I attended a small webinar about a year ago. I cannot even remember what it was about but it was around climate action so I guess it’s all the same thing. We know it’s an emergency but how do we get legislatures to act? The only thing that stayed with me from that call was a young, female, black, climate activist who said (I paraphrase): ‘We need to do XYZ so we don’t have to keep going back to those rooms full of old white men’. I keep thinking about her saying that.
There is much talk these days about representation and why it matters. What ‘old white men’ need to understand is that for a VERY long time they have been the only voices represented, on any topic, whether the topic was one they could accurately represent or not. And many people these days, are, quite frankly, calling BS.
Now I am raising two young white men. They are smart and funny and kind (most of the time). White men, even old white men, are not a monolith. Just as anyone in any race is not a monolith. And I would hate for people to make assumptions about my boys based on the behavior of their peers. There are now and have been throughout history some very brave old, and young, white men who fought alongside others for justice. Because they were humble, and they listened.
It’s not that the opinions of white men do not count. It’s just that, for many topics, they should be…weighted. They should be weighted below a whole host of other voices that have traditionally been silenced. It’s not that white men are not qualified, it’s just that many other people are also just as qualified. And white men are simply unaccustomed to this change. But it can also be freeing. White men no longer have to take responsibility to be the authorities on every subject anymore.
Just this morning I had to remind my husband that his opinion that a certain gesture mimicking Native Americans in a baseball game is ‘probably ok’, is a curiosity only. You’d have to ask a Native American. And then you’d have to ask another Native American. And then more Native Americans. Because I’m very sure Native Americans are not a monolith either. And then you would just have to take their word for it, and make some decisions based on their input.
Representation matters. White men make up a very large proportion of the USA. I have no doubt that they will continue to contribute to the creation of a just and fair society. White men will only make themselves irrelevant if they do not listen to the perspectives of others whose opinions matter more depending on the topic.