Dear White Men
I’m out. I’m done.
I’m tired of pretending. Tired of trying to fit in. Tired of feeling that there must be something wrong with me because I don’t.
No, I don’t belong. The truth is, when you’re all together, talking the way you do, you may as well be speaking Zulu or Belarusian. I recognize some of the words but otherwise have no idea what you’re saying.
I’ve tried. When we’re together, I offer comment on whatever sport is currently in season. I try to adopt that white-guy way of talking, the one that says, “But hey, don’t think I actually give a damn.” (That is, whenever it’s not saying, “And if you don’t agree with me, you can go fuck yourself.”) I’ve tried to talk the talk, but I know from the way you look at me that I can’t pull it off. Now I’m not going to try anymore.
To be honest, I don’t know much of anything about football. Nor do I care. I can tell you what I remember about my personal history with football: JV coach screaming at me in practice when I didn’t tackle a teammate viciously enough; varsity coach screaming “pussies” at the entire team; the mild concussion I got one day in practice, when my sister’s classmates targeted me for “special treatment” as a kind of practical joke; the scorn and ridicule that my teammates heaped on me for my inept play during our spring game against the graduating seniors; and the taunts that eventually came my way in the hallways of our high school, after I quit the team. I’m glad other people can enjoy watching football, but for me it’s a dumb sport: I don’t understand how anyone can be so fiercely loyal to a professional football team, and I rue the many ways in which college football has twisted and perverted higher education in the United States.
All of which, I suppose, is just one way of saying that I reject your definition of masculinity. If it requires a sexualized fascination with guns and sports cars, I can’t have anything to do with it. If it demands hurtful hazing and bonding rituals, often involving the consumption of large amounts of alcohol, I don’t want anything to do with it. If it excludes any expression of true feeling and genuine enthusiasm for non-approved subjects — pretty much everything except work, sports, politics, hobbies, and weather — I’m not interested. If it’s founded on misogyny in any degree whatsoever, as it too often appears to be, I reject it. If it’s inseparable from chronic, unreasoning anger and the inescapable whiff of incipient violence, no thanks. Above all, if my claim to masculinity means that I’m supposed to support a presidential candidate whom even arch-conservative George Will recently called a(n) …
- Banana Republican,
- arrested-development adolescent,
- person of feral appetites and deranged sense of entitlement,
- human equivalent of a soiled sock,
- man who displays sexual loutishness,
- marvelously efficient acid bath, stripping away his supporters’ surfaces, exposing their skeletal essences,
- venomous charlatan,
- and nauseating individual,
… then I make no claim to masculinity.
Are there really this many of you (see below) who think that you’re getting a raw deal? 36 percent of people surveyed recently (all genders, all races and ethnicities) believe that men are being punished “just for acting like men” and 41 percent agree or mostly agree that society is becoming “too soft and feminine.” I assume that if this pollster had differentiated white men from other groups, those totals would be much higher:
A raw deal? Really? Look at these numbers on pay:
And to take another example, look at what happens when you shoot up or snort or whatever, compared to blacks:
So why are you so angry? What exactly is your grievance? It’s as if you’re walking into a hotel to check in, and the woman at the front desk says, “Welcome to Trump International, Mr. White Man! We’ve set aside two thirds of the entire hotel for you — just pick whatever rooms you want and let us know!” At which point you get red in the face and start pounding the counter, because it’s only two thirds.
Whatever your gripes are, there are plenty of other things that should concern you. The fact is, you’re increasingly flailing and failing and flunking. For example, women in this country are working much smarter and harder. It’s as plain as day:
Back to me for a moment. I suspect my dearly beloved father believed that because he was the only one in our family with an income, he was entitled to the perks and prerogatives that attach to men, and especially white men, in our society. As progressive as he was in so many ways, watching a television interview with a feminist could drive him up the wall.
He had that sense of entitlement, even though he wouldn’t have chosen to do anything else with his life, other than walk out of that house every weekday morning to go to his office. Like so many people, he wanted to have his cake and eat it, too. He loved practicing law, but he wanted credit for “having” to do it, too. He was the king of his little domain, but — oh! — how onerous and difficult it was to be king.
But these days, when I think back on those times, I remember with special respect and gratitude the black women who cared for us children, cleaned our house, cooked some of our meals. I remember that they sat with our dying relatives and ushered them out of this world. I remember that they left their own families on holidays to cook and serve elaborate meals to their “other” families. I remember that they succeeded in doing all that and more, much more, without revealing any sign of bitterness, and that they found it in their hearts to love the children of their own oppressors.
Yes, as we approach the conclusion of this long nightmare of an election season, this horror, this soul-bruising brush with fascism, I feel more and more that it’s these sorts of people to whom I choose to belong: the poor in spirit, those who mourn, the meek, those who hunger and thirst, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, and those who are persecuted for trying to do right.
To my fellow white men: You can join us. There’s nothing in your nature that makes you boorish, angry, or emotionally stunted. You can make different choices. But until you do, I’m going to continue down a different path.