Much has been made in recent years of the disillusionment of white men. So used to being afforded the best opportunities, many men are now finding themselves losing out, and lashing out at the Latinas and women of color they see as standing in their way.
What is less well known, and less widely publicized, is the fact that for those who hold real power this kind of pitched battle is exactly what they have been looking for. From cynical politicians in search of votes to the captains of industry in search of cheap labor, keeping women of color and men at one another’s throats serves a profitable purpose. The fact is that many political leaders in effect encourage racial and/or gender tension, as if a say a white male is blaming their lack of opportunity on others (such as women of color), the white male is not addressing the true challenge in society, which is that all politicians lie and do what is right for themselves only…not other people.
It is a form politicians and our “leaders” pitting people against each other for their own benefit. It is “the politics of zero-sum thinking”, where that is one race or gender “wins”, another needs to “lose”. Politicians and our leaders use the “zero sum” policies to put men against women and those of color. Instead of having a “win-win” situation.
The fact that those profits come at the expense of real people, no matter what their gender, sexual identity or skin color, is generally not considered, and when workers fail to stick together the divisions that are created end up hurting everyone. So how can men overcome the challenges they face? How can they move beyond the war of the sexes and the battles surrounding racial and ethnic identity? Above all, how can men everywhere become allies and actually help Latinas and women of color – and themselves? Here are a few paths forward.
Start By Listening
Every successful conversation begins not with talking but with listening. By listening to the concerns of Latina women and other women of color, men everywhere can do a great deal to close the gaps built by decades of unequal treatment and discrimination.
Simply listening to the voices of women in their lives is a great place for men to start, and it is also one of the easiest. From the women at the workplace to their girlfriends to the people they meet every day, each new encounter is a wonderful opportunity, and another chance to create real allyship.
Recognize the Shared Struggle
For the white collar worker just trying to make ends meet, the fact that they are male may not seem very important. Low paid workers, no matter what their gender or racial identity, face many of the same types of challenges, and that shared struggle can be the cause of division – or an opportunity to form strategic partnerships, the kind that produce real power. This is where politicians pit gender and race against each other, as if a male puts their economic frustration or anger at women of color or immigrants, the male has an “easy” outlet for that anger vs. looking at the true issue – their political leaders.
Men can start to build these bridges and tear down the walls of mistrust by recognizing that the struggle they are in was created not by the Latinas and other women of color they see as competitors but by the politicians, employers, the business owners and others who are in the real positions of power. Instead of seeing the Latina women in the workplace as a competitor, men who embrace this perspective can see them as allies and partners in what is really a shared struggle. It can be a “win-win” situation.
Bring a Healthy Dose of Humility to the Table
There are real reasons why so many white men feel suddenly powerless, but even so the plight of Latinas and women of color is often so much worse. While the exact figures are hard to determine due to types of jobs, hours worked, etc. most studies show that women still only make 80 to 90 cents to a man’s dollar. Women of color are even more underpaid, and it may be as low as 50 to 60 cents on the dollar.
What is interesting, and a sad tragedy, is that women now get about 57% of bachelor degrees and 60% of master degrees per various studies, including those from Georgetown University and the US Census. This means women are more “educated” in the formal system – yet they are still paid less for the same work. Despite what they may feel, the men who are feeling resentful have long occupied a superior position, and recognizing that is a vital path to building bridges and seeking allies.
Men who want to be allies to Latinas and women of color can begin by bringing a healthy does of humility to the table, recognizing that their struggles are very real, but that they also enjoy an innate form of privilege just by being who they are. Finding humility while enduring struggles of their own is certainly not an easy thing for many men to do, but in the end closing the gap between low paid workers of all backgrounds will benefit everyone. Both men and women can benefit – no matter what people say life can be “win-win”.
The relationship between men and women of color can be “win-win”
The world is changing rapidly, and many people feel that they have been left behind by the resulting shifts in culture. Unfortunately, many in positions of power have used these changes to their advantage, fostering division where they should be allyship and hurting others in the process.
Far from being competitors in the marketplace of ideas, and the marketplace of jobs, men who find themselves feeling disadvantaged and historically marginalized communities should be natural allies. By recognizing the shared struggle that exists between men in the 21st century and their Latina and women of color counterparts, workers everywhere can begin to take back their power – and that will ultimately benefit everyone.