Intersectionality - Working Towards Change


I am a hetish, upper-middle class, Jewish white man who is 69 years old.

I am told in my men’s group that we should focus upon “the personal” and not bring in “the political”.   Where individually we have personal issues that relate to most any issue, it may be relevant in a limited way.

I have problems with this!

I believe that systemic issues related to intersectionality are important in the personal work that we do in our group.

A simple example:

When I am doing my personal work, it may be relevant that I am:
1.) autistic,
2.) Jewish,
3.) am the only white member of an otherwise Black immediate household
4.) one member of my family is gender fluid - trans
Other men may bring up issues in their work such as:
1.) being gay
2.) (possibly) having been abused as children,
3.) (possibly) having a history of past substance abuse  (12 step issues being an important part of their lives)

For example.

Recently the organization sent out an email to its email list in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.   One man I know indicated that this statement violated the basic agreements of the organization because it is not supposed to be “political”.

I strongly believe that as mostly upper-middle class, mostly heterosexual, predominantly white men we should both deal primarily with our personal work and secondarily bring in the fact that we live in worlds of systemic racism, sexism, classism and homophobia which significantly affect our lives.   

I think that we should talk about privilege.   It should also be noted that individually we may face areas where we lack privilege.   Finally, we should discuss how our identities contain many parts, some of which may help make our lives easier, while in other cases things may complicate our lives.

It seems obvious to me that with privilege, we can choose to ignore things in our lives, which other people can not safely do.   We can walk down a dark street and pay little attention to those around us commonly.   My trans child must be careful, as they could easily be killed if out alone by men, who might find them “offensive”.    My wife and ex-wife both not only have to consider safety from being robbed in potentially unsafe situations when alone, but also may fear being sexually assaulted.

Statistically among us if there are ten men, one of us is likely to be gay, one of us is likely to be a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, and others may have had issues such as having had learning disabilities in school or having faced other major issues as children or as adults. 

It has been told to me, that we each should individually bring up our own issues.    I agree that we should bring up our own personal issues.

I do, however, look at things quite differently!    Racism to me is a “white problem”, not a problem of Black, LatinX, and Native American people.   

Sexism to me is a “men’s problem”, not a problem of women. 

Homophobia is a problem to me of het people who take out their issues on gay, lesbian, trans, and gender-questioning people.

I have a responsibility to work to end racism.   Black and LatinX people can not stop racism, until white people like me do the work to reach out and help bring about change among other white people as well as within our selves.    Sexism and violence such as rape, sexual assault, domestic violence and child abuse can not be ended solely with women working on ending them. Men, including me, need to help make such abuse not acceptable.  

I need to talk about “gayness” even though I am not gay.   Changing only ourselves, allows us to be kinder and gentler oppressors of others.

Speaking of Black Lives Matter may remain a token statement absent serious work.

Thank you!

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