The Littoral Life: An Open Letter to White Men

By Dan Haag

Dear white men,

Look at the news: racial tension, hostile politics, gun violence and sexual predation are just a few of our recent greatest hits.
You’re not going to want to hear this, but current events have boiled it down to one simple fact for us: we need to do better. Look at the faces of white men illuminated by tiki torches in Charlottesville, behind the sniper scope in Las Vegas, and beneath the marquee in Hollywood and tell me I’m wrong.
Actually, it’s way, way past time for us to do better. To provide some familiar context, allow me to employ a sports metaphor to soften the blow a tad: we’ve remained on the sidelines and watched as the shot clock ran out. We are now complicit.

We white men don’t handle uncomfortable truths very well, if at all. If you’re like me, you probably figure that keeping your nose clean and minding your own business is often the best course of action. Control your own environment and don’t go looking for trouble. Historically, things always work out. Right?
But white men’s history doesn’t have the luster its been bestowed. And if we keep casually handing the keys to the halls of power to those who abuse their position in our name our legacy isn’t looking all that great, either.
For most of us, our biggest sin isn’t brandishing a swastika or groping a female co-worker. It’s remaining silent while other white men do. If there’s one thing white men excel at, it’s looking the other way. From racism to sexism, “I had nothing to do with that” is our popular refrain.
Take Harvey Weinstein. As scores of women come forward to uncover the slime that is this man’s legacy, white men everywhere squirm just a little. Not because we’ve ever forced ourselves on someone, but because now we might have to talk about it or feel something about it. And gosh, white men, we hate that don’t we?
We loudly tell everyone we know that we love and respect the women in our lives and that should be enough.
Log onto Facebook and scroll through the thousands of women who have posted the words “Me too.” Now tell me how effective minding our own business has been. Now tell me how silence honors our wives, sisters and daughters.
Once, someone close to me shared a very personal story of sexual abuse. It was extremely difficult for her to do and she said she regretted telling me.
“Why?” I asked.
“Because I didn’t think you’d feel the same way about me,” she answered.
She couldn’t have been more wrong, but my immediate reaction was very white-male: I wanted to hit something. I wanted to exact vengeance in her name. But deep down I never wanted to hear another story like that ever again. I just wanted to be the hero that rides in and saves the day.
We are far from being heroes, white men. Every single time we look the other way we are fiddling while the city burns around us.
If you think I’m piling on unfairly from my soap box, you couldn’t be more wrong because my mantra has long been “Being good is good enough.”
Well it ain’t. Not anymore. Not by a long shot.