A True Story of "White Male Privilege"
Being "On Top" While Hitting Rock Bottom
White privilege is a funny thing.
Growing up and attending high schools all over the U.S., I really only learned about white privilege while attending college and afterwards. Upon learning that I was supposed to be handed life's rewards on a silver platter for no other reason that my skin pigmentation, I was honestly a little excited. Selfish, I know, but a normal reaction for anyone.
The thing is, I never got that silver platter. And I have no idea where people think this magic platter comes from.
While attending an anthropology class in the community college I was enrolled in at the time, my professor started a discussion about race and privilege. It opened my eyes to the kinds of stories I thought were exaggerations before. I realized just how harsh and unforgiving the real world is. Look anywhere on the Internet now, and you can find hundreds of stories that prove this statement.
I sympathized and commiserated with my classmates, understanding their pain while knowing I had no real grasp of what they experienced. I listened to their feelings of frustration and anger, sitting in a circle around each other. Then the conversation turned to white privilege and male privilege.
Suddenly, I lost the plot. Accusations flew towards the white students:
"You would never know, you're so buried in privilege that it's all you can see."
"Saying that white privilege doesn't exist makes you racist."
"Just because you can walk down the street and not be scared doesn't mean privilege doesn't exist."
"I hope you know that you sound so misogynistic/racist."
Now, I am a white male. If that wasn't obvious before, it is now. I am also Hispanic. But you'd never be able to tell because of my pasty skin. I never associated myself as my skin color growing up, but I celebrated various traditions in my childhood that weren't inherently white or Hispanic. They were my family's traditions. I was also raised to never expect anything to be given to me; I had to earn and work for what I wanted.
This idea I had growing up perfectly contradicts the idea of me having privilege of any kind. All the examples of white and male privilege (pleasant experiences with the cops, feeling safe walking down the street, flesh colored anything) were lost on me. If anything, I identified more with the complaints that my non-privileged friends have.
And that's where I want to make something very clear. I believe in privilege, 100%. Don't get me wrong. But I believe privilege comes from how rich you are, not how white you are. It comes from being able to buy the 100-count Crayola box, not being upset that the Peach crayon used to be called Flesh.
Let me explain: I am a White-Hispanic that came from a middle-class family. Great start, I know. But take into account four children to feed and put through school, moving every few years because of work commitments, all while the parents are still attending school and working. When you think of a middle-class family, is this what comes to mind? Budgeting and couponing, eating the same meals for months on end because that's what was on sale? Having to tell friends that you can't go places because your parents said no, but not knowing it's because that was allocated in the budget? Not being able to participate in sports or clubs because of entry fees and memberships?
In my opinion, no.
Neither does being terrified when a cop pulls you over because you can't afford the ticket. Nor does feeling unsafe walking down a street at night because muggers and sex fiends aren't exclusively one race. Nor does feeling helpless when it seems that everyone gets more opportunities than you, more benefits than you, for no discernible reason.
Because for white guys without money, we get none of the "privileges" that we are told to have. Without money, everyone is in the same sinking boat and trying to find someone to blame so they have something tangible to fight against.
Before you destroy me online, I know racism exists. I know prejudice exists. I know about the systemic pressure minorities face. But let me ask you something: is trashing me going to solve your problems? Is attacking me for giving an opinion going to change how privilege is divided?
Or should we be going after the ones with real privilege, the ones who actually have the power to change the system from the ground up, who can decide how we live our lives with none of our consent?
Your choice. The ball is in your court now.