Privileged White Men
Privilege – related to my own privilege – as a cis-upper-middle class white man is an issue of concern to me. I am trying to make some sense over why the publication of this book, and some promotion I have received related to it, bothers me – as much as it does.
It's creator believed that they were obligated to represent and “lift up” less privileged African Americans through moral rectitude and hard work. The issue of birth control was part of the “uplift” agenda, due to the belief that a woman could provide a better quality of life and education to her children if she could determine how many children she wished to have and rear. (Undivided Rights: Women of Color Organize for Reproductive Justice:, p.57-8)
Not having purchased, nor read, this book, my perspective on it is somewhat limited and perhaps inaccurate. My initial reaction is that though significant royalties from the sale of the book (hard cover or Kindle) will go to help a worthy cause, it is presumptuous for a wealthy, privileged white man to write a book, and expect that more than similarly privileged individuals to purchase it.
I would prefer to hear messages, such as those of the above quoted author, and spend my limited available money on supporting “others” – who are less privileged than I am.
I have listened to part of the book launch video of this book:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XKg8yGOwaZU – and my feelings and thoughts are not as intense, but they remain.
I have a difficult time feeling empathy and compassion for wealthy white men – in general. I do feel that there are poor white men, as well as individual white men – who I feel for.
My almost best friend – a white male – recently lost his (not young) father through a common medical condition. He has two very challenging to raise children, works full-time in a meaningful occupation, and with all that still finds the time to do serious political work with us.
It feels qualitatively different to get multiple thanks from him related to me paying for several meals for his family, while they faced the recent challenges.
One of Men 4 Choice (www.Men4Choice.org) ‘s co-founders and co-leaders has a very young child, works full-time as the political advisor/director for a Congressperson, and still “does the work” he does.
I would prefer to hear messages from wealthy white men that relate to how they are:
1. Confronting – the wealth and Deep Harm – of white men such as: Jeff Bezos, Mark Zuckerberg and Elon Musk, and/or
2. They are building deep allyship and support of both monetarily, but also in “doing the work” for:
a. BIPOC/ Queer-Trans and similar – focused organizations,
b. White people – including men (male appearing) – from unhoused, working class to middle class,
c. Finding support-allyship with fellow wealthy white men as well as working to reach more of them – and not asking for support/understanding of those of us – who lack their privileged status, and/or
3. In general – to clearly see how they are – visibly listening and sharing– such as within YouTube videos and public forums – that do not cost others money – rather than asking for all of us to financially give money to them (at all).
Wealthy white men should not be ashamed of their status, except perhaps related to how – it may have come from the hard work of many poorly paid employees (or slaves) or similar.
Wealthy white men should be aware of their privilege and should recognize their responsibilities not to lead or teach others, but rather to be allies – building “partnerships” to deal with the oppression that wealthy people and others with disproportionate power have in our worlds around us.
They should be aware of how “liberals” like Warren Buffett will not confront “conservatives” like Jeff Bezos and Mark Zuckerberg – in anything related to their wealth – and how it should be confronted for the benefit of society as a whole.
They should be aware of how defense contractors push the “war industry” in Ukraine and elsewhere. They should educate each other and themselves of how wealth is weaponized.
To the degree that privileged people do not strongly confront the systemic oppression of “the others” – who lack systemic influence, they effectively add to the pressures of less advantaged people such as upon Black, Queer Women – who for example significantly were the difference in the election of Joe Biden in 2020.
Those facing oppression do not have the “luxury” to – “take time off” – from their struggles to survive.
Wealthy white man can do a lot related to many issues we face locally, nationally and internationally. Racism, reproductive justice, climate change, homo/lesbian/trans phobias, the weaponizing of dominant religions, education, housing, healthcare are obvious examples of areas of potential help.
How wealthy white men “do the work” is also important! While donating money is helpful, it isn’t “the way” to systemically help others.
The Gates Foundation, for example, often throws money at a problem. The act as though they can “cure” something like malaria, or even malnutrition/lack of food security in a paternalistic, short-sighted way.
“Reparations” – are not a significant single financial payment to “re-pay” “for the harm done in the past”. Our police/justice/carceral system continues to add to the harm.
Wealthy white men – have lots of possibilities for doing a lot of good! They need to work with other wealthy and not so wealthy white men, not being “lone rangers” in their efforts.
They need to work – and partner – with wealthy white women. They need to partner and work with – upper-middle class white men.
They need to join the existing work towards systemic change – such as within The Black Lives Matter Movement and The Reproductive Justice Movement.
How they support other movements is important! Wealthy white men need to learn from the previous failures of others.
White – privileged people – have failed in many ways. During the mid-1960’s – the Black leadership of SNCC and the Black Panthers pushed white people to work in white communities to help end racism.
Privileged white women – feminists – failed to ally themselves with others as feminism’s influence grew. Heterosexual women – resisted the leadership of lesbians. White women resisted the efforts of Black and Brown and other BIPOC in their work.
When we do our work from positions of privilege, we need to respect, confront, and even honor – the discomfort(s) that we face in really doing our work! It is realistic and normal to recognize that we will face the anger of others. They are hurt by and are reacting in opposition to the privilege that we often take for granted.
We are used to being praised and supported for doing the work that we do! We may face criticism and even protests while doing our work.
We must lean into the work. Our support must come from others with our privilege. We must not dump responsibilities upon those we have hurt over the centuries.
Doing things such as I am suggesting (and more) isn’t easy, but it also isn’t “difficult”. It can and will be challenging!
I hope that privileged white men such as Garrett Neiman will engage and reach out to men like me, as well as many others – in caring, supportive ways.
They shouldn’t conclude that we all need money and publicity from them. Rather, they should have curiosity, asking deep questions. I can help them see others like Lynn Burnett – see: https://crossculturalsolidarity.com/bio/ who are trying to carry on the work of white “ancestors” such as Anne Braden and George Hrbek – see:
We don’t give up our privilege – by doing the right things. We help bring about change, that eventually may result both in lessoning our privilege, and in building a safer, more satisfying society, including for wealthy white men. As Garrett Neiman speaks of, those of us who are wealthy white men – will gain – from positive systemic change. It is Not a zero sum game!
I do not see any groundswell of efforts coming from those of us who have privilege! It appears, frequently, that there is an inverse proportion of “doing the work” – by what privilege we have. Less privileged people do the work – out of necessity. Those of us with privilege do proportionately less work, the more privilege that we have.
We can and must change this! Climate change, threats of a fascist takeover, and other results of a climate of fear and manipulation by some of the super-wealthy, and their supporters increasingly threaten us all.