Regarding Us Flawed White Guy Allies

I’ll start by saying what this isn’t. This isn’t #NotAllMen. This isn’t whataboutism. This isn’t me going out of my way to prove how right I am or how wrong anyone else is. What I want to do is point out a danger in the ongoing social justice war.

I am a Caucasian, heterosexual, male. I share this commonality with most mass shooters, most rapists, most child molesters, most murderers, and most of the worst people in the history of humanity. The #MeToo movement is largely due to the terrible behavior of people who share my gender, my race, and my sexual orientation. This is not an opinion, but sad fact and I recognize it as such.

When I see that it is Caucasian men in positions of power who are victimizing women, when I see that it is Caucasian men in police uniforms murdering unarmed black men with impunity, when I see that it is a Caucasian man in the White House threatening the world with nuclear war while lamenting about how much he wants to have sex with his daughter, I am ashamed and want to do whatever I can to help victims of these terrible things. So mostly I listen. I listen to women tell their stories. I listen to people of color when they tell me something is racist. I listen to transgender and non-heterosexual individuals and their experiences. I know that I can never truly feel what they feel, but I’d like to understand and so I listen.

I also speak up. When I encounter bad behavior or encounter someone accepting or encouraging bad behavior I speak up. When I hear someone make a weak argument based on hate or fear I try to come up with an argument based on fact and reason. When someone I agree with comes up with a weak argument I tell them how they could make the argument stronger. When there’s a chance to inform or debate a smart person I usually take that chance.

I also fail. I fail to make my point. I fail to keep emotion out of it. I fail to keep my temper. I fail to have all the relevant facts. I fail to see things from another perspective. Sometimes I fail to allow that I might be wrong about something.

And the problem with that is that the moment I fail, all too often people who I agree with 95% of the time suddenly pounce. Suddenly I’m told I’m encouraging rape culture or I’m racist or I’m sexist or I’ve failed some sort of purity test that has now made me ‘the enemy’. And as luck would have it, I’m a Caucasian, heterosexual male like all the other bad guys.

Now this is not me saying, ‘Please feel sorry for us straight white guys.’ or any sort of ‘poor me’ bit. As behaviors go, if that’s the worst us straight white guys get, then we’re lucky. My concern has little to do with me or how I’m treated. I can take it and I don’t care too much. My concern is that doing this alienates people who would otherwise be allies. But when you call people assholes and tell them they’re part of the problem, they aren’t likely to back you when you want a solution.

I can recognize that the behavior of a few is not the same as the behavior of many. I can separate cause from people who support the cause. But ultimately if every time a straight Caucasian guy like myself says something we are told to shut up and go away, we’ll do just that and you will lose. You cannot win in the fight for equality if you refuse to accept flawed allies. You simply can’t.

I’m not going to make the right choice every time. Neither are you. Accept that and allow your allies to mess up. Allow them to say things you don’t agree with without deciding they must be the enemy. We all make mistakes. Those mistakes rarely define who we are or what we represent or care about. We don’t need to be in perfect harmony to be on the same side of a fight.

– Jack Cameron

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