The Role of White in Minority Issues: Why I Wrote While White Men Sleep
Difficult Issues and Strong Responses
I just started promoting my new novel, “While White Men Sleep” and I’ve already received strong emotional responses. My first reaction is to validate all of those feelings. In issues that are charged, there really are no wrong reactions. Your process is your process and not for me to judge. My intention when I first started this project was to remain mostly anonymous. I wanted to amplify unheard voices and draw attention to mostly forgotten historical events, not build myself up. But people want to know who I am and I think context is vital to our understanding of any issue. That’s why I’ve chosen to write this article. Honestly, this is the first and possibly last time I intend to talk about myself.
The Issue of White-Splaining
When I decided to write “While White Men Sleep” and my blog, I was very concerned about being just another white-splainer, using my privilege in society to tell everyone how it is. What is white-splaining? It’s like the man-splaining that irritates women so much. It’s where men have the arrogance enough to have comments and explanations for seemingly everything, even issues they have no direct experience for. An example of man-splaining is a man commenting on whether or not women should have abortions when he has never been pregnant or will ever have to make that choice for himself. In an ideal world, men would trust women to make that choice.
With white-splaining, white people, men in particular, will tell you all about the state of race relations in our country. I’m not saying that all their comments are wrong, it’s just that they are unnecessary. One of the characteristics of white privilege is that white voices get amplified above others. But if you were to really stop and listen, you would hear a chorus of voices from all people. Black voices, Hispanic voices, Asian voices, women’s voices, gay and lesbian voices… It’s a symphony of information that rarely makes it to the main stage because white men just won’t shut up!
Believe me, when I set out to write this book, I did not want to be a white-splainer or a man-splainer. But, as I thought about it more, me telling a little bit about myself and the process that I went through to get to this point, might help people understand “While White Men Sleep” more. It may also help to read to redefine some of the biases and prejudices and attacks that I’ve experienced into something more positive.
Racial Bias and White Privilege
I worked very hard to keep my biases and opinions out of “While White Men Sleep.” The ideas and concepts presented in my novel are based upon my understanding of many articles and books I’ve read and documentaries I’ve watched from minority perspectives. Not just racial minorities, but religious, scientific, sexual and economic minorities as well. You’ll find ideas from the Black Panthers including their manifesto from the 1960’s, Black Lives Matter articles, writings from Frederick Douglas, MOVE philosophy, plus opinions from the trio of Zeitgeist documentaries and other documentaries such as: The Corporation, Why We Fight, The God Who Wasn’t There, Black Whole and dozens of others.
In writing this novel, I saw myself as a quilter. I took ideas and perspectives from many different sources that may or may not be aware of each other and I quilted them together. I discovered a common thread in most of what I read and experienced and that was the devastation caused by the Military Industrial Complex. “While White Men Sleep” is laser focused on this Military Industrial Complex and how the unholy mix of money, religion, greed and racism are combining to bring our country and our world to the brink of destruction.
Who I am: My Background and Sexuality
So, what makes me qualified to be a quilter for all of these issues? First off, even though I am a white male, I have experienced some discrimination and hatred in my life. I am a bisexual male. I hate the label “bisexual” because there was never any period of time that I was in bisexual relationship. My relationships were gay or straight. In straight relationships, I have not experienced any issues at all. But When I was in gay relationships, which were about 12 years of my adult life, I experienced homophobia on several occasions.
I have been called a “faggot” and other names. I know what it feels like to go to a restaurant or a store with my partner and receive uncomfortable looks.
I know what it’s like, to some extent, to live in tension. I’m not saying that my limited experiences with hate and prejudice directed at me by any means compares to what the average black person, or other minority,, experiences in this country. But I do have at least a taste of what it’s like to not be wanted or accepted by people.
Even though I’ve had some of these negative experiences in gay relationships, I know that it barely compares to the struggles that others face. For example, I know that my struggle would have been much worse if I were a black male in a gay relationship. Even worse if I were a black lesbian. Even worse if I were poor black lesbian. Even worse if I were overweight and poor and black and a lesbian. Even worse if I were Muslim or transgendered.
There’s this theory called intersectionality. It’s where all of the characteristics that make up a person intersect to create their social status. At the top of the social chain is the white, healthy, heterosexual, rich, older Protestant male. When you start adding in some of these other factors, like black or gay or poor or overweight or drug problem or transgendered, that person’s social status is lowered.
Every step you take a step down on the social ladder, your life becomes harder in this country. At the bottom of our social chain, life is virtually unbearable. Transgendered people are committing suicide at the highest rate of any other group. Muslims are constantly targeted for their appearance and faith. These groups are at or near the bottom of our societal social chain.
I’ll never know what it’s like to be at the bottom of our societal social ladder. But, because of my own experiences dealing with homophobia, I understand that there is a BIG PROBLEM in our country. I am aware that minorities are struggling and their voices aren’t being heard. I am also aware of the IMPORTANCE of their voices being heard because one perspective is never enough to solve ANY problem.
Who I Am Part 2: Education and Experience
I have a Masters in Psychology. While earning that degree, I worked as a group home counselor where I helped children of many diverse backgrounds. I worked with former gang members, children with sociopathic personalities, children who had been molested or beaten, children who faced starvation and homelessness, children who’s mothers took drugs and other substances while pregnant, children from diverse ethnic and religious backgrounds…the list goes on and on with many of these factors intersecting.
For each child, I learned their life story and strategized with other counselors on how to best help that child.
I also interned as an elementary school counselor, a job coach for people needing help to learn a job, and I led a GLBTQ young men’s group. For that GLBTQ organization, I also volunteered on the board of directors. My experience in that organization led me to volunteering for an AIDS advocacy group.
I believe the best definition of any person is the choices they make in their day-to-day life. As you can see, I’ve chosen to get involved and to help.
I’VE EDITED LIKE CRAZY!!!
Even though I’ve experienced discrimination and I’ve worked with diverse people and organizations, I still have biases! Everyone does. That’s why I hired a professional copy editor who lived through many of the events described in my book and has experienced racial discrimination first hand. He helped me with the details. He caught me on many biases. One that comes to mind is I had my main character, Mandy Africa, at one point say that she hoped to return our country to the vision of our founding fathers.
A black woman leading a women’s revolution against the Military Industrial Complex probably wouldn’t think much of our white, mostly slave-owning founding fathers. She would have her OWN heroes.
I think that this bias came from my respect for Hamilton’s writings and his contributions to the Federalist papers. Still, not okay! Mandy would have different heroes.
My copy editor’s feedback was invaluable. But, I didn’t stop there. After I completed the copy edit, my feminist girlfriend tore into “While White Men Sleep.” She caught me on many gender biases! She helped me to present the female characters and their interactions in a much more believable way.
“While White Men Sleep” still isn’t perfect. But with the help of my copy editor and girlfriend, I feel my biases have been ironed out so that the story can shine through.
The Role of White in Minority Issues
There isn’t a clear answer to how white people should get involved with minority issues. But I think the first step for any white person is to CARE. These issues of inadequate housing, poor food quality, discrimination, suicide, substance abuse, murder, etc. are NOT just minority issues. They are all of our issues. Yes, they affect minorities more, but we are all responsible for the suffering of any one human being.
If someone is hurting, we HAVE to HELP THEM. I feel like most white people in this country would care more about a starving kitten stuck in a tree than a black homeless woman sleeping on the street. It’s a very sad commentary on our society, but I feel like that’s where we are.
White people have lived with such privilege, most don’t even notice the suffering around them BECAUSE THEY DON’T HAVE TO. Privilege creates separation. White people don’t have to engage with the suffering. They don’t have to see a human face or experience the difficult human emotions associated with suffering. For most white people, it’s a situation of “us” and “them” and that bullshit has to stop!
I am not saying that white people never suffer or that white people are never minorities low on the societal social ladder. I am saying that, in general, white people have great difficulties engaging with the suffering of most other minorities, ESPECIALLY racial, religious and sexual.
The rich white people in charge have created a society where suffering minorities are relegated to certain neighborhoods or towns. So, the first step is to break down those invisible walls.
How you do this is dependent on your skill set. For me, it is to listen and amplify voices with my writing. For another white person, it may to volunteer at a shelter or kitchen, or organize quality food distribution from local farms, or help create websites or newspapers written from a minority perspective. White people could also group investors together to build housing, or help with a community clean up, help create medical care, work with politicians to bring back the Dreamers Act, or create a council to discuss reparations for slavery. There are so many ways!
But you can’t ignore these issues any more! Our society is only as strong as the health and well being of the individuals living in it. We all have to step up and do our part.
Listen. Respect. Build relationships. GET INVOLVED!
A Quick Commentary on Race
I wrote an article a few weeks back about the preposterous five race theory. This theory postulates that there are five human races. Genetically speaking, that is NOT the case. There is only ONE human race. Genetically, we are all virtually identical. The alleles that code for the thickness of our hair follicles, skin pigmentation and other physical characteristic that many attribute to race only make up a VERY SMALL part of our total DNA. Not enough to create separate races!
The conclusion is you have just as much chance of being genetically similar OR dissimilar to your neighbor who looks like you as you do to someone living on the other side of the world who looks very different.
You just can’t know anything about someone based on their looks. You have to get to know them.
We have created too much of our cultures around our geography and our appearances. It’s time to destroy the cultural myths and start a ONE PEOPLE, ONE WORLD philosophy.
You can read the entire article here: http://alderinwrites.com/genetically-speaking-there-is-only-one-human-race/
I hope this article is helpful in understanding the context behind “While White Men Sleep.” I have written a provocative novel that confronts issues of race, religion, and the Military Industrial Complex head-on often with bloody and difficult results. But behind the story is a writer with a big heart working hard to amplify voices and do his part to break down barriers.
Part Two, “While Civilians Sleep,” will delve deep into the US military and powerfully illustrate the heart behind a world-wide revolution. Stay tuned!