Trustee Buchanan’s outburst at a recent Oak Park Village Board meeting, to the effect that two white male trustees had to shut up about their hesitancy over the use of the term “systems of oppression” was most remarkable. What was crazy about it was the idea that two white men who had been elected by a majority of voters should somehow have been recused from participating in the debate. Such a concept might cause Lenin to smile but seems far-fetched to me. In fairness, Ms. Buchanan apologized for what she said, but now we all know what she thinks.
This dust-up has caused me to think more about being a white male, and the guilt I’m told I must carry. I’m sorry, but I don’t feel guilty. I was born in 1949 so anything bad men did before that cannot be put on me. And there were a lot of bad men. I had nothing to do with primogeniture.
In 1949, I was thrown into the world from white parents, including a white male father who provided me with a genetic package and home environment of which I had no choice. As I grew up, I had a mother and a sister and related to lots of non-white human beings. I liked some of them, but not all of them.
I became aware that some people of all colors and genders had it worse than I did — and some had it better. Eventually I became aware of the powerful changes that were sweeping society as women, persons of color, and gays sought to be more included in the American Dream. I read books, took classes and discussed these important issues. Like most people, my thinking evolved and I came to support liberal causes. Having lived 70 years, I am pleased how much better the world is for many in these groups of people. Cultural change takes a while because, well, it is culture.
So like Popeye I am what I am — a white male — but I am so much more than that.
I am a father, grandfather, husband, brother and friend. These people mean so much more to me than my color or gender.
I am a skeptic, optimist, realist, and humanist who believes only in the natural world.
I am a flawed human being, egoist, and smart ass who prizes authenticity.
I have felt pain, sorrow, joy, fear, humility and wonder. I have observed similar emotions in my friends, family and non-white human beings. I believe my humanity is more important than the sorting of me into a class, then attributing the worst characteristics of the worst members of that class to me. This identity politics is a construct of the political parties and media for purposes of getting votes and viewers. It is lazy and simplistic.
Of course I’m woke. I have lived in Oak Park since 1976 for Christ’s sake. Of course I don’t know what it is like to actually be a woman, gay, or black, but then those folks don’t know what it is like to actually be a white male. So what?
So I do not feel guilty. Of course I have regrets, and of course I would like to become a better person. I believe most everyone feels as I do.
But I do not apologize for the color of my skin or my gender.