If I Was a Black Man I’d Be Raising Hell Too

August 21, 2014


“Those caught up in the structures and dynamics of Patriarchy seek to dominate not only women but men as well. Patriarchy is based on fear – the boy’s fear, the immature masculine’s fear – of women, to be sure, but also fear of men. Boys fear women. They also fear real men.”

quoted from King Warrior Magician Lover

I’m a white man. I’ve lived a life of incredible privilege. Even in the middle class.

I’ve never been thrown against the hood of a police car. I’ve never been suspected of being a drug dealer because I dress nicely or drive a fine car. I’ve never been pulled over because I resemble someone who robbed a liquor store 100 miles away two weeks ago. I’ve never been passed over for a job or rejected by a landlord or a taxi for the color of my skin, as far as I can tell. People don’t watch me closely when I’m in a retail store or get nervous when I approach them on the street. If they do, it’s way too subtle because I never notice it.

White people generally aren’t treated that way in this country.

I grew up just outside Washington DC and once got lost on its confusing highway jungle with a white friend of mine. We pulled into a gas station just off the freeway and asked directions of black man pumping his own gas. He calmly told us how to get back to the highway, but then looked a bit more deeply towards us and said we better get moving fast. Because we were white. I’ll never forget the disorientating indignation I suddenly felt overcome my brain. I felt dizzy at his insistence that we move out of there quickly because our skin color meant we didn’t belong there.

If I was a black man in Ferguson, MO, I would be raising hell, too.

We are governed by a predominantly male leadership expressing an overwhelmingly immature masculine psychology that seeks to control and conquer. Our leadership functions less to create a world that honors the whole but more to honor itself first and prioritize private property over human dignity. Our leaders consistently refuse to allow into the leadership conversation the essential feminine gifts of vulnerability (as a strength) and holistic community that genuinely cares for everyone.

The mayor of Ferguson (who happens to be white) stubbornly insists there is no racial divide in his city, while his police force is 90% white, his civilian population is 63% black, and the world watches racially-charged rage convulsing throughout his city. The governor of Missouri (who happens to be white) issues a State of Emergency curfew intended to suppress the furious outcry of a community who refuses to be ignored and abused any longer.

As comedian John Oliver put it, the governor ”took a community tired of being treated as criminals and imprisoned them all in their own houses for a night. And in doing so, employed the tone of a pissed-off vice-principal trying to restore order at an assembly.

Robert Moore and Douglas Gilette write in their iconic book, King Warrior Magician Lover, that we are ruled by a patriarchal leadership primarily expressing Boy psychology. We are collectively held in the fearful grip of an immature masculine power structure that is “terrified of our advances on the road toward masculine or feminine fullness of being.”

“The patriarchal male does not welcome the full masculine development of his sons or his male subordinates any more then he welcomes the full development of his daughters, or his female employees. This is the story of the superior at the office who can’t stand it that we are as good as we are. How often we are envied, hated, and attacked in direct and passive-aggressive ways even as we seek to unfold who we really are in all our beauty, maturity, creativity, and generativity!”

The violence unfolding in Ferguson, in Israel and Palestine, Ukraine, Iraq, Nigeria and countless other regions around the globe; and also the unproductive state of our bickering US Government, the runaway riches of money-first Wall Street, millionaire athletes, broke school teachers, oceans filling with plastic and so much more – these are all reflections of a world in the grip of an immature masculine patriarchy compelled to act out “dominating, disempowering behavior towards others.” (Moore and Gillette)

if i was a black man photo by elvert barnes
What is the solution?

Introspection. Fearless conversation. Taking personal responsibility for the roles we, as men, collectively play in the state of things.

Especially, we must learn to embrace the mature feminine gifts that many women (and surely some men, too) yearn to offer humanity, such as the ability to genuinely honor relationships and truly care for the whole community.

The fact that our community leaders still meet black anger with riot shields and stun grenades is a clear sign that we don’t yet know how to fully care for each other. We must understand that true wisdom means allowing both masculine AND feminine energies to bring their full gifts to the human experience.

Moore and Gillette write that “our dangerous and unstable world urgently needs mature men and mature women if our race is going to go on at all into the future.”

“We need more of the mature masculinity,” the authors insist.

Unfortunately, our culture has no intentional rituals designed to initiate adolescent boys into mature manhood. Such rituals common to traditional indigenous societies are lost to us. Our pseudo-initiations (e.g. getting a drivers license, losing one’s virginity, gang initiations, turning drinking age, graduating high school, etc.) merely cast us off into an “every man for himself” world without really disabusing us of our adolescent masculine psychology. Thus our bodies grow while much of our psychology remains stuck in ways that propagate adolescent behavior.

As thoughtful men who yearn to fulfill our destiny as strong, mature men, we must therefore be vigilant on that quest. We must continue exploring what it means to act in mature ways with our women, children and communities.

We must ask ourselves, are we truly hearing the anguished cries of the world around us?

If we have lost the intentional rituals that would initiate us into a mature manhood, then we must work to initiate ourselves.

We must spend time in thoughtful, real conversation with other men. We must take time to listen deeply to the world around us, especially to our women, who we’ve ignored far too long. We must be proactive in ensuring both our individual and collective evolution as men.

And keep coming back to this blog, as I’m inviting the conversation about what it means to be a healthy mature man – and a healthy mature woman – in the 21st century.

The survival of human civilization may very well depend on it.

Our thriving absolutely depends on it.

p.s. If you’re like me, you strive to live with wisdom and stay in alignment with your deepest truth, in everything you do. So I want to share with you a special one-time FREE virtual event I was invited to share my personal story of darkness and triumph alongside 28 inspiring visionaries.

Beginning online on August 26th: Soul Speak – 28 top Inspirational leaders share their best experiences and tips for living by Divine Guidance.” 

If you want to live more aligned with your soul’s true purpose, register FREE @ http://www.sheldonpizzinat.com/soulspeak-br 


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  • i have been passed over for a job (federal “diversity” mandates). ive been denied college admission even though my stats would let someone of a different color gender or race get into the same school. ive been passed for promotion based solely on gender (im a male). ive been stigmatized with this country was made for you, why cant you make it in life, whats wrong with you? so, i too am mad as hell. and whats worse, i am not allowed to talk about it without being labeled racist immediately. AWW (Applying While White) is my DWB.

    • I hear you, J. It’s a messy world. And one solution often just creates more problems for other people. WE can only hope that we keep creating higher quality problems for ourselves, and not just shuffling crap from one person’s lap to another.

  • Once again you have really touched my hearts with your words. Not many people would be brave enough to speak with such candor and empathy. Thank you.

  • Hello Bryan,

    I typically really enjoy your posts, and I commend you on your ability to put your personal ideas forth.

    The subject of this post is, on some levels, challenging to write about, and I appreciate your social positioning at the beginning of the piece. I do however have the following questions and observations:

    First, a portion of the title of the article is “If I was a Black Man…” which, I found rather interesting. I was wondering in what way(s) your identity as a “middle-class white man” exempts you from “raising hell too?” My initial reaction was this “So what? If you are white then you are not as inclined to raise hell?” And I felt a little angry, but then I just became curious.

    Second, what does “raising hell” mean to you? I suppose that anything that makes a dominant patriarchal group aware of its misconduct (to say the least) raising hell. Also the raising of said hell, is from the perspective of who? If raising hell is from the perspective of the patriarchy, then perhaps the title legitimized their concern and also views what to some may be a perfectly natural, and expected reaction to the underlying issue that has manifested in the events in Ferguson. On the other hand, if raising hell is from the perspective of those who are “marginalized,” then again I wonder how your identity as a middle-class white man lends itself to understanding a perspective with which you seemingly divorced yourself from in the first part of the title mentioned above: “IF I was a Black Man…” (emphasis added) which you made perfectly clear that you indeed are not.

    My third point is perhaps more of an observation. I notice that throughout your work you reference the importance of “vulnerability” in this article in particular, you mentioned the importance of “vulnerability (as a strength).” I my thoughts are as follows:

    Valuing vulnerability as a strength reveals a paradox that negates the premise of re-evaluating the value os vulnerability: Valuing vulnerability as a from of strength does not challenge the existing paradigm that values traits because at the end of the day, they are there to “strengthen” you.

    Is it not acceptable to be exposed, weakened and still be acceptable? That yes there are times when you are strong, and there are times when you are no-so-strong. But more importantly, at all times you are valuable.

    I feel that the value of vulnerability turned to strength implies that “the only way I can value vulnerability in you is that it will result in in a state where I can more easily accept you.”

    I suppose I will end there. I do enjoy your work overall, and I look forward to reading more of your work.


    • Hi L. Thanks so much for asking great questions. I would like to keep my response simple.

      As a human being, I can relate to the universal human experience of being rejected, ignored, denied, cast aside, etc. From that place, I can connect with the plight of the oppressed anywhere. However, as a white man in the USA, even growing up with much money I have still lived the life of the privileged, if only in that I was almost never treated as less than human. I would have to work really hard to conjure up the kind of anger that would lead a thoughtful, intelligent black friend of mine to “not un-seriously propose” that every time an officer shoots an unarmed black kid that we shoot one of his kids. I have much more access to understanding and forgiveness than that, which you find with a lot of thoughtful white people who have never really been discriminated against.

      Perhaps that’s the best gift I could offer as a white man. A thoughtful open heart speaking through an articulate mouth, rather than an angry hell-raising fist.

      I say “raising hell” as shortcut for “make my pain clearly known to those who need yet refuse to listen .” I understand the pain of the oppressed, even if I don’t feel it my body to the degree with which they do.

      As for vulnerability, I simply mean having the courage to be open-minded, open-hearted, and to hear each other deeply. Being vulnerable does NOT mean I will be easier for you to accept, which is exactly why it takes courage and strength to be vulnerable.

      But there is a magic that can happen only in the presence of true vulnerability. We can see our shared humanity, and so we truly see each other. Therein lies our best hope for peace and reconciliation.

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