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A White Man Seeks Understanding

The demonstration and subsequent violence in Charlottesville on August 11 was a tragedy. But certainly not everyone who attended, from either faction, was bent on violence. There were those who were simply looking for a voice, a way to be heard. It has been said that there is a rise in the membership of such groups as Neo-Nazis, White Nationalists and White Supremacy groups. If these organizations are so despised and their message is so despicable then why is their membership increasing? What’s going on in our country? I don’t have an explanation for everything that occurred at that protest, but I do have an inkling of why these groups are growing and what is going on with some white guys -- being a white guy myself.

To understand what’s happening with a lot of white guys, one has to take a brief look at history. For centuries, we white guys have been the dominate players, race and gender, in almost all of American life – social, political, economical and religious. Whether it was right or wrong is not the issue. That’s the way it has been. Whether we wanted it that way or not is not the issue. That’s the way it was and we conformed to that system. We were the majority of Americans who fought in the Civil War, World War I, WW II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam conflict. We fought for our families and for freedom. White men were the breadwinners. We were the executives, the preachers and priests, the Senators, and the Governors. We were the welders, plumbers and farmers. We even had words created for us. Words like Congressmen, businessmen, fishermen, mailmen and mankind crept into our vocabulary. We were important. Like it or not, this is who we were. It was our identity. We grew accustomed to our role. It became our tradition.

Recently, things have changed. For many who felt slighted and “unequal” in the past, the change did not come quickly enough. However, for us white guys, the changes have been abrupt. Our world has been invaded by Blacks, Mexicans and females; each group struggling to achieve a higher status and a more valued position in every aspect of life. We were thrown into a tailspin. We were faced with a dilemma. On one hand, we understood the desires and needs of those who sought greater acceptance, and we sincerely wanted to see them fulfill their dreams; yet on the other hand, we wanted and needed desperately to maintain our own status and identity. As a result of this conflict, we found ourselves in no-man’s land. Our traditional identity was fading. Our role was being threatened. It was not so much that we treasured our identity, it was just that that role was the only one we knew. Suddenly, it seemed as if that responsibility were forcibly being taken away! If that was no longer to be our identity, then what role were we to play? What role are we to play? How do we fit into this new system? While others are excited about the expanding opportunities offered to them, psychologically, we white men find ourselves questioning our place in society. Questioning our identity, and yes, for many, questioning what it means to be a white man in the 21st century.

This is not a small conundrum. This might seem like an insignificant issue to some, but believe me, it is anything but insignificant! It is a major overhaul of the definition of masculinity – of white masculinity. Do men of other races feel the impact of the gender conflict? Perhaps they do, but the onslaught of white men has been undertaken by many factions. We are threatened by race and gender. What are we to do? How do we cope?

This crisis suffered by white men is manifesting itself in many ways throughout society. Relationships have suffered and businesses have faltered as men have become withdrawn. Confusion permeates our lives. We have to be careful not to offend anyone. Do we pull a chair out for a lady or open the door for her? If we do will she be offended? Do we compliment her appearance? If we do will she file a sexual harassment lawsuit against us. Can we hire a more qualified white applicant over a less qualified black applicant or will it result in a discrimination suit? What can we say? How do we behave? How honest can we be?

Women’s Rights, Black Lives Matter, Equal Pay for Equal Work, Immigration Reform, everyone has a group. Everyone is crying for equality. Everyone’s demanding a bigger slice of what the white man has been doing for centuries. Everyone’s blaming the white man for their oppression. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not looking for sympathy. I’m just pointing out a reality that other people might not have recognized.

It’s time we white guys say what we feel – like everyone else does. We are weary of being blamed for everything. We are tired of being the brunt of jokes. We are tired of losing our jobs because of quotas and social pressure. White men have inherited our role from those who came before us. It was the role handed to us by society. It has evolved over thousands of years. Yes, we have fought to maintain it because it is all that we know. Now, we are told that we must change. But change is difficult. It requires psychological adjustment that can’t be made quickly.

Confused and lost in how to act or react to situations, and unsure of where we belong in this new society, we have become frustrated and, yes, in some cases, angry. “Slow down!” we want to cry, “give us a minute to find a place where we fit in.” But we can’t cry out because we are the oppressors. We are the culprits. We are the villains who are responsible for all of the inequality that exists, and if we vocalize our frustration, we only further villainize ourselves. Some of us are on the verge of exploding with frustration and so we seek to speak out. But who will listen? An individual voice is seldom heard. So, many who seek to be heard search for a group. Everyone else has one why not us? And yet, we have no group, no highly visible organization. Sure, there are groups. Unpopular groups. Groups like Neo-Nazis and White Supremacy, White Nationalists and White Lives Matter. And while they do not express our views and our concerns specifically, and while they might even profess things that we do not agree with, they are all we have -- the only voice to express our anxiety over the changes that we are facing and the attacks of those who we perceive to be threatening to possess our territory. Of course there are radicals in these groups who are dangerous to America. There are dangerous radicals in all groups. I’m not making an excuse for the actions of those organizations or those factions, I’m merely offering some of the reasons why these groups might be growing and why there is so much discontent among the white male population. We are simply looking for a voice, a place to be heard, a place to vent our frustration. Instead of joining these groups, why not start your own, you might ask. Because we don’t start groups. We don’t ask for help until we are injured and we don’t ask for directions until we’re lost. That’s probably not going to change so don’t hold your breath! But we are desperately trying to adjust to this new social structure -- to discover our new identity. And we will. Just give us some time. And rest assured that we will find our place. We will redefine our role in society. And when we do, we will be as efficient at accomplishing our purpose as we have been for centuries past: caring for our families and building our nation.



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