Why I don't feel guilty

Opinion: Columns

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By John Hubbuch

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.

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Reader Comments

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Paul Oppenheim  

Posted: October 31st, 2019 6:45 AM

Good column, John, I always enjoy reading your stuff -- common sense with a touch of humor.

Robert Royals  

Posted: October 28th, 2019 9:26 PM

Pauly Noble- It's all about the kids, right?

Michael Nevins  

Posted: October 28th, 2019 2:30 PM

Bricks and glass houses for Mr. Noble? I very much look forward to his (or the four board members who voted for this) explanation for what specifically occurred and benefited him personally at the 8/22/19 board meeting. No discussion? What was the quid pro quo for this vote? How exactly did it benefit OPRF students or residents? Please Mr. Noble.....teach me. Was it solely to maximize your pension? If true, it's shameful.

Jim Bowman from Chicago  

Posted: October 28th, 2019 1:22 PM

"Ms. Buchanan apologized for what she said, but now we all know what she thinks." Indeed.

Tom MacMillan from Oak Park  

Posted: October 28th, 2019 11:41 AM

No one has anything to feel guilty about. People trying to put that on anyone else have their own issues that they need to work on for themselves. We all came here to live our lives in peace. So to anyone trying to mess with that, go find someone else to bother.

Mikhail Ivanov  

Posted: October 28th, 2019 10:43 AM

And the 2019 award for the most OPAF string of comments goes to.......

Tommy McCoy  

Posted: October 28th, 2019 12:18 AM

The sign, Hate Has No Home Here, does not apply to more of the comments that are been posted against each other. This is not a good way to treat each other or should be allowed to continue although people may like to read them and then post a sign on their lawn

Kevin Peppard  

Posted: October 27th, 2019 8:03 PM

@Paul Noble: You call me a penny-pincher. Thanks for the compliment! I can send an autographed 8x"10" photo, suitable for framing. Use it as a dartboard if you want. You call me old (I'm 70). In today's Oak Park, I could call the ageism police on the Village Board, but I won't. We're only as old as we act, and you're still living in the 1960s. I moved on. You said you've been keeping track of me for 30 years. I'm reminded of one of the posts on Trustee Arti Walker-Peddakotla's site suggesting that Dan Moroney should have a "protective order" issued against him by Susan Buchanan, but again, I have the skin of a rhinoceros. I didn't tell you to shut up. Susan Buchanan does that stuff. I give you enough rope to hang yourself, which you frequently do. The last time we tangled was when you spoke at a D200 Board Meeting, confidently stating that race-based affinity groups would pass constitutional muster. I wrote in these pages that they wouldn't. Then the Office for Civil Rights of the U.S. Department of Education forced a Consent Decree on D200 to stop the practice. That was under the Obama, not Trump Administration. How'd that come out for you? You say your base salary of $184 K is "market driven". I'm sure lots of qualified people would like that job, but D200 can't replace you, as in the private sector, because of the tenure system. You speak of my "scent". To borrow a term from another of John Hubbuch's columns, you have the "odor of moral superiority" about you, that of a zealot. (Comment to be continued).

Kevin Peppard  

Posted: October 27th, 2019 8:03 PM

@Paul Noble (comment continued): You imply I have no record of community service, compared to John Hubbuch. For the 1996 D200 Operating Tax Referendum, John was one of the Co-chairs, and I was the Treasurer. Check the State Board of Elections website. That referendum helped pay your salary for some years. I did so at the suggestion of Gerry Jacobs, the top vote-getter in the preceding election, who beat me. I suggested we go to lunch, and we formed a political friendship. Out of that, I helped Scott Emery and Carol Kiel develop D200's first Excel projection model, by providing the projection model of teachers traveling through the Step & Lane Tables and moving to different lanes. I also modeled what was then the three-part General State Aid formula. That involved cooperation with then Superintendent Don Offerman and his Assistant Superintendents Steve Lebrecht and Frank Danes. While opposing the preceding referendum, I invited my opposition and the then Board President to a workshop on school finance at the River Forest Public Library. The Board President said he had never seen the State Aid formula graphed and explained before. Your own finance people do not know how to instruct Board Members. I have continued those workshops on a periodic basis at the Dole Library. I ran a public affairs website called Prairie Fire for some years, until my mother's Alzheimer's forced me to discontinue it. I worked for a rational solution to D200's Pool situation. I could go on.

William Dwyer Jr.  

Posted: October 27th, 2019 6:16 PM

OK, Jeffrey, as an aging straight white male, I for one hereby give up my "unearned and absolute control over every corporation, government institution, the financial markets, education, the military, law enforcement, medicine, the media, et. al." I would have apologized sooner, but I was too stunned to learn I had that much power. Guess I never got the memo.

Jeffrey Smith  

Posted: October 27th, 2019 2:53 PM

It always comes down to straight white men proclaiming that they won't apologize for being born straight white men. Well, boys, I certainly don't want you to apologize for that, I just want you to allow fair elections and equal access to opportunity and quietly relinquish your unearned and absolute control over every corporation, government institution, the financial markets, education, the military, law enforcement, medicine, the media, et. al., and let women, people of color and LGBTQ+ run things for 200 years to balance out our Great Experiment. Is that too much to ask?

Monica Sheehan  

Posted: October 27th, 2019 11:35 AM

Paul Noble has no problem seeking special treatment for himself. On 8/22/19, he sought and received special treatment to significantly increase the size of his D200 teacher's pension, in a 4-3 school board vote. This was Noble's second known effort to receive this special treatment. The previous school board voted it down. It's relevant to note that the current board has two new members, Ralph Martire and Gina Harris, who benefit financially from the teachers' union. This board action hiking Noble's pension lacked transparency. The item (VII. F.) was buried in the consent agenda, and its memo, Memorandum of Agreement with Faculty Senate, wasn't then and still isn't linked in the meeting agenda. While a board member pulled it out for a separate vote, there was no public discussion. This pension issue is only coming to light thanks to a FOIA request submitted by Kitty Conklin, who was present at the August meeting and noticed the missing memo and the lack of discussion on the item's vote. It would be helpful if Noble, a teacher, would educate readers of the Wednesday Journal on the short-term costs to D200 taxpayers and the long-term costs to all Illinois taxpayers of his special pension treatment.

Nick Polido  

Posted: October 27th, 2019 7:00 AM

What a teachable response Mr. Noble to such a unruly agitator....

William Dwyer Jr.  

Posted: October 26th, 2019 11:34 PM

Actually that is not "cognitive dissonance," Ms. Lopez. Cognitive dissonance is tension between two conflicting/opposed thoughts or ideas in a person's mind, not the person hearing the person speak what they believe are conflicting thoughts. That's a simple fact known to any psych student, white or otherwise, privileged or not.

Ramona Lopez  

Posted: October 26th, 2019 9:03 PM

@ Mr. Noble. Your quote "Still, I'm not sure how that salary is relevant to white privilege." And you think Mr. Peppard is obtuse? Your words are a classic example of cognitive dissonance Mr. Noble. I thank God I worked 2 sometimes 3 jobs to put my daughters through parochial school. I can only imagine what a cesspool your classroom is.

Ramona Lopez  

Posted: October 26th, 2019 8:49 PM

Ah yes, Mr. Noble sits in his ivory tower with his faux sense of morality denigrating all of the taxpaying subjects of Oak Park who don't agree with him. Some of us have to pinch our pennies since we don't have a compensation package worth $194,000 per annum and having to only work about 36 weeks a year. What a pathetic human being you are Mr. Noble to lay judgement on Mr. Peppard for criticizing your salary as a "public servant". Then you claim you are paid market wages. Please, I dare you to leave OPRF and try to make an equal salary elsewhere in the market. Unfortunatley, OPRF doesn't really compete anymore do they Mr. Noble. Their state ranking has been slowly dropping for the past 15 years. Mr. Peppard may have a scent, but you sir reek of smugness and self righteousness.

Jason Cohen  

Posted: October 26th, 2019 5:40 PM

@Kevin Cassidy, you nailed it. For some reason so many white males like to find reasons to defend themselves when the point isn't that being a white male is something to feel guilty about. The point is to respect the advantage that comes from it and to try to help change the dynamic that makes it an advantage at all. Money isn't the main factor. How many wealthy white people get pulled over a dozen times simply because they are black and driving in a rich neighborhood? These issues exist and we need to just recognize it and work to fix them.

Bruce Kline  

Posted: October 26th, 2019 5:20 PM

Yeah Kevin. Take that. The star of ATM and OPRFHS's very own useful idiot has spoken.

Paul Noble  

Posted: October 26th, 2019 4:42 PM

@Kevin Peppard: Not sure how it's possible, but you've been a hateful, penny-pinching old man in these villages for 30 years, and that's just since I first caught your scent. How sad your life must be that everything for you is about dollars, Mr. Potter. We all know you think teachers here are overpaid, but for the record, whenever you want to compare lifetime earnings in the context of our relative value to the community, I'm game. Still, I expect people with finance degrees to recognize nothing if not that salaries are market driven, and my top salary in a 35-year career is not exceptional among the top 20 northern Illinois school districts with which OPRFHS competes. Still, I'm not sure how that salary is relevant to white privilege. I hope you're not so obtuse as to think that a black man who earns six figures has the same privilege as a white man who does. If you think race privilege is about income, your defense of this bumbling, whiny editorial makes a lot more sense. I expect more of Jon Hubbuch, who's done a lot of good for this community, but not of you. That'll be my last word. I can generally resist the cesspool of these threads until 1. someone decries white people's loss of privilege, or 2. someone tells me to shut up because I earn a living here.

William Dwyer Jr.  

Posted: October 26th, 2019 1:49 PM

Australia has no need to be inundated with self-pity. They routinely drown any self-pity with lots and lots of beer, mate.

Kelly Bacon Desmarais  

Posted: October 26th, 2019 1:43 PM

Jeff Smith, point out the self pity?

Gregg Kuenster from River Forest  

Posted: October 26th, 2019 1:13 PM

Jeff Smith I do not understand your comment. Are you saying suicide and genocide are pitiful?

Kevin Peppard  

Posted: October 26th, 2019 1:04 PM

@Paul Noble: Well, you're certainly not a poor white male. The just released faculty compensation report from D200 shows that you earned $184 K last year in base salary and annuity contributions from the District, plus some very nice health insurance benefits. You'll soon be collecting from the Teachers' Retirement System a pension of well over $100,000. That makes it easy to have a noblesse oblige attitude.

Jeffrey Smith  

Posted: October 26th, 2019 1:04 PM

There's enough self-pity in this article and thread to inundate Australia.

Gregg Kuenster from River Forest  

Posted: October 26th, 2019 12:09 PM

Suicide in men has been described as a "silent epidemic": epidemic because of its high incidence and substantial contribution to men's mortality, and silent be­cause of a lack of public awareness. Suicide in males 45 - 56 years old is skyrocketing and second to automobile accidents.. In 2017 and 2018 , 2 different 50 year old River Forest males committed suicide. They both were reported in this newspaper as accidents. Fathers in Austin are kept away from their children because they get behind on child support. Their fatherless teenage sons are murdering each other in a ongoing genocide. We as a community refuse to talk about these life and death issues. Pointing fingers and yelling anti hate epithets is our solution. We need to at a minimum accept and present the facts on the cause of local male deaths. No one really cares unless its your family. We need to accept the fact all humans are the same family.

Paul Noble  

Posted: October 26th, 2019 10:11 AM

Oh, thank god. FINALLY, someone speaks up for the lowly white male.

Kevin Cassidy  

Posted: October 25th, 2019 3:54 PM

I believe myself to be your peer and I have had similar formative experiences. There seems to be no need for you to apologize for being white and male. I do not think there is anyone asking for an apology. The task at hand calls for a recognition of reality, not an apology. There is no fault in being white and male but it is necessary to recognize that those biological accidents afford you an advantage over people who do not share both of those traits. https://nationalseedproject.org/Key-SEED-Texts/white-privilege-unpacking-the-invisible-knapsack

Kevin Cassidy  

Posted: October 25th, 2019 3:51 PM

I believe myself to be your peer and I have had similar formative experiences. There seems to be no need for you to apologize for being white and male. I do not think there is anyone asking for an apology. The task at hand calls for a recognition of reality, not an apology. There is no fault in being white and male but it is necessary that those biological accidents afford you an advantage over people who do share not both of those traits. https://nationalseedproject.org/Key-SEED-Texts/white-privilege-unpacking-the-invisible-knapsack

William Dwyer Jr.  

Posted: October 22nd, 2019 1:37 PM

Well said, John.

Tom Tarrant  

Posted: October 22nd, 2019 1:06 PM

Great letter. You hit it the nail on the head without belittling anyone.

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