From one straight white cis male to all the others… we need to have a little talk.
Here’s the thing. This country was literally built for you. For me. For us. The United States and its predecessor colonies existed for 400 plus years based entirely around our supremacy. Even when there were people like us who recognized this as a problem, it didn’t stop the way our society ran.
Now things are starting to change. Slowly, painfully, but they are definitely starting to change. We talk more about this than ever before. At this point, there’s still more talk than action, but at least we’re starting to comprehend the problem.
We need to acknowledge that from a societal standpoint, “straight white cis male” was considered the default position. That it was the textbook (literally) definition of “American.”
That was of course, what people do when they run everything. Everything defaults to them.
People are starting to realize this won’t work any longer.
Many straight white cis men understand that things need to change. Our culture, our social structure, our political structure, all need to represent… all of us. Not just the old default, but everyone. We’re all in this together. A realignment of our society is not an attack on straight white cis males. It doesn’t mean others are going to treat us the way we treated them, though one can understand the poetic irony in that occurring. It’s simply that we need to reset how we think. Guys, we aren’t the default any longer.
That’s where you have the old guard. Guys like Donald Trump. People who see the world around them changing, but in scary ways. They see people pushing for greater equality, greater access, an even playing field. And they see it as an attack. Too many of us (straight white cis men) are fearful of losing that default setting. The head start we get by virtue of being born… us. And when people are accustomed to having that societal advantage, they see attempts to bring about equality as oppression.
Which leads to obnoxious men who act like they’re an aggrieved party. They act like the world is against them. That attitude, by the way, is how one inadvertently sets the world against oneself.
Guys, please listen. This is from someone who knows. From one straight white cis male to all the others… it’s no longer all about us. And that’s a good thing. Women make up 51% of this country. People of color make up about 37%. The percentage of LGBT people has been harder to accurately measure, but we can safely lowball the figure at 10%, with room to grow. And yet, our system still makes it harder for all of these people to contribute. Is it right that women only make up a quarter of government officeholders? And people of color make up just 10%? Is that representative of who we are now?
We’ve gotten too comfortable with seeing a movie with 20% women characters and maybe one token black guy and thinking that it accurately represents our world.
Privilege isn’t an absence of problems. Privilege doesn’t mean that everything is handed to you. It doesn’t mean that someone with less privilege can’t achieve greater things than someone with more. It simply means that people don’t start out on an even social playing field. A blogger whom I admire described being a straight white male as playing life on the lowest difficulty setting.
That’s just about right.
Even when we don’t have it easy, we still have the easiest start. And the idea is not to make it harder for us. The idea is for all groups to be able to start on the same setting. Nobody is saying the cops should now start harassing white guys, or women should catcall men. We’re saying that cops shouldn’t harass anyone and nobody should make unwanted sexual advances on anyone else. This isn’t an attack on one group. This is about getting the one group to quit fighting the advancement of everyone else.
So back to my fellow straight white cis males:
If you have a problem with everyone being able to start at the same point, be treated the same way, get the same chances – then you’re part of the problem.
Don’t deny your privilege. Don’t act like you don’t have an automatic leg up on the rest of the world. Acknowledging it isn’t self-hatred. It’s simply the first step. Be aware of how you interact with others. Think about how you see the world around you. And understand there are many other legitimate points of view out there, each deserving of the same respect. And with each person, their perspective is their own default. They shouldn’t expect to see yours as their own default perspective. Try to be aware of that.