White men act as allies for social justice

By By Daniel Sessions

By Daniel Sessions

U graduate student Jonathan Ravarino admits to being one of what he calls the many white males who grow up thinking they’ve hit a triple without realizing they were born on third base.

At a “Food for Thought” discussion forum sponsored by the Women’s Resource Center Tuesday, Ravarino and fellow U graduate student Kevin Laska offered 10 ways for white men to become allies for those struggling for social justice.

Step one, they said, is recognizing the problem.

“Oppression is the reality in our country and world,” said Ravarino, who is working on a doctoral degree in clinical psychology. “In our society, people don’t have to think about their privilege, even though it’s everywhere, every day.”

Many privileged people “feel paralyzed” to work for change after realizing the extent to which they participate in society’s invisible modes of oppression, Ravarino said. “But you don’t have to jump directly from ignorance and denial to marching in the gay pride parade,” he said.

For white men, a large part of working for social justice lies simply in “a daily process of recognizing how things work in [their] favor,” said Laska, who is working on a master’s degree in educational psychology.

A white male in the audience revealed that he first recognized he was privileged in 1968, when the amount of American troops fighting in Vietnam reached a high point.

“College students like me didn’t have to face the draft, but I had friends who lost their lives in Vietnam because they didn’t share this privilege. It was a real wakeup call,” he said.

Recognizing oppression is one thing, but doing something about it is another, Ravarino said. “Say that as a white male, I go into a gas station and write a check and don’t get asked for I.D. when the Hispanic man in line in front of me does-do I say something?” he challenged the audience.

White men have power and access to other white men, said Ravarino, and can therefore play a unique role in the struggle for social justice by educating their white male peers about issues of privilege and inequality.

“White men listen incredibly well to white men,” Ravarino said. “One of the reasons our discussion forum is so well received by most white men is that Kevin and I have penises.”

[email protected]