I think I just came down with a case of white male privilege.
I’ve had it for a while now, in fact, all my life.
I’ve been finding it incredibly easy to have my voice heard in a group. I thought it was just because I was so charming and my opinions were interesting and valid and that everyone wanted to hear them…then I realised the cards have been stacked in my favour.
A friend of mine, Matt Wicking (fellow white male), said that it’s like riding a bike with a tail wind. You feel amazing, like you are such an amazing rider,you don’t notice the tail wind, until you see a leaf being blown along beside you that is going faster than you and your like…oh I’ve got some help here that I didn’t notice. If you turn around and ride into the wind…you notice.
It took me a long time, till yesterday, to really see the tail wind was happening for me. I grew up not a part of the white male posse. They were off busy playing sports and being cool. I was busy sewing, drawing, baking and being an acrobat (we were not baking scones together on the weekend).
Because of this I have always seen myself as the underdog. I have worked hard to make sure that my voice was heard. I’d had enough of being silenced. No one was going to silence me!
Yesterday I realised that as a participant in a group I may not see myself as having white male privilege, but I do. Because the other people in the group who don’t fit into this privileged class will see me as being a part of that class.
So all the things they have learnt (implicitly and explicitly) about being around white men will be at play for them.
I felt sad and so sorry, and then a little bit guilty (and I don’t do guilt!). I realised that while my personal struggle to claim my voice has been important for me…I have now found it. Occasionally I find myself amongst men who play the ‘bloke’ card on me, but mostly I am building honest and caring friendships with other white men who fit into this group and I have no problems being heard.
And so I suddenly saw that it is my time to stand beside others who have been riding up hill into a gale force wind and let them feel what it is like to pick up a tail wind.
Technically I have known this for a while but I had my first go at it yesterday. It feels really weird, I don’t understand it, it feels very awkward and all wrong…but I know it is right.
The best bit, for me, is I have white male friends who seem to have come down with the same thing. We are all in this together. I’m so grateful to them for having the courage to, like me, be able to admit that something about all this isn’t right. To feel confident enough in themselves to hand back a bit of space because they can see that we are all ultimately the beneficiaries of this act.
When it is happening, honestly, it feels like giving something up.
Yesterday I realised that, for me, I wasn’t giving anything up.
Through my experiences of being bullied I had learnt something very important. Every voice should be heard.
I discovered that I could create a platform for others to know this experience. That this is an act of bravery and manliness. This is what it means to be a man.
All I had to do was listen.
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Know someone who’d appreciate this letter?