Introduction: Just Living
This is a book about the personal experiences of thirty-five white men who
are trying to live a just life, sometimes successfully, sometimes not. To
varying degrees, the white men in this book all think of what they do as
simply what they must do, as if it is no longer a choice; they are just living
their lives. And the task of challenging racism and other forms of oppression
is integrated into their day-to-day existence in such a way that their lives are
permeated with questions of justice, personally and politically. Challenging
racism is, for these men, just living. This book is an attempt to provide some
space for the reflections of a group of white men who we believe are living
just lives in many di√erent ways.
The narratives include incidents from and comments about complex and
rich lives and reflections on antiracist activity. Some of the narratives speak
about critical events that led to a life of activism; some of them speak about
blind spots when it comes to racism or another form of oppression; some of
them speak about o√enses in relationships and mistakes in strategy; some
of them speak about regrets of actions not taken. And there are expressions
of pride in describing accomplishments and victories.
These narratives are like photographs. It is as if each of these white men
were momentarily presenting himself to us and you. These narratives are not
comprehensive life histories. The white men profiled in this book made
decisions about what they wanted to reveal about themselves and what they
didn’t want to reveal. We encouraged them and sometimes challenged them
to reveal more about their most favorite and least favorite sides of themselves.
Why Another Book about White Men?
Given the critical role that people of color have played in the lives of white
men who challenge racism and given the fact that it is largely people of color
(and to a lesser extent white women) who have given their lives to fight
racism, you may wonder why we are writing a book exclusively about white
men. In fact, we were occasionally asked, ‘‘Why are you focusing on white