SDS Womyn's Caucus Blog

For Enlightened White Guys

Posted on: June 16, 2010

Reposted from the Pulse Media website

I think this list is a good resource for all folks with privilege, not just men.  Chris Cass

For Enlightened White Guys

I first posted this thoughtful passage at Peoples Geography. It is humble, conscious and canny and aware of the power dynamics within social groups, recognizing that some purportedly progressive movements may only reproduce the sexism, domination, and marginalization of others that they expressly reject in their politics. Here’s what one enlightened white guy proposes people simply think about — and practice — in the service of becoming more aware of how we interact with others in less powerful and privileged positions. This means others’ voices are heard–and empowered, and that change starts with us, at the level of the everyday.

Tools for White Guys Who Are Working for Social Change

… and other people socialized in a society based on domination by Chris Cass

1. Practice noticing who is in the room at meetings–-how many men, how many women, how many people of color. Are the majority heterosexual … what are people’s backgrounds? Don’t assume to know people, but also work at being more aware.

2a. Count how many times you speak and keep track of how long you speak.
2b. Count how many times others speak and keep track of how long they speak.

3. Be conscious of how often you are actively listening to what other people are saying as opposed to just waiting your turn and/or thinking about what you’ll say next.

4. Practice going to meetings focused on listening and learning; go to some meetings and do not speak at all.

5a. Count how many times you put your ideas out to the group.

5b. Count how many times you support other’s ideas for the group.

6. Practice supporting people by asking them to expand on ideas and dig more deeply before you decide to support the idea or not.

7a. Think about whose work and contribution to the group gets recognized.
7b. Practice recognizing more people for the work they do and try to do it more often.

8. Practice asking more people what they think about meetings, ideas, actions, strategy and vision. White guys tend to talk amongst themselves and develop strong bonds that manifest in organizing. This creates an internal organizing culture that is alienating to most people.

Developing respect and solidarity across race, class, gender and sexuality is complex and difficult, but absolutely critical–and liberating.

9. Be aware of how often you ask people to do something as opposed to asking people “what needs to be done”.

10. Think about and struggle with the saying, “You will be needed in the movement when you realize that you are not needed in the movement.”

11. Struggle with and work with the model of group leadership that says that the responsibility of leaders is to help develop more leaders, and think about what this means to you.

12. Remember that social change is a process, and that our individual transformation and individual liberation is intimately connected with social transformation and social liberation. Life is profoundly complex and there are many contradictions. Remember that the path we travel is guided by love, dignity and respect–-even when it is bumpy and difficult to navigate.

13. This list is not limited to white guys, nor is it intended to reduce all white guys into one category. This list is intended to disrupt patterns of domination that hurt our movement and hurt each other. White guys have a lot of work to do, but it is the kind of work that makes life worth living.

14. Day-to-day patterns of domination are the glue that holds together systems of domination. The struggle against capitalism, white supremacy, patriarchy, heterosexism, and the state, is also the struggle towards collective liberation.

15. No one is free until all of us are free.

Chris Cass, ‘Tools for White Guys …’ in Mike Prokosch and Laura Raymond (eds.), The Global Activists Manual: Local Ways to Change the World (2002), pp. 96-97.


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