For those of you who know me… Yes, another blog, but I hope that this one will stick and become a place for me to document what comes up in my exploration of what it is to be a cis-gendered heterosexual white man. I was encouraged recently to truly explore, deeply, what it is to be a white male. I will take a few moments to present myself and also what I am hoping to discuss on this blog; my next entries will then vary back and forth from journal style to a more academic exploration of concepts.
I don’t think that I am any wiser than anyone else, but I was wondering what I could do to help bring awareness in these unsettling times. Racism, or fighting white supremacy, has always been a cause that I have always engaged in on a personal and social level (I started an Anti Racist Action chapter almost twenty years ago, but slowly pulled away once I started struggling with some of the politics in the movement). But I have always deeply identified as an Anti-Racist; it is only in the last couple of years that I noticed that I was acting from a deeply privileged perspective. This summer I found a picture of me speaking at an Anti-Racism rally and noticed that everyone there was white; that image struck me, it really made me question how I was doing the work (on a personal and social level). I know that fighting racism and white supremacy is not just a white issue, so why was there absolutely no diversity in the group that I was attracting with my events and actions? This was a hurtful realization, but it was a necessary one to help me shift my practice and my understanding of what it is meant to be an ally to people of colour.
Since my time in the Anti-Racist movement I have developed an important dharma practice; this practice has really changed the way that I view the world and also how I walk in it… What the buddhist communities and teachers have given me is a more inquisitive practice into what we call “white privilege” and the notion of intersectionality (I know that it was first coined by Kimberlé Crenshaw in the context of how Black women are often marginalized because they were not fitting into one category or the other, but once someone comes up with such an incredible concept it spreads quickly to other social movements). Buddhadharma practice is about liberation; often people will start meditation or dharma practice to find some comfort in their lives (which is fine if that is all that you want out of your practice), but I truly believe that the purpose of this practice is about liberating ourselves from our suffering which includes oppression rooted in our ignorance of white supremacy and all the blind spots that we as white males maintain and navigate with in the world. I think that it is important to state here that white supremacy hurts all of us – not just the historically oppressed.
This examination is messy, and it can get really uncomfortable at times; we also have to accept that it might always be uncomfortable, but be willing to always lean into the discomfort to grow and learn. I know it was extremely difficult for me to realize that even if I believed I was a great ally; I was acting from a place of white privilege (the realization that I had huge blindspots were really unsettling at first) and that I still held deeply conditioned ideas and jugements that were racist. I started to noticed that I had certain ticks or reactions to certain people in the street that were a result of my conditioned mind. I honoured my difficult emotions – my anger towards myself, the disappointment that I was not the ally I once believed I was, the despair that washed over me; I sat with the rawness, the pain, the discomfort. It had never been so urgent for me to deepen my practice, to drop into the stillness and cultivate metta for myself. If I want to know my true self I know that I can not look away at what I find hard or ugly; I must learn to dive into those dark areas with love and care.
I will be back soon with another post; hopefully this will be the beginning of a great record of the dialogue with myself and my conditioned mind. I hope that my realizations bring some wisdom that can help you wake up to your true identity… We are all in this together, let’s not be afraid to be vulnerable and honest, I know that I have made the pledge to be as open with all of you as I will be able to muster. It is our duty to work towards our liberation, let us not forget that it is our birthright! So let’s peel away the layers of our identity together and get to the source of who we truly are.