Michael, thank you so much for this response. First, I note that you appear to be the first person man to write a response. This is telling. Not only that, but your response to me reads as heartfelt, honest, and vulnerable, instead of terrified and defensive (as Alex, the only other man commenting so far, presents below, and as I’m sure other white men will do further down the line). You laid yourself out by giving us the complexity of observing this guy in his car and how in the end, your judgments of him also reflect some of your own issues. I feel lucky that you read my piece and that you felt called to respond. I want to call you “brother” because I recognize myself in you.
What I would say to your fantastic question (which I read as, in part: if we accept this analysis, what are we supposed to do with it, as it has deep implications for everything we think we are and the power we hold?) is first of all that as people of privilege fighting for freedom, we have to get comfortable with paradox.
What you are feeling (a sense of despair) I believe is actually a step towards freedom. Despair comes from not knowing the way forward. This is actually precisely my goal…to help my fellow straight white rich guys to come to a place of despair, where we are faced with the fact that there is no individual way out of this shitty system of horrors we’re born harnessed to. There is no amount of good works that I personally can do as an “ally” that will absolve me from systemic oppression.
To accept this is to give up so much of what is foundational to rich white guy culture in America — individualism, a belief in the power of our wills, self-determination, and meritocracy. These toxic beliefs are precisely what is screwing over the rest of the world! In comes paradox — my sense of despair and not knowing where to turn now means that I’m actually at a breakthrough point of the bullshit lies I’ve been raised on. I am on my way to freedom.
The caveat I’ll add is that people like you and I need support in moments like this. We cannot process despair alone. We need peers to hold us and support us and hold us accountable and tell us the truth and tell us we’re good enough. If we don’t have support, that despair you feel can turn toxic, can turn into what you call “head-in-the-sand” behavior. So I would ask if you have a support network of other people, especially other class-privileged white guys who “get it,” who can be there for you? If not, I want you to know that I’m available, even if it’s just over the phone. Guys like us, in moments like this, have to lean on one another. Deep thanks, again, for writing, Michael. And take my offer to connect seriously if it’s helpful. I would truly be grateful for the chance to connect.