I’m tired, but I have no reason to complain.

Regardless of the results of the past presidential election, I have been so damn tired. So tired because people are being hurt and oppressed while others are blind and refuse to see the whole picture. As someone who works in student affairs, I have become emotionally attached to the current state of our country because my students are diverse and are affected differently. What I call “empathy overload” has been a label to describe myself over the last year. The sad thing is, it hasn’t always been that way. Even sadder, I am a white, cis gender, male. I have literally a buffet of privilege to choose from. Why should I complain?

I have done a lot of reflection, questioning, and journaling over the last year, trying to better understand myself and why I am feeling the way that I am. During this time, I have dove deeper into my identities, my lenses I use in the world, my biases, my blindspots, my everything. Each time I stop to reflect more questions come up. Each time I sit down and ask why I am so tired I keep coming back to my identities.

I have a really great friend who is super wise in the ways of identities, power of privilege and oppression, and she said something real powerful: oppression hurts everyone and the liberation of the oppressed is something we all gain from. It wasn’t exactly like that as I do not have a way with words so look past my butchering of her beautiful words. I agree with what she said and we all lose when people are oppressed and have a lot to gain from a society that is liberated and free. I say all of this because I think of so many student affairs professionals who share privileged identities like me that have done what I have done (and still do because privilege is so over powerful and tricky): centering myself in the situation and making it all about me. What am I talking about? Well since you asked….

Remember when I said I have struggled to understand to say why I feel so tired, so hurt, so over this recent election? Well I argue that because I wasn’t able to truly identify why it was I felt the way I was without centering myself lead me to this notation that we as white folk, white folk that want to do good, white folk that say forget being an ally and want to be an accomplice, still have tendencies to center ourselves. When we feel the empathy, the tug on the heart strings of the recent election, why do we feel the way that we do? White folk don’t suffer from oppression the way our marginalized friends and family do. NOT EVEN CLOSE. Yet we shed our white tears (another blog soon to come on the fallacy of white tears), grab our baby pins, wave our “SafeZone” stickers and think we are victims too and we are here to support. However, we are doing what we try to avoid: we make it about us, our whiteness, our ability to save and help, us, we, I.

Now, this is not to say my views are correct, that everyone does this, but I argue it is true. Until we as white folk can clearly connect why the way we feel the way we do. Until we as white folk can see how our tears, our protests, and attention seeking is still trying to center ourselves. Until we realize we are taking space from those of our oppressed and marginalized friends and family. We have a lot of work to do. So next time, before you complain about “being so tired”, being drained, so over this election, reflect on why you feel the way you do. If you are white, why do you care about the hate crimes of your Black, Latinx, Muslim, and so many other friends? If you are white and “are so shocked by this election”, why is that? Can you clearly articulate why? Or are you just reflecting the emotions of those around you, centering your whiteness, and not realizing your privilege is showing.

We as white folk have to get our shit together. We as white folk have to do work. We as white folk have to stop centering ourselves, stop trying to save people, and start doing real work. And you can’t do real work until you understand yourself. It is not an easy journey. This journey has no mid-way point, no quick fix, no happy story. This journey is long and hard and will not end until all are liberated. So I ask you my dear white folk: why are you shedding your white tears, why are you “so tired”, why do you even care? Answer this without centering yourself completely before you start putting on your baby pins and SafeZone stickers.


White is White: You can’t cover up what the world sees

“In addition to specifying one’s European ancestry, and reclaiming lost family traditions, this shift (of distancing self from whiteness) can also be understood as a way to distance oneself from claims made by people of color about some imagined “standard white American,” and from political assertions that whites have “unearned” privilege or are responsible for disadvantaged position of minorities.
-Jennifer L. Eichstedt, Problematic White Identities and a Search for Racial Justice.
When the light is flashed on us white folk about our white privilege, we come up with various excuses: “oh I’m working class, I don’t get the privilege because I had to work for everything I’ve gotten” or “that’s only for straight people” or “no I’m actually Italian on my mom’s side, not white”. While it may seem impossible to put all whiteness on the same level, it is the same in this system of power and privilege where white folk win and folk of color loose. We can’t pick and choose what identity trumps our whiteness – white is visible, white wins. And this is something we need to own up to.
Us white folk also try and see persecution that happens to us as well within these excuses. “Oh I grew up as the only white kid in my neighborhood” or “Oh I was the only Jewish kid in my high school”. Simply because you were the minority in one example doesn’t mean you are THE minority that looses in a system of power and privilege. This is like saying reverse racism is a think. IT IS NOT A THING. How can white people who control it all observe pervasive and damaging racism? That would imply that people of color have power over us white folk WHEN THEY DON’T.
Now, that’s not to say you can’t be shot because you’re white or be picked last to play a pick up game because you’re white. That can happen to anyone at anytime. What the point we white folk need to understand is that we DON’T LIVE IN CONSTANT FEAR that it will happen simply because of the color of our skin. We can push people of color out of our neighborhoods or simply move. We can send our children to expensive private schools. We can simply work for another company. White people can do whatever, whenever if we really wanted to.
Why are there so many success stories of white folk “making it rich” and so many stories of people of color being “gang bangers and criminals”? Us white folk need to wake up because this is not just, this is not freedom, this is not the world I want to live in and neither should you. It will be hard because we white folk benefit from this system. Why give up something that is helping us win? I don’t have the answer to that, yet. I will grow and learn more about my whiteness and hopefully one day understand what it is to be a true ally for equality. But I do know I want to do what I can to help end this system that kills and destroys so many people.
If I had to summarize it all it would be this: It’s not “The American Dream”, it’s “The White American Dream”.