After writing An open letter to fathers who supported Donald Trump a friend of mine invited me to consider I may have been overlooking the families (particularly fathers) who were not for Trump – the families who felt their lives and whose children’s lives could be in jeopardy with our country’s decision to elect Donald Trump as president. It was suggested my oversite was the result of my point of view being tunneled through the blinders of a middle-aged white male whose privilege allows him freedoms minorities and the oppressed will never know. I want you to know I did not ignore you; I did not forget you.
I admit, I took pause after reading his feedback. I considered the invitation and responded with this:
There is so much here and I agree with your assessment of my (and your) privilege with regard to being middle class white dudes. I hear that loud and clear and own it as such. In that ownership I also carry the responsibility of helping those who are not as privileged as I.
My invitation to Trump-supporting fathers is an invitation to a conversation. My sense is if two white middle-class men who are privileged can come together and talk about our differences, we can expand the view of our realities and help those around us.
I have very close friends who have two adopted black children – one being a freshman in high school. I sat with the older boy the other day (just he and I) and spoke to him about some behaviors going on in his school. Some of his classmates – children of the same age – come at him calling him a nigger and a cotton picker. Yeah. Ouch. We talked about how this affects him and I offered some ways to help him manage his response. This is one example of me taking responsibility for my privilege.
These people exist; they will always exist.
I shared the other evening with some friends about my awareness of the ‘out of the shadows’ behavior this election has brought forth. My response was simple – I would much rather face my enemy head on knowing who they are versus having me walk around in ignorance curious of where they lie. I understand this is frightening to the very people who are targets of the shadow-walkers and part of my responsibility is to stand beside my friends and let the sound of my support be heard with the hope of easing some of their fear.
My belief is the more we talk to each other, the more we understand. We may or may not come together and if we do, great – if we don’t then so be it. At least I know where my opposition stands.
[end of response]
Taking into consideration my response, I looked deeper into the initial invitation – the conversations taking place between father and son. I reflected back to the letter I wrote my son in my initial piece and realized there was more work to be done. So, in the spirit of love and healing, I wrote this second letter to him.
You already know as you grow up and navigate your way through life, you’ll meet a lot of people. You also know building relationships could present challenges; challenges that take work and care to overcome. I trust your ability to do this and I believe you will do it well.
Something else you already know is, regardless of the challenges you face in building relationships, it’s important to do your best to be kind to everyone and treat those you meet in the way you want to be treated. You have tools to manage the different responses people may have; use them and use them wisely.
As you continue to move through your life, you’ll begin to notice people treating others different from the way you would treat them. You’ll begin to notice how others can be mean, thoughtless and rude. As you pay closer attention, you’ll see the affect these people have on the ones who are close to you. It’s difficult, it’s scary and it’s confusing to watch as this behavior begins to unfold. I would love to be able to tell you it won’t happen or that it’ll stop or it’ll go away on its own; it won’t. My job as a father is to give you more tools so you can manage your choices during times like these.
Before I start to offer you some advice, there’s something I want to share – it may or may not make sense to you yet, and as you continue to get older, it’ll become more clear. You and I are white men (in your case a young man). That simple fact provides us a privilege that many others don’t have. We can go further in our careers than those who are not white and not men; we can earn more money; we can have more trust and we can have more respect – just because of the color of our skin and the simple fact we are men.
Confusing? Yes, I agree and yet it remains to be true.
Our friends who are of color, who are female, who have different sexual identification or preference, they will not have the same privilege we have. For example, if a man of color and a white man both go for the same job, there is a greater chance of the white man getting the job just because of the color of his skin. If a man of color were to be pulled over, he is more likely to be questioned and searched.
These examples are grown-up examples and to help you see more clearly consider a friend who is not white. There could be a time when someone who does not respect others approaches him and calls him a name – a hard name that hurts. You could choose to stand there and say nothing; you could decide to speak up or you could decide to walk away. Each choice comes with its own consequence.
If you decided to stand there and say nothing, it could make room for that person to continue to speak to your friend that way. If this is what you choose, consider talking to your friend afterwards to understand more of how he felt and if there was anything you could have done.
If you decided to speak up, you could put yourself at risk of an attack from the same person who’s calling names. You could also put your friend at risk by making that person mad. On the other hand, you could show the attacker you stand with your friend and your support could back them away.
If you decided to walk away, you would be safe from any confrontation but also consider you’re leaving your friend alone and how you would feel if someone did the same to you.
I realize none of these answers are easy and nothing is black and white. It’s a complicated problem that requires difficult decisions. If you find yourself overwhelmed and you’re not sure of what to do, remember who you are; a smart, loving, caring, responsible, courageous and compassionate young man. Once you remember that, take a deep breath, pause and consider your next move.
I’m here when you need me.
Originally Published on Dad 101
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