The fear and anger felt by many white men in America is real, but the rest of us don’t want to oppress you. We just want to share in the dreams and promises of our wonderful nation. (More)
Dear Angry White Men,
You’re upset, and you see real reasons to be upset. I’ve spoken with hundreds of you over the past few months and years, and I hope we can stop yelling at each other and have real conversations. That would be better for all of us, and better for our nation.
I know you hate the phrases “white privilege” and “male privilege.” I understand that you don’t feel “privileged.” You scramble to keep or find a job and pay your bills as you remember stories about your fathers’ and grandfathers’ getting jobs and buying homes and raising kids and retiring, and you wonder if you’ll be able to do what they did. You see women and people of color get college or graduate school admissions, jobs, or promotions, and think you worked just as hard and deserved those slots just as much. You get handouts or lectures about campus or workplace diversity and sensitivity, but it seems like no one ever talks about the diversity of, or demands sensitivity to, white men.
You look at your senators or representative, your mayor or city or county board, your local cops, the judge in traffic or divorce court, your doctor, your local TV news anchor, the stars of many movies and TV shows, your kids’ classmates and teachers, your neighbors, your coworkers … maybe your boss … and year by year it seems as if fewer of them look and talk and think like you.
And now, again, neither does the President of the United States.
You may remember or have heard about when almost all of those people – political and community leaders, media stars, and your colleagues – looked, talked, and thought like you. That was more comfortable. Even if you weren’t as rich or famous or influential, you felt like you were one of them. You fit in, back then.
At the very least, you didn’t feel like everyone expected you to apologize for being a white man. And why should you?
You didn’t ask to be born white or male, any more than anyone else asks to be born black or Hispanic or Asian or Native American or female. You didn’t own slaves. You weren’t alive when the laws were changed to let women own property and then vote. You didn’t invent Jim Crow, and may remember it only as a child or from stories you read in newspapers or history books. If a boss paid your father, or you as a child, more than a woman made for the same job, that wasn’t your choice. Yes, some white men did some bad things, way back when, but you didn’t do those things and why the hell should you bear the blame for them?
What’s more, white men did some good things, too. Who wrote and signed the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution? Who fought the Civil War and stormed the beaches on D-Day? Who invented the steam engine and the automobile, the telegraph and telephone and radio and television and computers? Who made most of the breakthroughs in science and medicine that most people in the U.S. and people around the world now enjoy?
Mostly white men. Why shouldn’t you be proud of all they did and proud to be one of them? Why, after people like you worked for centuries to build a better world, should you get sent to the back of the line so other people can run the world you built?
But here’s the thing. The rest of us never had the comfort of looking at the Senate or House, our our state and local governments, our cops and judges, our doctors and local TV news folk, the stars of movies and TV shows, our kids’ classmates and teachers, our coworkers and bosses, and the major figures in our history books … and seeing people like us.
Feeling as if you fit in with the wealthy and famous and influential people in our nation, even if you weren’t wealthy or famous or influential – that comfort and the confidence it gave you – was and still is a big part of “white male privilege.”
The rest of us didn’t have that, and mostly we still don’t. Yes, Barack Obama is the President of the United States … but five of nine Supreme Court justices, 80 of 100 Senators, all but a relative handful of U.S. House members, most governors, most state legislators, most mayors, two of the three network news anchors, most local news folk and major movie and TV stars … and over 90% of bank executives, Fortune 500 CEOs, and the Forbes 400 list … are still white men.
We have to look harder to find political and community leaders, scientists and business pioneers, and other people who shaped our world and who look and talk and think like us. That’s why we have Black History Month and Women’s History Month.
And despite what you’ve heard, we don’t want to send you to the back of the line. We don’t want to own you as slaves or make you use separate public rest rooms, drinking fountains, and swimming pools. We don’t want to change laws so white men can only be teachers, nurses, librarians, barbers, or retail clerks. We don’t want you to get paid less than women for doing the same work.
We don’t look at someone like you and think “He’s probably up to no good,” or “He wouldn’t understand math or science or law or medicine.” We don’t think you’re lazy or stupid. If you get upset, we don’t wonder if your hormones are raging. We don’t want to make you feel inferior, because you’re not inferior.
We want to look around us and see people – successful people, people who help shape our lives and our destinies – who also look and talk and think like us. Not all of them, of course. That would be unfair to you. But enough that we also feel like we fit in and we’re also fully part of this amazing and wonderful nation.
We don’t want to take away your American Dream. We want to share that American Dream with you. We believe “We the People” means all of us … and yes, that includes you.
We don’t have to yell at each other. We can talk to each other, listen to each other. And we need to … for our sake, for your sake, and for the sake of our nation.