Simply Human & The Unlearning of a White Privileged Male
What manner of desperation or cause for revelation brings us to account for our past, the world which we come from? It requires poignant observations of the horrific events of recent times in order to focus within for a self-examination, and to come to terms with who we are. I believe what lies next is with this large question – who do we now choose to be?
I am acutely aware of my origins, raised in a sexist, racist, and homophobic environment. One might be tempted to easily dismiss such an admission by shrugging it off and saying simply – that was the norm. It was in fact a widespread condition of the white world. This has been largely the case in White America, a world built upon privilege. The past is gone and it is something that we need to learn from, or as I define it, unlearn from, as I have come to reject the lessons and examples of bias that were imposed upon me.
Growth is mostly a psychic conditioning, a social training, influenced heavily by immediate family and culture. Religion plays a huge role in defining our outlook and shaping us as people. This is well known as Freud talked about this more than a century ago. His early follower, C.G. Jung, went further to pursue paths of healing and an opportunity for a self-reckoning, presenting opportunities for self-discovery to see the world differently and openly. This becomes the great prize of awakening- a real epiphany.
I basically knew only the parameters of the small ethnic neighborhood that I came from. My early years were spent mimicking the models I was taught like an obedient child. It would be a measured removal process for me, guided by a formal education, allowing a gradual breaking with the narrow, restrictive prejudices and boundaries that I inherited. Change would involve a mental, emotional, psychological, physical, and ultimately a spiritual shift toward openness. It amounted to a major break in behavior, going from a fear-based belief system toward one that is more about acceptance and love. The world as I came to better understand, was clearly much larger than the corner I came from. We were all like-minded bad white boys. I chose to move beyond.
Admittedly, I am a WPM, a straight White Privileged Male. I must own this. I have never feared walking down the street with the threat of harassment because of the way I look or happen to move. I have not had to experience outlandish comments or be attacked in a public place. I have not had to worry about being deprived of any basic civil rights. I have conveniently fit in, and have taken these things for granted, my privilege as a white man. It has been quite a benefit – a special perk, not uniquely mine. Lots of people can attest to this same status.
There are many of my friends and family that have lacked such treatment or basic respect, because they have appeared as different. It is because they have often been criticized by their looks, mannerisms and behavior, sex, or skin color. As I begin to comprehend this injustice, my reaction becomes more of outrage.
I want to act, still processing pre-disposed attitudes, to eliminate the shreds of lingering fear in me. And to the extent I can, I strive to make positive statements of humanity based upon simple equivalency.
Photography, as I think about it now some fifty years into it, likely became the single most powerful force of redemption for me. Seeing the world through the lens of a camera, created an opportunity of neutrality, and better, real possibilities of self-discovery. Once my image-making began it would be non-stop, a pathway of slow enlightenment, letting go of the social and religious influences having done far more harm than benefit. Over the years, a range of mythologies have guided me away from my early rigid socio-religious framework, thus helping me with various therapies employed as I grew older. I also attribute such a shift being possible as a result of foreign travel in meeting people and encountering different cultures. It allowed me to literally participate more as a global citizen.
Early in 2019, I decided to undertake a direction that deals with those who have long been marginalized by society, essentially concentrating less on the traditional White world models, and more on disenfranchised people and on a non-white populous. This involves members of the LGBTQ+ communities, people of color, immigrants and refugees, people with disabilities, and homeless people. I have been able to engage and work with some of these folks. I have asked them to join with me in making a photograph- collaborating to make a humanistic statement together.
I begin by making portraits and continuing to use film, which will later be scanned to a graphic format. It becomes a visual pallet for our joined expressions. With a photograph made and decided upon, I ask my partners – the chosen subjects of my photography, to essentially react with words, phrases, drawings or markings. I seek their own expressions to join mine. This becomes a kind of dance in having a dialogue together with their offerings. I am not just taking a photograph, rather I am making a photograph with them. Their offerings come to connect with my visuals, completing a process. This is a dance that I believe requires a partner.
Simply Human is my project. It is seeing the greater equivalency in all of us who seek much the same as a good manageable life with few hassles. Regardless of who we are or where we have come from, as people we all want the same things, a rather peaceful life.
Simply Human is for me a personal healing process of unlearning and discarding the crap I was taught and shown as models. I carry regrets, but I am reassured with a true desire to practice and do some good with my photography. It is about an inner healing. Guilt may have prompted much of this, a worthy purpose. I can move on from that particular anchor, especially by making continued photographs. For me, this is the best means of unlearning. I no longer wish to be stupid, but simply human.
sb 11 September 2019
LGBTQ+, gay, lesbian, Black Lives Matter, human, human rights, poetry, music, transgender, immigrants, refugees, privilege, white, male, simply human, liberalism, love