Dr. Mike Obsatz, Professor Emeritus at Macalester College
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All White Men Are Not the Same
Every time I see all white men lumped together, it makes me sad. I have known thousands of white men over my almost 80 years on this planet. They have been co-workers, fathers, teachers, students, mentees, relatives, sons, community members, doctors, lawyers, judges, carpenters, plumbers, politicians, farmers, artists, barbers, executives and more. They have ranged in age from 16 to 95. Some have wealth. Others are poor. Many are in between.
There are men in all age groups -- adolescents, young adults, mid-lifers, seniors, elderly. There are men who are living fully, and men who are dying. There are men with families and children. There are men who have lived alone all of their lives.
Beyond the label "white male," come a variety of distinctions. There are men who are of minority religions. Not all Jewish white men are the same. They may come from Orthodox, Conservative,or Reform backgrounds. They may have differing beliefs and values. There are also gay, bi-sexual and transgender white men. Some of these have been severely oppressed. There are men with illnesses and disabilities. There are men with status and power. There are men with low status and no power. There are men with deformities, men with cancer and other diseases. There are white men who live in castles and white men who are homeless and starving.
Some of the sub-categories consist of lifestyle issues. Some men have been mercilessly bullied as children and adolescents. There are many men who have abused, harassed, abandoned and beaten. There are men from different regions of the country. And there are men who have gone through many losses -- loss of spouses, children, jobs, health, power, income, relatives.
There are men who continuously grieve their losses. There are men who don't know how to openly grieve. There are athletic men and clumsy, uncoordinated men.
There are handsome men and not-so-handsome men.
There are thin men and overweight men. There are men of varying abilities and intellectual capabilities. There are men who are compassionate, and men who are not. There are lovers, and there are haters.
Many men have been programmed to be tough, macho, independent, and stoic. Some men belong to groups, and others are isolated. Some men have feelings of worthiness, and others do not.
Spiritually, we have a wide range of men who experience spiritual connectedness and many who have none. We can find selfish white men and generous white men. There are white men who are in touch with many of their feelings, and other white men who do not have a clue.
So -- this is the just the beginning of looking at the complexity of one group which is often described as all alike -- and all benefiting from White Male Privilege.
White men are as different as snowflakes (which are white). Be careful when you talk about White Male Privilege because it is not as obvious as it may seem.
Many white men have been oppressed by other white men. Many white men know the fear and terror of being hunted and tortured. Some white men have been killed by other men. Some oppressed men oppress others. Some men who appear to "have it all" really deep inside hate themsevles and hate their lives.
The complexity goes on and on. It is sexist to lump all white men together. It is naive, simplistic, and also racist.