Image description: A black and white photo of farm equipment in a field. Photo credit: Mel Vee. Mel Vee is an aspiring photographer and her guest post series will feature her photography.
This is a guest post by Mel Vee.
Mel Vee mesmerizes, captivates and incites with her spoken word. She is a passionate advocate for the power of narrative to heal and liberate. A general disturber of shit, Mel Vee seeks to blur and disrupt all kinds of distinctions. She is a core member of the Uproot YYC, a grassroots collective for artists of colour dedicated to uprooting systemic barriers in the arts community. She was a member of Calgary’s 2017 slam team, who were semi-finalists at the Canadian Festival of Spoken Word and co-creator of The Unlearning Channel podcast.
This post is the second is a four-part series, one per week for the month of May. Together, this series will comprise the third entry in the Feminism from the Margins series.
Content note for gun violence, misogyny, terror.
Yet another shooting. Another city. Another place we thought was safe. Countless lives senselessly destroyed; scarred beyond all recognition.
The facts are becoming piercingly clear – there is no safe place to hide from white male violence. Yes, you read that last line correctly. The vast majority of mass shootings in America are committed by men, and mostly white men. I refuse to omit this from the conversation around mass violence, gun control and domestic terrorism in the Western world. To omit this fact would be tantamount to gross negligence.
I’ve been thinking about this a lot.
I came from little and nothing was expected of me. As a queer, working-class Black girl, I had to be exceptional to even be visible at all. This society has never doted on me or presumed my innocence. I’ve been regarded largely as a strange and just barely tolerable presence. I learned to shrink myself and become small so as not to upset or draw attention to myself. I learned to despise everything about who I am because I didn’t match up to a white male standard of humanity.
Now the sons of the Western world are furious that people like me are gaining rights at what must seem like a startling pace and enjoying freedoms and privileges that should not have been barred from us in the first place. I think it is a grotesque irony that these men, who have been doted on, and for whom the world’s finest resources have been extracted and entire cultures devastated and destroyed, now turn around to bite the hand that feeds. Such a nasty surprise.
Or is it?
A wise friend of mine said it succinctly, “we are raising white men to be entitled to a pathological and increasingly tragic degree.”
How does it happen?
Societally reinforced white male entitlement, coupled with a world that seems increasingly fragmented along racial and ethnic lines, compounded by the increasing awareness of the sheer brilliance of marginalized people around the world (who have previously been assumed incapable of brilliance). Add the rage you’d feel at being bested by people you presumed to be your inferiors and you have the making of a toxic brew.
The latest tragedy was apparently sparked by a girl who publicly rejected a boy’s unwanted sexual advances. She had been clear about her refusal and rejected him for some time. She did nothing other than say no and he killed her. He felt entitled to her life. In his eyes, she deserved to die because she refused to say yes. Her refusal now seems tragically heroic. So many of us are coached to say yes in order to avoid this fate. Yet this doesn’t keep us safe, and there is another familiar story – a woman who was exceedingly kind, who gave one of these supposedly misguided but nice young men a chance, then ends up in an early grave.
You cannot be nice to these people, you cannot be cruel.
Either way, you risk life and limb if you dare to raise the ire of one of these men.
Last week I attended active shooter training at work which omitted this vital statistic of white male violence in a stunning act of cowardice and intellectual dishonesty. I shut down. I refused to speak out in that moment because I knew I would be dismissed as the angry Black bitch. But how could I concentrate after? How do you concentrate knowing what is lost by being silent?
My innocence is lost now.
I walk around with more fear. I fear today might be the day when I cross the path of an enraged white male and it may cost me life or limb.
I fear success now because then I may be in someone’s crosshairs. Someone might become obsessed with me and make my life unbearable.
I fear being angry or rude to a white man because it might cost me or someone else our lives.
I cannot go out into public innocently anymore, because when will it happen here too?
Will I die with all of my music still inside of me? My mother weeping over this person she tended to and loved, now still in her casket? All of my potential buried with me.
I discussed the writing of this post with the editor of the series, who brought up an excellent point of white feminists obligation to address the near-epidemic of dangerous white male entitlement.
If the solution is to simply leave it to Black women or queer women or queer Black and racialized women to fix, that simply will not do. Black women cannot save you from this; we cannot save you from yourselves. White women and other white men raise white men and have the best chance of changing the culture of white male entitlement.
Black women have been sounding the alarm bells and fighting white male violence ceaselessly, and are often dismissed as angry or paranoid, their lives threatened (and sometimes outright killed). So now it’s time for everybody else to speak up.
Certainly white women in general have more opportunity and access to white men. I am certain you know someone who fits the description: entitled, arrogant, jokes about hurting others and seemingly has no regard for human life. They believe the world owes them something and feel they are increasingly oppressed or endangered. Often this occurs with socially inappropriate or callous behaviour. Of course, when these behaviours are questioned, people who refuse to see the truth chalk them up to youthful mistakes or ignorance rather than recognizing a system that reinforces and encourages white men to continue to behave in ways that are threatening us all.
So, what can you do if you find yourself in the presence of a white man and you feel threatened (for understandable reasons)?
Choose to see the reality of the person in front of you.
If there is something that puts you on guard about a person, trust that intuition. Do what you need to take care of yourself. Give yourself permission to create boundaries and defend yourself. While people are individuals, do not join others in refusing to look at patterns of white male violence which blind us to the danger right in front of us.
You do not need to approach the world with guns blazing but rather with a clear ability to accept the reality of the person right in front of you, for better or worse. If all else fails, distance yourself from these people when possible. Your life is not worth the appearance of niceness.
Dealing with white men’s racism is already enough for me. Often it is assumed Black women will save everyone, often to our own detriment. It is time for all of us to save ourselves.
These are your brothers, uncles, fathers, sons, and friends. These are the people who are living next door. These are the good old boys. We all have a responsibility here and it cannot fall solely to the most vulnerable to speak out.
This problem of the violent effects of white male entitlement will not be niced to death, but will require our intelligence, wit, preparedness and a willingness to not turn from the truth.
 “Mass Shooters Are All Different. Except for One Thing: Most Are Men” https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/17/us/mass-murderers.html
 “Identifying Whiteness – An Invisible Norm” https://geezmagazine.org/blogs/entry/identifying-whiteness-an-invisible-norm
 “Male as the Neutral Default” https://thesocietypages.org/socimages/2013/02/16/male-as-the-neutral-default/
This post is part of the third in the year-long Feminism from the Margins series that Dulcinea Lapis and Tiffany Sostar will be curating, in challenge to and dissatisfaction with International Women’s Day. To quote Dulcinea, “Fuck this grim caterwauling celebration of mediocre white femininity.” Every month, on the 8th, we’ll post something. If you are trans, Black or Indigenous, a person of colour, disabled, fat, poor, a sex worker, or any of the other host of identities excluded from International Women’s Day, and you would like to contribute to this project, get in touch!
Also check out the other posts in the series:
- All The Places You’ll Never Go, by Dulcinea Lapis
- An Open Love Letter to My Friends, by Michelle Dang
- Prioritizing, by Mel Vee
- Never Ever Follow Those White Kids Around – a brief personal history of race and mental health, by Mel Vee