Commentary: Recently, many old white guys feel under attack. U.S. citizens, white folks, and males have come down in the world.
U.S. citizens still have it way better than most; but our absurd preeminence during my youth – 6% of the world’s population with 60% of its goodies – couldn’t, and shouldn’t, last.
Whites still have it pretty good (see last week’s column); and men still generally have it better than women.
Change is happening. Most white males would agree, some grudgingly, that equality is appropriate.
But while it’s obvious that whites/men have generally had easier paths to wealth and power than Blacks/women, what if you’re a white guy who started out poor, in a broken home, got shot up in war, fell pretty low, then found your way, worked your tail off, and became highly respected – and someone on Facebook says you’ve been coasting on your gender and or color? That feels personal, and unfair. Nothing came easy.
Guys, it ain’t personal, nor is it all wrong. Most of us, at some point, got a job callback or avoided a jail sentence or police harassment based on color, gender, and/or class. I sure did. If someone says gender/color/class helped me accomplish something, or “Coming from a home with two sane and well-educated parents who loved you and loved each other gave you a hell of a head start,” I can’t disagree. Didn’t ask for it, didn’t deserve it, sure was lucky.
Did my gender, skin color, and genes give me tremendous advantages? You betcha. But I can still take pride in what I made of that, and criticize myself for what I didn’t.
I wouldn’t want someone to hit me or steal my motorcycle because I’m privileged; but charging me with being privileged only hurts if I’m weak enough to let it.
A Black friend suggests that sometimes Blacks, Hispanics, or Native Americans should be hired ahead of a white guy, even with slightly lower qualifications. Hiring for jobs that matter, I want the best. However, the “less-qualified” gay Black woman could be the best. First, she brings diversity of experience and a fresh point-of-view. Secondly, if the white guy from an upper-middle-class family, scores 600 on our “objective” scoring system, while a Black woman brought up in the projects, who waited tables at the same school while studying, scores 580, she might easily be the far superior employee very soon. He’s on the way from 5 to 6, while she’s moving from 3 to 8 over time. If his father got gentleman’s Cs at college and stayed employed because of color and connections, while her father wasn’t around, then hiring her seems both fair and wise.
Still, much depends on individual cases; and I’d agree some white males have reason to complain.
To fellow white guys who feel aggrieved when “others” question whether they deserve what they have, or assert some privilege based on having been oppressed, you need not roll over, but don’t take it personally. We’re each unique, and may have accomplished many things of note. Others’ words shouldn’t undermine that. Those words reflect pain life has dealt them. Maybe that’s not my fault, but understanding others’ realities is good – for all of us. If you feel you’re being treated unfairly, fight it – but maybe only after reflection. Trying to see the other side might soften your reaction, even inspire you to join the fight for change.