Every time I see all white men lumped together, it makes me sad.
I have known thousands of white men over my almost 80 years on this planet. They have been co-workers, fathers, teachers, students, mentees, relatives, sons, neighbors, doctors, lawyers, judges, carpenters, plumbers, politicians, farmers, artists, barbers, executives and more. Some have had wealth. Others have been poor. Many have been in between.
Men are found in all age groups — adolescents, young adults, mid-lifers, seniors, elderly. Some men are living fully, some men are dying. There are men with families and children. There are men who have lived alone all of their lives.
Beyond the label "white male" come a variety of distinctions. There are men who practice minority religions. Not all Jewish white men are the same. They may come from Orthodox, Conservative or Reform backgrounds. They may have differing beliefs and values.
There are also gay, bisexual and transgender white men. Some of these have been severely oppressed.
There are men with illnesses and disabilities. There are men with status and power. There are men with low status and no power.
There are men with deformities, men with cancer.
There are white men who live in castles and white men who are homeless and starving.
Some men were mercilessly bullied as children and adolescents. Many men have been abused, harassed, abandoned and beaten. There are men from different regions of the country. And there are men who have suffered many losses — of spouses, children, jobs, health, power, income, parents and siblings.
There are men who continuously grieve their losses. There are men who don't know how to grieve. There are athletic men and clumsy men.
There are handsome men and not-so-handsome men.
There are thin men and overweight men. There are men of varying talents and intellectual capabilities. There are men who are compassionate and men who are not. Some men are lovers and some are haters.
Many men have been programmed to be tough, macho, independent, stoic. Some men belong to groups and others are isolated. Some men have feelings of worthiness and others do not.
We have a wide range of men who experience spiritual connectedness and many who don't. We can find selfish white men and generous white men. There are white men who are in touch with their feelings and white men who do not have a clue.
So, this is just the beginning of looking at the complexity of one group that is often described as being all alike — all benefiting from white male privilege.
White men are as different as snowflakes (which are also white). Be careful when you talk about white male privilege, because it is not as obvious as it may seem.
Many white men have been oppressed by other white men. Many white men know the fear and terror of being hunted and tortured. Some white men have been killed by other men. Some oppressed men in turn oppress others. Some men who appear to "have it all" really hate themselves deep inside and hate their lives.
It is sexist to lump all white men together. It is naive, simplistic and also racist.
Michael Obsatz is professor emeritus of education and sociology from Macalester College. To learn more about his work, visit www.mentorsmatter.us.