White Male Privilege
Y’all. Today this cisgender heterosexual white male looked me in the eye and rejected his privilege on the basis of his being middle class. He first bellowed his “WASPness,” but then lamented the fact that he could never be truly WASP, be truly untouchable, due to his lack of a trust fund. For those of y’all who don’t know, WASP means White Anglo-Saxon Protestant, and is often used to describe a, “closed social group of high-status and influential white Americans,” according to Wikipedia. He was touting the very title of a group I could never hope to be a part of, and at the same time refuting his association. There were mentions of tax brackets, and a further breakdown of what degree of middle class he perceived himself to be, but all I heard was the roaring in my ears.
I was reminded of when another white, cisgender, heterosexual, male peer of mine likened the so-called “positive racism” he faced in China to the actual racism experience by marginalized individuals on a daily basis. He likened the burden of getting into clubs free in Asia, because he was white, to the weight felt by those who are actively discriminated against. Never had my social experience been so cheapened or so invalidated. I have no idea what “positive racism” is or how someone could think to couple those two terms together in any functional form, but I do know the reality I face every day as a black female. I personally find it hard to liken discrimination with the assumed assumption of someone belonging to the “Old Boys Club,” or any other type of privilege network.
I am, however, capable of understanding the privilege I am afforded as a cisgender heterosexual individual with a family who loves and cares for me in every way they can. I know that the privilege and disadvantage that I face do not cancel each other out, and that my privilege in no way reflects the pain of another. There is no net neutral effect and the privilege of one often comes at the cost of another. These forces are two sides of the same coin. I can only speak on my personal experience. As an example, I know that I as a member of a dominant religion, play a role in an institution that minimizes and belittles my sisters and brothers of the Muslim faith. The injustices I face are in no way an excuse for me to not recognize the ones that I help to perpetuate. I am not apologetic for my privilege, but I do recognize it for the positive that it is and I also don’t seek to defend it by any discrimination I do face. What I am concerned with is consciously using that leverage that privilege affords me in some situations to advocate for myself and others.