What The Malheur Occupation Teaches Us About Masculinity
By Susan M. Shaw
Of course, their sense of masculinity was also propped up by their intersecting white privilege and its attendant sense of entitlement. As white men they expect that ownership, power and success are their birthright. They expect to be heard. They believe that they have the right to demand what they want, even if it is over the law and over the wishes of the people of the region.
They demanded that federal lands be returned to "the people." But by "the people" they meant themselves and other white people like them. They certainly didn't mean the Burns Paiute whose land the refuge originally was and who asked them to leave. They didn't mean the people who live in Burns; they also asked the occupiers to leave. They didn't even mean the vast diverse majority of Americans who are free to enjoy the opportunities afforded by the refuge. Somehow, all of these other Americans are not "the people."
These occupiers also counted on their white privilege to protect them from federal assault. After all, we've witnessed the willingness of law enforcement to break up, often by force, the protests of Black and Native peoples. Yet, day after day passed, and the water and electricity stayed on, supplies still came in, and the occupiers continued to destroy the refuge and threaten Burns Paiute artifacts while the federal government tried to wait them out, despite pleas from the Oregon Governor and local officials to end the occupation.