much as it hurts Women, for sure, but enough that we have something to gain by dismantling it as well as the moral victory we might share with Women by creating a truly equal society... And if White People have a moral obligation to dismantle racism then, I think you can start to see that Men have a moral obligation to dismantle the Patriarchy. And Straight People have a moral obligation to dismantle Homophobia and Bisexual Erasure and Biphobia and Transphobia, and yes those of us who are not Disabled have a moral oblilgation to dismantle Abelism as well, and let's not forget that White Men need to lead the charge against Islamaphobia and Anti-Semitism and indeed the Oppression of anyone because of their Faith.
We have to do more, we have to start on this now. People are dying because they are not White Straight Able-Bodied Christian Men, and people are suffering because they are not, and people are disadvantaged because they are not.
Do you want your kids, or your nephews and nieces or your friends' kids to grow up in a World where nothing has changed, where you didn't even move the needle? I can't look my own kids in the eye now, because I am no better than any of you, and indeed some of the White Men who will read this are far, far better at doing something about these issues than I am.
We ALL have our own problems, we all have jobs and family pressures and personal problems to attend to, no one is asking you to stride out of your home barefoot and without possessions to walk the Earth righting the wrongs of your identity, but we need to shoulder this burden AND start to push back against the people who are doing their damnedest to make things stay the same.
I am trying to be a better, more helpful and contributory partner - newsflash I am not great at that at all, but I am trying to be better.
I am trying to be a hiring manager who is eager to meet candidates that do not all look like me - it's hard*, but I am doing what I can and I am proud to work for a company that is actively supporting me in that effort.
I have a genuine desire to do some community outreach work to bring my professional skillset(s) to people from under-represented groups in software engineering, but I must also admit that there are things about my circumstances and my own identity that make me cautious about being a male / white saviour and not a useful and compassionate ally or even accomplice**.
I think that I may have something to offer in a similar vein in photography and in writing, but I feel less inclined to lead and more inclined to offer help to those that are leading in those cases.
I am trying to teach my kids how to treat people with respect and to do so equally; not to be colourblind or blind to other factors that fall under oppression, they must acknowledge their own privilege as they grow old enough to understand it, but to reject prejudice and reject the status quo in favour of a better World.
I am doing my best to make my position public, to lend my voice in the hope that the message may grow and become a World-deafening roar.
I am prepared to give money to organisations that work towards righting the wrongs of the current systems, and do already do so, though it would be good to find more if only to spread around what we can afford as a family, and to be able to give people who ask about such organisations a bigger list to work from.
Even the little things count - we can no longer just side-eye that problematic relative or co-worker and yet hold our tongues. Even if an awkward moment is coming, we must speak. We must challenge, but we should do so with compassion. No one is born to hate, they are taught to hate, and none of us is perfect so until someone shows you that they have hardened hatred within themselves, be compassionate in your challenges, show them a better way and bring love and support and understanding to your discourse. We better ourselves and one another through honest and fearless examination and re-examination, but that must come from a desire to raise all up, not to strike one another down. Most people want to be good, most people are good, even if they have prejudices that they have never confronted that are harmful and toxic.
Of course there are those who cannot be reasoned with, who are impervious to any change in outlook, and they must be fought, but even then radical compassion has its place and must be a part of what comes after the fight, or there will be no end to conflict.
A long time ago, someone very dear to me tried to tell a younger and much more foolish me that every little piece of good can contribute to changing the World for the better and I was not convinced. I tried to convince her that there were no moral absolutes and indeed inumerable shades of grey between light and dark and she was not convinced. As we have journeyed through our lives together in friendship I have come to see how wrong I was about her ideas, that indeed even the smallest act of kindness or the most insignificant seeming stand for what is right can contribute a great deal to improving the World. I was wrong about there being no moral absolutes as well, but I have managed to get her to acknowledge that they are rare and that much of this messy life we experience is more nuanced by far than mere light and dark. Her instinct was right, though, and that is important to remember; there __are__ moral absolutes. In the wake of yet another tragic and unnecessary reminder of this fact, (though really the very least of its problems is that it has robbed me of a night's sleep) I am compelled to acknowledge that I must do something, and one of the things I must do is remind my White Brothers that they must do something too.
Be Anti-Racist - confront Racism and act to disempower and dimantle it wherever and whenever you are given the opportunity.
Take these lessons to the other areas of Oppression that our Privilege protects us from, and once again Act, Do SOMETHING.
Be pubilc and vocal about your willingness to accept your moral duty to do these things and to expose White Men who do not as failing in their moral duty.
IN ALL THESE THINGS START WITH COMPASSION - save anger and confrontation and especially violence for those moments when they are truly necessary, when you are confronted with no option by people who are unwilling to change, and who offer you no alternative, and still, once the fight is done remember that they are people and even if they cannot be forgiven that they deserve your compassion and your understanding else you become like them.
In closing, to be very clear and to not hijack recent events away from dealing with racism, which is the evil that has made me feel compelled to speak,
BLACK LIVES MATTER
Right now Black People all over the World, and indeed especially in America, need us to pay attention to the pressing and critical need that the oppression they face be lifted.
Moving forward, as a White Man I think that it is important to remember that
WOMEN'S LIVES MATTER
LGBTQ+ PEOPLE'S LIVES MATTER
DISABLED LIVES MATTER
MUSLIM LIVES MATTER
JEWISH LIVES MATTER
and in essence, until we have fixed everything:
NON-WHITE, NON-MALE, NON-STRAIGHT, DISABLED LIVES FROM ALL CULTURES AND FAITHS OTHER THAN OUR OWN MATTER
But for RIGHT NOW
BLACK LIVES MATTER
With this in mind, please be thoughtful about how you engage with Non-White friends and acquaintances. Don't make them carry your guilt or emotional turmoil; check in on them and offer to help, but don't send them more examples of violence and oppression, they know what they are dealing with no need to add to it.
I have found a few recommended reading lists - if you want to go deep on the theory. I am going to try and do some reading on the specific subject of adopting an actively anti-racist stance, mostly because it turns out there are books on the subject and I turn to books. Just don't make your BAME friends teach you, ok? Google is your friend at least in terms of finding things on the internet, so go nuts - just promise me you will check that the sources you are choosing are credible, like that they are not written by Old White Men and not secretly crypto-facist propaganda..?
Tell Other White Men - I know that this can be an echo chamber, but this blog is entirely Public, so pass it on, re-post it, go nuts; we have to get it out there that we are going to get on with fixing this mess, my Brothers.
Meet back here whenever you need support or mutual aid. The very least we can do is organise to help one another to fix this stuff, seeing as how we are benefitting from the Privilege that our ancestors stole for us.
OK, go! Go on! Lots to do!
The image at the top of this article came from Unsplash.com - here is the credit:
(* See posts passim for the unavoidable complication that the overwhelming majority of people with the skillsets I am hiring for are White Men, and by the time that will have changed meaningfully in the workplace, even if we all do everything we can to make it better, I will have retired, because fixing it means getting girls and people from BAME backgrounds into coding NOW, as Primary School children and then making sure that they don't get left behind. There is work we can do as a profession, I am trying to do what I can, I urge others to do what they can and maybe this small part of the overall puzzle can be an early victory..?)
(** It has come to my attention that the word ally suggests passive, sidelined cheering on and providing of support, whereas accomplices actually do stuff to assist. I would be thrilled to encourage a lot more ally-dom, but I really want to be an accomplice myself and encourage other people to be accomplices too. If all you can be is an ally there is value there, don't give up at the first hurdle! This accomplice thing is not my idea, and the person I got it from was quick to point out that it was not her idea, but seeing as this is not a competition all I will say is I came across it as a line of thinking, I think it is neat and useful so I am going with it. I know the person I got it from will just be pleased to see it getting used / passed around.)