Journey of the White Male

Journey of the White Male

A white male said to me:
“White male is all washed up.
White male is all used up.
White male blamed,
his peak is past,
chickens come home to roost at last.
No moral high ground,
a flavor out of favor–
unwanted and politically incorrect!”

I said: “My friend, this is not the end!
For the white male
the journey has barely begun.
It’s a long dusty road
from oblivion to consciousness
and the battle is not yet won.
It’s a slow awakening of the crocodile
in the murky swamps of apathy
and the pain has barely stung.
Yeah, man, it’s a long dusty ride
’til you climb down the sides
of the pit of despair
and reach out a hand
to pull up the ones
still lingering there.
‘Til you bend your will,
your pride, your skill
to removing the bars
that were nailed in your name.
‘Til you step off the backs
that you stand on now
and weep with the secret shame.
No, not until.

‘Til you bring all your sweetness,
your handful of trinkets,
your sacred offering here,
will your journey come round
to sacred ground
and bring your fruit to bear.”

This poem appears at the back end of my new novel, INTERMARRY. It was written many years ago and then it gave rise to the novel.

I have known many good white men. Through their actions, they live every day of their lives in the silent attitude of atonement, for the sins they have inherited from history. It is a heavy burden to carry and there doesn’t seem to be enough they can do on a daily basis to wipe off the stain.

And then there are the other white males, still wreaking havoc with the world and the fortunes of so many, giving white males all a bad name.

So it became a challenge to write a book that pursues the question, “What if I COULD do something to change the state of race relations in my country? Something concrete, something with my bare hands. Would I even dare?”

I wanted to develop a character that WOULD dare, and then to put him through the transformation process that would occur in his own soul. And the learning that he would gain. And the effect he would have on the people around him.

Would his very physical actions change the spiritual climate around him? In other words, what would it actually take to create racial healing in America?

So that is why I love Jack Wolinsky, the title character in the novel, so much. He embodies all the possibilities we human beings have when we arise, with humility, to affect the world around us.  Jack is in all of us. And we want him to succeed, we even want him to get a prize in the end, for all this suffering and his efforts.

INTERMARRY is a fairy tale then. One we all wish somebody would tell us about.  But would it be enough to convince us? Would it make us let go of our mistrust?

Otis Reed, the quintessential doubter (and a black man), expresses our own fear. In their very heated conversation on race, he says to Jack, that letting go of mistrust is like re-opening a wound, “It means letting it bleed again, going forward bare and unprotected, your heart exposed for the arrow, your soul a blank target.”

But, as Jack himself says to Otis “…there are no guarantees. I can’t guarantee I’ll never let you down. Because I’m human. I hope to God I don’t. But it’s not me I’m asking you to put your faith in. I’m just saying you should put your faith in the possibility of a future that’s better than the past.”

Obviously, there are many themes in the novel, and I will discuss them in other blogs. But what I’m saying here is that for young white males, who for the rest of this century will have to see the turbulent reactionary world try to fix the iniquities of their greedy racist ancestors, there is an option, other than to be a helpless spectator.  They can take their idealism and give it life. And it WILL matter.

IntermarrycoverFotor The conversation on race.
Can we even dare to engage in it?

About rheaharmsen

Rhea Harmsen is a scientist, novelist and author of Language of the Spirit, a volume of selected poems. She has also released three novels, The Harvest of Reason, Intermarry, and God Created Women. Harmsen was born in a family with a black father and a white mother at a time when interracial marriage was still illegal in some states. Her parents gave her a vision of world citizenship that informs her writing and her lifestyle and has caused her to reject traditional views of race and gender. Harmsen's article "Science in the Hands of Women: Present Barriers, Future Promise" appeared in World Order in 1998 and provides the foundation for the story line for her novel The Harvest of Reason. She co-published the Monroeville Race Unity Forum Bulletin and authored many poems on racial topics, crystallizing the "conversation on race" in the novel Intermarry. Her work with domestic violence survivors in Puerto Rico inspired the novel God Created Women. Harmsen holds a doctorate in Plant Breeding and Plant Genetics from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She currently resides in Puerto Rico. Upcomming projects are described in her web page at
This entry was posted in biracial, global discussion, interracial marriage, national discussion, poetry, race, race in America, racial mistrust, unity in diversity and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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