Tag Archives: Racism

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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When Your Family Tree Includes Bigotry

Up until recently I had two Facebook profiles. One was my ‘public’ page. (You can find it here at http://facebook.com/jackcameron.) The other was my ‘personal’ page. Much of my family does not share my political or religious views and they do not much like it when I share what I think about these topics but I try to do the family thing and keep in touch. So I made a page where I can update them on family stuff without offending their delicate sensibilities.

A few weeks ago I chose to take down my personal Facebook page. This was the result of accepting something fundamental about much of my extended family and I feel like I should share it.

My grandfather on my mother’s side once trained his black lab dog to bark at black people. Growing up I heard relatives use racial slurs in conversation without any discomfort. I didn’t have a black friend until high school. Neither my brother nor I have ever had a long-term romantic relationship with someone who was another race.  I come from a white family that has been and in some cases still is entirely comfortable with racism.

This is not to say that we are all racists. There are those of us who recognize the mistakes of past generations and have moved past the bigotry that was commonplace in society in the previous century. I have family members who I love very much who have managed to become more open to other races, cultures, religions, sexual orientations, and lifestyles. I have other family members I love who are unable to move on and remain bigoted. They likely will remain bigoted the rest of their lives.

So when I called my brother out on my personal page for his endorsement of a bigoted candidate, I was met with a fair amount of hostility from some family members because I had previously said I would not talk about politics. It struck me that they were more upset about this than they were about my brother spouting his support for a racist Presidential Candidate. They were more comfortable with racism than they were with conflict.

From one perspective, they were right. I said I would not talk politics and religion and I did. It was then that I realized as a vocal liberal Democrat and atheist my social media page should reflect those values. My personal page was not really personal at all. It was a placeholder to placate people I’m related to by blood but who have very little in common with me. If they weren’t related to me, they wouldn’t be my friends. In other words, my personal page was essentially a page to make the bigoted members of my family comfortable with my online presence. As soon as I realized that was what I was doing, I took the page down.

It’s okay though. The family members I know and love I keep in touch with online and offline. The others are just people I’m related to. I’m under no obligation to make them comfortable. This is especially true for the bigots. I am me. I won’t pretend to be somebody else. If that offends anyone, I don’t much care.

– Jack Cameron