My greatest fear is that I am inadequate. I’ve always strived for perfection; trying to be the best at what ever it is I am trying to do. This is why I don’t like to bowl, I’m terrible and I don’t care to improve. I am incredibly competitive and because I can rarely break 100; I stop trying.
I spent this past week at the Social Justice Training Institute (SJTI) and though I read in the materials that it was going to be a lot of self-work, I figured that meant improving the ways in which we operate as social justice educators and advocates. Yes and; as some of the fantastic facilitators would say.
I was in my head space; a safe space for me. I have a lot of education and knowledge, and so when I saw things not going the way I thought they should I got caught up in critiquing the process instead of critiquing myself. I learned more this week that I have in my years of working for change and working with students.
I was critical on the idea of that SJTI could be a healing place, for white folks particularly. I went in on Monday. And Tuesday. And Wednesday not seeing how I as a white cis man with all of these privileges could need healing! Hell! As Louis C.K. says, being a white man in society is like playing a video game on the easiest setting. Yes, and. Yes I have a ton of privilege, but white supremacy has hurt me as well. Not in the same ways, for sure, but it has.
The largest part of this has been emotional distance. Kathy Obear, one of the facilitators spoke to how we as white people, have given part of our humanity to subscribe to the ideas and concepts of white supremacy. I eat and swallow my emotions, particularly negative emotions. This is certainly not healthy, and I knew this, in my head; but I wasn’t getting this in my heart. I stay in my head space; it’s safe.
I had a moment with some of the other students present in a small group where we were talking about police. I have spoken about them here before in reference to Louis Althusser’s concepts of repressive state apparatuses; but never really emotionally connected. I hate cops. I have a visceral reaction when cops are behind me on the road and I am driving. Not because I am doing anything illegal, but just terrified of them. I’ve known for sometime that this is illogical for me as a white man as men of color are more likely to get pulled over and harassed, but I had a moment where I let this acknowledgment filter though my heart and I finally connected that though I am terrified of getting pulled over, it’s a financial danger for me. Typically the worst that will happen is a ticket. Some of the other students in my core group, when they get pulled over, money is the last thing on their mind. Their very lives are at risk.
The greatest thing that I learned at SJTI33 is that I need to reflect more, and sincerely reflect, and to not be afraid of my emotions. Emotions make us strong. Audre Lorde taught my head that, but I didn’t get that in my heart. For a long time I have been working through some ideas regarding healthy masculinity. I knew in all of my being that the patriarchy and male dominance hurts men and male identified folks, and has hurt me. Not in the same ways that it hurts women and women identified people, but that there was ways that it affected men and men identified folks. I finally connected that white supremacy has hurt me. Not in the same ways that it has hurt people of color, but it has and I too need healing time.
Perhaps it’s true that my greatest fear is not that I am inadequate but that I am strong beyond measure. The healing has started and will continue to make me a better person in all aspects of my life.