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Progressive White Men

Noam Chomsky

We now know the authoritarian game plan: stoke division on the left and rally the right around nationalism. This is how fascist leaders like Putin and Trump plan to destroy democracy around the world. They do this by promoting divisive ideas that aggravate divisions along racial, gender, and ideological lines.

This “divide and conquer” approach has been the preferred strategy for years, because progressives all too often take the bait. The latest reiteration of these bad ideas is the thought that older white progressive men should step down from leadership roles and let minorities take the helm. This idea sounds good at a superficial level, but it doesn’t hold up to closer scrutiny.

Should Bernie Sanders drop out of the presidential race? Should Noam Chomsky keep his mouth shut? Should all of our progressive white male leaders resign?

We need not suppress the participation of white progressive men, because there is no shortage of leftist activists and leaders. There is no shortage of free speech and no scarcity of freedom of expression. We don’t need to silence any progressive voices.

It should be obvious that older White Supremacists are not going to step down so that colored people can have their chance to lead. Only white progressive men are being asked to step aside.

Progressives should know better than to classify people by demographics and then treat them as if they were all the same. It should be obvious that older White Supremacists are not going to step down so that colored people can have their chance to lead. Only white progressive men are being asked to step aside.

The problem with this approach is that there is no lack of opportunity to participate in the movement. What we really need is more people stepping up. More people speaking out. More people getting involved.

Progressives spend too much time attacking one another. There may be some reason to distinguish between corporate democratic candidates and progressive candidates, but it is counterproductive to attack fellow progressives just because they are older, caucasian and male. Shutting white progressive men out of speaking opportunities and leadership roles will not free up opportunities for people of color or lead to more progressive public policies, because the only people being restricted are fellow progressives.

White progressive men are not the problem, and they shouldn’t be treated like road-kill. We need everyone raising their voices, everyone participating. We must give white progressive men the opportunity to speak and utilize their skills and abilities to further the movement.

Shutting out white progressive men weakens the movement, because it in effect silences and suppresses the participation of fellow progressives. This is exactly what our enemies want us to do: censor and repress one another so that they don’t have to. When we silence white progressive men, we silence the movement.

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So where do these divisive ideas come? They don’t all come from Russia. Many come from the partisan media. Conflict sells. The corporate media stirs up emotions like anger and fear to hook their audiences. They may also be serving their corporate overlords by spreading division.

Bad ideas also come from the academy. Academic professores are human beings. Sometimes they are wrong. More often, their ideas are complex and people misunderstand, misapply, and even misuse them.

The idea that white progressive men should step back is based on the idea that only people of color can understand and pursue the interests of their people. The flaw in this argument is that as progressives we do not pursue our own narrow-based interests. There is a difference between those who pursue their own interests and those who advocate on behalf of others.

As Progressives, we lift up the voices of the marginalized and oppressed. We do this by lifting up all our voices together as one. For how we can lift up others if we do not also lift up one another?

By supporting each other, we can better raise up the voices of the powerless. By lifting one another up, we stand more firmly upon the shoulders of those who came before us. Our forefathers and foremothers did not fight and die defending the First Amendment and the Bill of Rights just to have us cast these rights aside for newfangled ideas that fail to appreciate how much civil rights leaders relied upon these rights in their efforts to move us forward.

What we need is more speech. More people rising up. More people speaking their truth.

We can all rise up. We can all speak truth to power. We can all be a part of the movement…

We must all rise up. We must all speak out. We must all be involved. For progressives, there is no choice but to resist injustice.

So while we lift up the voices of the poor and oppressed, as we should! Let us also remember to lift up one another. The progressive movement needs its white progressive men to step up and be active and involved.

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