Deconstructing white patriarchy

Dear President Trump,

So I just want to be clear; it’s not that I think all white men are rootless or that your souls are all dead. In saying that I think white patriarchy is dead I’m not referring to any specific individuals, but rather to an oppressive system. Most people likely get this, but in light of how very personally you take everything that has even a hint of relevance to you, I thought I’d better make sure we are straight on it.

Although I know people have devoted their entire lives and careers to unpacking and analyzing these issues and my analysis will certainly miss important pieces of the arguments, get some of them wrong, or need amendment tomorrow or next week, I still feel compelled to lay out why I think white patriarchy is dead (and I am not going to constrain myself to the usual 2500 character count for this).

First, I think that while those of you who, upon birth, were automatically granted a certain amount of benefit of the doubt and belief in your capacity and competence got lots of breaks and have gotten to do and be lots of things that others of us haven’t, it has also meant that you all (as a group) weren’t tested and stressed in ways that require the sort of resilience, creativity, flexibility, and reliance on others that the rest of us have had to cultivate to survive. In other words, you all could afford to put your energy, metaphorically, towards getting taller and taking up more space rather than setting out solid, stable root systems and developing rich support networks because the world was telling you to go for it and that it was somehow incumbent on you to take up as much space as you, personally, could and that in dominating the space you would have all you need.

Well, that sort of worked and for a long time it afforded many of you all pretty nice existences. You’ve been able to look out over the masses and not even realize you feel smug about your positions in the pack, and there’s always been plenty of assurance from those who look like you that you have one another’s backs. The whole system has been rigged to aid and abet you all reaching your potentials, which has been a pretty sweet deal. Sure, there are pressures and stresses and plenty of white men are drinking themselves to death and it’s not been ok for you all to express feelings other than anger. But there is still the blue chip prize of feeling superior to all women and people of color and I bet there’s nary a white man (who isn’t trans) who would want to trade places with a woman or person of color.

However, and this is major point number two, a system that only recognizes a subset of its members as unique, precious works of art that are intrinsically invaluable is doomed because eventually the others are going to realize how unfair and messed up that system really is. Indeed, more and more of the rest of us are recognizing that the resilience, creativity, flexibility, and reliance on others that we cultivated to survive means we are really very strong individually and collectively. Essentially, we too want to take up space, we don’t want to be shaded or shadowed by white men and we are strong enough to stand up to the system that’s been rigged against us for so long. I realize I’m speaking as though I know how all of the rest of us feel and of course I don’t, but this is my letter to you and I can be as bold in it as I want. (Just for the record though, I do know there are lots of women who say they miss chivalry and want a strong man to make decisions for them and protect them. Brainwashing is an amazing thing, as is fear, and perhaps when the last vestiges of patriarchy are finally uprooted and exposed, these women will not need a man to protect them from other men and they will be freed up to reinvent themselves. Or at least their daughters will be. Also, I know these gender dynamics can play out in any racial and ethnic context and I realize that few, if any, people of color so over-value white people that they are fine with having white people make decisions for them and thus I’m not referring narrowly to white patriarchy here.)

The upshot is that we have hit a tipping point where enough of us who are not members of the white patriarchy club are done with half measures. We are done with being treated as though we are less than and we are done with needing to do at least half again as much as those in the club to be recognized as half as worthy.

None of us seem to know what is next and none of us know how long white patriarchy’s death throes are going to persist. We don’t know how many of us are going to be casualties as you all thrash about trying to save your unearned advantage. But we aren’t going back and it is finished.

May we all be safe to move on to whatever is next.
May we be happy to sort out whatever it is together.
May we do so in ways that are healthy and don’t default to old power dynamics.
May we be patient and kind as we figure out how to live into the reality that we are all of equal value.

Tracy Simpson

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