As has happened many times now, I read the news this weekend of the latest mass shootings.
It’s of course not how anyone should be starting their days, nor ending their days. I feel moved to share some reflections as a white, working class, queer femme who grew up in close proximity to the ways white supremacy and patriarchy twists psyches and creates violence. I want to share these reflections for the purpose of encouraging more proactivity around men organizing other men within RG and well beyond.
The first mass shooting I remember was Columbine. I thought it was a fluke, a terrible one-time event. We were all told the particular archetype of young, white, likely middle class boys who felt ostracised and disillusioned with the world. My response was to move farther from, not towards the people who fit that bill at my school. And when after Columbine, my school started having more police presence, it seemed like the cops also didn’t know how to engage that archetype either, instead opting to search that backpacks and lockers of mostly Black and Brown students.
What I didn’t learn in school was that the formation of this country is a history of mass killings carried out by white men. From settling the first colonies to reconstruction, white men acting individually, in militias or armies have enacted a long legacy of terror largely directed against people of color. So when I read about these shootings and many others over the last few years where a white man, full of projection about what is meant to be his that others have taken away, makes the choice to take strangers lives it makes me think about this long legacy of violence he is continuing. The throughline of generations of white men who have laid the pathway for the space between alienation and annihilation to be terribly terribly small for some.
I grew up in close proximity to these men, men whose desperate need to blame others for what they didn’t have compelled them towards violence and the twisted logic of white supremacy. I grew up with poor white men whose access to power was mostly over the women and children in their lives. They fought uneven fights not unlike these shooters do. It’s no coincidence that one of these shooters and others before him have a history of misogyny and making violent threats against women – men’s entitlement to power and domination disproportionately comes at the cost and safety of cis and trans women and femmes.
Movements for justice need to squarely name white supremacy, patriarchy, and toxic masculinity as the root causes and underlying pattern behind these acts of mass killing.
The upper class white men creating policies that separate families, desecrate the earth’s sacred sites, criminalize abortion, make affordable housing scarce and dangerous jobs plentiful are also acting out of the same violent, racist, and sexist tradition. Their status just affords them more distance from the suffering created. These elite white men reenacting the lessons about power over others that were handed down to them create a tremendous and lasting impact. And yet, it is indeed a small number of men playing these roles.
Through speaking directly to their confusion, anger, and fear the far right has a large and growing base of young, college educated white men who are being very actively organized into conservative politics. It is of course very appropriate for social justice groups to center the leadership of people of color and cis and trans women, and yet, groups – especially those who organize around privilege – not engaging more white men has a limiting effect. Movements for justice need to squarely name white supremacy, patriarchy, and toxic masculinity as the root causes and underlying pattern behind these acts of mass killing. And, as appropriate, we on the Left need to do the hard work of turning towards white men as a base to be transformed, fundraised, and organized towards racial, economic, and gender justice. I so appreciate the efforts in this direction, including SURJ’s men’s caucus and RG’s Men’s Gender Justice Giving Circle, which is working in partnership with the Third Wave Fund on a campaign to raise $46,000 for gender justice in honor of the 46th anniversary of Roe v. Wade.
White men have to do their healing work. It is pivotal to stopping so much of the gendered and racialized violence that surrounds us–be it sexual, physical or emotional. We all have healing to do in this world in order to hold our small piece of the whole; find your work and do it with integrity. To not know what you’re feeling, how to have meaningful connection or how to be in your body puts yourself and others in danger. White men, across class, have to do their healing work. There is a duty to turn towards one another with genuine exploration of what is needed to end these epidemics of violence. To create cultures of belonging that do not rely on replications of harm.
Wealthy white men have set the foundation for control over other’s bodies and the land that dominates our culture today. Patriarchy was a necessary precursor to capitalism and undoing it is a necessary part of economic and racial justice. There is an implicit and explicit invitation here, for those white men who are of this lineage, what are your options for how to disrupt it? What healing can be found together that makes a different reality possible? I asked one of my teachers once how there can be much suffering, and she replied that suffering by nature will perpetuate itself until there is intentionality brought to ending it, and this intentionality she described as true awakening.
**In this writing the term “men” is used specifically to describe cisgender men whose conditioning greatly increases the likelyhood of violence as a response to threat or discomfort. This, of course, is not to say that all people, and in particular white cisgendered women do not have plenty of awakening to do as well, we certainly do.
Additional RG resources that address some of these issues:
- From Adam Roberts, RG National Organizer, “From Prep School to Class Traitor”
- From Iimay Ho, RG Executive Director, “Smash the Cisheteropatriarchy: Gender Justice and Resource Generation”
- RG webinar, “Privilege, Toxic Masculinity and Private Schools”
- RG webinar, “Shadow Money: How the Right Funds Regressive Movements”