This article is partly the lament of an old white guy. It was sparked by a Thinking Friend telling me in an email that she had been advised to "give up on old white guys."
The Problem: Othering
My thinking on this subject was also stirred by Cierra Lockett writing about how some African-Americans have a problem feeling bicultural because “though they're American citizens, it's hard to feel American because of how the country historically and currently oppresses and ‘others’ them.”
That, without a doubt, is far, far worse than the othering I have experienced. But it is a difference of degree, not of kind. While in the U.S. it is much worst for African-Americans and American Indians, every group—or individual—who suffers from prejudice is a victim of being “othered.”
It is not hard to see why old white guys are the target of criticism—and of being othered. Perhaps most of the problems of the world are the results of the “sins” of old white guys.
But prejudice is thinking that all the people of a group partake of the characteristics of the problematic people of that group. Thus, I am saddened when “written off” because of the mistakes of so many old white guys, past and present.
For example, I have been disappointed that few youngish people read and comment on my blog articles. I have tried to get people below 30 or even 40 to read and comment. Few have—for a variety of reasons, no doubt. Perhaps one main reason, though, is because most think that an old guy doesn’t have anything of value to say to them.
Last month I was criticized for suggesting that becoming/being bicultural might be something beneficial for African-Americans to consider. I was told by several people that whites shouldn’t make any suggestions to blacks.
There is also the problem of us guys saying anything substantial about matters relating to women: the charge of “mansplaining” has become rather common.
So, whether intended or not, “old white guys” are sometimes (often?) othered by those who are young, by people of color, and by women. Perhaps such othering serves us right—but, still, it is a cause of sadness.
The Solution: One Anothering
Is there no way we all can relate to one another simply as human beings?
The Bible says “Love one another.” That surely doesn’t mean we are to love only people like us—for the old to love the elderly, whites to love whites, and males to love males. (And, of course, I am talking about agape-love here, not erotic love.)
To love one another surely means to accept/respect everyone without prejudice regardless of age, ethnic, or gender differences. Is that kind of mutual love/acceptance/respect too much to expect?
Back in 1990 Richard C. Meyer, a Presbyterian pastor in Florida, wrote a book titled One Anothering. The book was mainly written for small groups, but the title has an important broader meaning.
Those of us in a position of privilege, though, have the main responsibility to take the initiative and to reach out in love to those who have been othered most severely.
South American liberation theology has often spoken about the “preferential option for the poor.” It is perhaps time for most of us, especially us old white guys, to promote a preferential option for those individuals/groups who are suffering most because of being othered.
That kind of one anothering means actively loving whether we are reciprocally loved or not.