Posted by: joshjasper | August 25, 2011

With great power comes great responsibility

I was born on October 11th, 1974, having more power and privilege than most people ever earn throughout their entire lives.  I came into this world a straight, white male, and was raised in the United States in a Catholic home.  These characteristics were not earned, but rather inherited.  It would be difficult, if not near impossible,  to find anyone else that has more privilege than me.  I am not special.  I’m simply fortunate.

I am reminded of my privilege on a daily basis in my work.  For more than 30 years, women have been working to end sexual and domestic violence.  They have been serving survivors of violence for decades, speaking out against sexism, racism, and homophobia, and rallying their respective communities around our work well before I gave a moment’s thought to violence prevention.

But yet, here I am as one of the very few men in a  leadership position in the country in this work, and in a few short years, I have become an international speaker on violence prevention, commanding speaking fees that often dwarf my fellow female colleagues.  I am applauded by many for my efforts as a man in this work.  I am told that my efforts and passion is inspiring.  I am asked to speak at fundraising events, vigils, and awareness activities in hopes that I will engage other straight, white men of power to take a stand; to speak out and to challenge the norm.

People must realize how relatively easy it is for me to speak out against anything due to the fact that I am of the majority.  Who is going to challenge me?  Do you really believe that other individuals of privilege are going to confront me because of my advocacy?  Of course not.  What do I have to lose?  All of the characteristics that I possess  that contribute to my privilege can never be taken from me.

What I truly don’t understand is why more people of privilege are not taking an active role to make a positive impact.   It’s as if they fear that by doing so they may actually jeopardize their inherited power.  Although this fear is irrational, I do believe it is real and speaks to the oppression that exists in our society and why so many people are marginalized in our communities.

Why isn’t the straight community organizing vigils to remember those that have been brutalized because of their sexual orientation?  Why aren’t more men speaking out against men’s violence against women?  Don’t you find it just a little ridiculous that women have been held responsible for the prevention of violent actions of men?

Tonight I spoke at a vigil about the damaging effects of homophobia, pleading with the attendees to take an active role in ending this bigoted, hate filled behavior that has once again claimed the life of another person.  As I looked out into the crowd I saw many people nodding their heads in agreement, ready to make a difference.  I was inspired, but I believe I was speaking to the choir.  Where were the straight, white men of power and privilege?  We needed them there tonight.  They needed to be there holding a candle, vowing to use their influence to ensure that nothing like this ever happens again.

Please join us.  You have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

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