Noah Berger / AP Photo
Staying resilient in the fight for liberation from white and male supremacies isn’t easy. People of color have endless reasons to hold on to low expectations of us white people; likewise, women have endless reasons to maintain low expectations of men.
I am among the multitudes of women betrayed by men in whom I had put my faith. I have been utterly disappointed and harmed. At the same time, I have to acknowledge how devastating it is when a friend of color who had put her faith in me feels disappointed and harmed by me—in part because of my unexamined whiteness. It is hard to bear that stark truth: knowing I caused harm, knowing I fell short. I have been unconsciously playing my part in an elaborate, unjust system set up to benefit me—including keeping me oblivious to the harm I cause and “entitling” me to remain unaccountable.
To move toward consciousness and accountability is both destabilizing and exhilarating. I am unsteady and easily exhausted as I increase my awareness of white supremacy, a cruel system people of color have had to learn to navigate from birth. Strengthening my resilience to do antiracist work is something I must do so I can effectively listen, see injustice, acknowledge that I cause harm—and that all white people cause harm—and take action to achieve a collaborative, collective liberation.
I want to believe that anyone with male privilege can likewise show up with a keen desire to build anti-oppression resilience in himself—not just for me and other people who don’t hold gender-based privilege—but also for themselves. Staying true to this belief takes a considerable amount of resilience since I have more examples of why I shouldn’t believe in men than why I should.
Similarly, I want to have faith that white people—including white men—can break free of the supremacy strongholds grounded in institutionally embedded and socially constructed fears (e.g., fear of the feminine and of Blackness). When fears like these are permitted to fester and dictate the operations of institutions, police officers kill Americans of African descent with impunity and Black, trans women are murdered at alarming rates. Building resilience to see how I am implicated in white and male supremacy is urgent, difficult and liberating.
I am motivated to continue down this long road, a road that may or may not lead to social liberation, because A) resilience is power and B) I have very little interest in the alternative: living in an unconscious white person’s prison, clinging to my fears and justifications bolstering my false comfort of delusion. What would it look like to build this kind of resilience in our institutions, communities, relationships with others, and ourselves? How can we together face and transform both white supremacy and male supremacy?
Voice Male started out as the newsletter for the Men’s Resource Center (MRC) for Change in Amherst, Massachusetts, whose mission was to hold men accountable for men’s violence and to nurture men to develop their interior lives. In that spirit, I find myself asking: how do I increase my awareness of my inner violence (keeping myself within the prison of white and male supremacy) and outer violence (keeping others within the prison of white and male supremacy)? How do I bear what I will come to see? And finally, how do I integrate these awarenesses so that I can see that the work of liberation is not only clear and urgent but is my life’s purpose? How can you? How can any of us? While we all may have other goals in life, what is the point of any of them if we continue to unconsciously hold ourselves captive to male and white supremacy?