Sometimes I feel as if I’m not the right person to speak out on things like this.
As a white, heterosexual, Christian, college-education, able-bodied, middle class male (I’m sure there are even more I’m not thinking about), I basically reside in the most privileged group throughout recent history. I have absolutely worked hard throughout my life to achieve what I have, but there are many challenges I have not had to face (or had mitigated) based solely on things I (in most cases) can’t control.
One of our big issues is this idea that white men should have the most say in everything. While few people (hopefully) would outright say that’s how it should be, functionally that’s how our governing bodies currently work. My voice, opinions, and experiences are just a drop in the bucket of other people who look and sound like me shouting in the crowd.
It would be far more meaningful to hear about the experiences and challenges of people outside these privileged groups. But unfortunately, many in our society disregard the voices of those groups (telling them to go back where they came from and claiming they hate their country, for example) in ways that they won’t automatically disregard my voice. That is a blatant example of privilege at work.
Since that’s happening, I feel obligated to use my privilege to point out some of these issues. Maybe someone will listen to my voice since I’m a white male (along with the rest of the list above), even though I definitely have less insight and knowledge into many of these things than people outside of the privilege groups whose voices we are suppressing.
Quite simply, we dismiss bad behavior by white men. It is shameful, abhorrent, and true. When tragedies are carried out by white men, we consider them isolated instances of mental health issues or the result of playing violent video games. We refuse to acknowledge any possibility of a systemic issue.
The flip side is that any time a different demographic carries out a tragedy, we immediately decry the entire group and demand swift (and often overreaching) responses to counter the issue.
Over the last nearly 40 years, out of 114 mass shootings in our country, 64 were initiated by white people, while 110 (all but four) of them were carried out by men. After the 2015 San Bernadino shooting carried out by a Muslim, Donald Trump proposed banning all Muslims from entering the country. Yet for each of the many shootings carried out by white men since then, his response has been to single them out as disturbed individuals, blaming mental health rather than any sort of demographic connection.
We see something similar with how men treat women. There are numerous cases of sexual assault going to court only to have white men receive unfathomably lenient penalties (or even delayed penalties so they can play college football). When white men are accused of sexual misconduct, benefit of the doubt often goes to them rather than to the accuser. And even when misconduct is discovered, there are always arguments about them “not being that person anymore” or saying they “shouldn’t be harshly penalized for 20 minutes out of 20 years of life.”
Once again, looking to the current president, Trump has been accused of sexual misconduct by at least two dozen women. He was even caught on tape literally bragging about sexually assaulting women. Yet he claims every woman is lying – despite his own established history of lying numerous times each day (stating provably false things repeatedly) – and a significant percentage of the country doesn’t even consider it an issue.
However, Trump himself demanded the death penalty for a group of five minority teenagers wrongly convicted of rape. Thankfully, the sentence was eventually overturned and they were released, but Trump continues to refuse to acknowledge their innocence.
It is amazing to me how hard we try to absolve blame from white men for anything they do wrong. If they assault a woman, what was the woman wearing? Was she drunk? Did she lead him on? What did she say or do? When they carry out mass murders, oh it must have been a mental health issue or violent video games.
It is actually incredibly disrespectful to the intelligence and emotional capabilities of white men that we are held to such a low standard. Do we simply expect that white men are so primitive and animalistic that we can’t expect them to maintain literally the lowest levels of decency? If so, maybe Trump needs to reevaluate which demographic groups he attacks as animals.
It’s not a hard standard: don’t assault women. Don’t shoot people. Yet we fight so hard to protect these men that we attack the dignity of every woman who’s ever suffered abuse or assault. And statistics show that’s a high percentage.
The percentage of false sexual assault accusations is incredibly low, yet the burden of proof falls overwhelmingly on a woman claiming a white man did anything wrong. And the places to which people will go to defend the white man knows no bounds, as we saw in the Brett Kavanaugh nomination to the Supreme Court. Trump could’ve nominated any number of hundreds of judges well qualified (and matching his desired politics) to serve on the Supreme Court. There was no reason to stick with the one who faced credible accusations of assault. Instead, we had our nation’s leaders (and talking heads) brutally attacking a woman’s credibility because she simply mattered so much less than getting this specific white man on the Supreme Court.
Our history of favoring white men basically runs the extent of time, and it’s a culture that has built on itself to this point. Now anytime any other group strives to even achieve something close to equal treatment, white men cry that they’re being oppressed. But equality is only oppression if you have been conditioned to expect a higher level of treatment and a lower standard of expectation for yourself. In fact, only someone who adheres to a white male supremacy mindset would consider equality as oppression.
Basically, we’ve long operated under a system of white male supremacy. Racism and sexism are two huge issues in our culture, partially because we so often refuse to simply acknowledge how rampant they are. We all have inclinations in favor of certain groups based on stereotypes; we all have racist and/or sexist tendencies in certain situations. Realizing and accepting that is the first step toward working to fix the larger problem.
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal…” We’ve never lived up to these words from one of our nation’s founding documents. White men have always received preferential treatment. Claiming otherwise is an exercise in self-imposed ignorance.
I saw something recently called “The Rock Test” that both made me laugh and sigh at how necessary such a thing is in our world. It’s designed for interactions with women, but it really works for anyone. Basically, imagine the person you’re talking to is Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson:
“Simply offer them the same respect, admiration, and healthy dose of fear you’d offer anyone who could completely destroy you should you deserve it.”
Obviously, such a thing is somewhat tongue-in-cheek (but would still be effective), and is only implemented on an individual basis. And that’s a start, but we have a systemic issue that has been in place for hundreds (actually probably thousands) of years empowering white men over others and not holding them to the same level of accountability that we hold other groups.
I’m not sure what all the answers would be. But it would be helpful to start the conversation if we would just acknowledge this simple truth that should be obvious yet is denied by so many: in our country, white men statistically are the group of people who provide by far the greatest threat to people’s safety.
White men collectively receive far better treatment than any other demographic, and that manifests in how we respond to horrific deeds carried out by individuals. Until we admit this is a problem and work to address it, we’ll be guilty of living out a culture that inherently promotes white male supremacy, completely opposite of the premise our nation was founded on (all are created equal).
I may not be the right person to speak out about this, because obviously I have no firsthand experience receiving lesser treatment based on my sex or skin color. But (in yet another example proving this issue,) as we’ve seen that our culture attempts to discredit those from other demographics speaking out about this (or really any other issues), I will speak out.