Straight White Male Seeks Understanding of “White Privilege”

An open letter to those of you who were not born into the privilege that I, as a straight white male, was:

In the wee hours of this morning I stumbled off to bed stunned at what I had just witnessed happening in our country’s presidential election. When I awoke a few hours later my shock was replaced with a deep sadness. I have spent the day mulling over things and felt the need to share. My hope is that maybe I can help someone — at the very least me — in these troubling times.

While I am disappointed in the choices my fellow Americans have made with their votes, I am much more disheartened by the message that I believe was sent, whether on purpose or not, to everyone who is not a straight white male.

I do not like discussing white privilege, especially in social media arenas, of all places, because of the immediate defensiveness and emotions it can stir, even within myself. I do not want to believe that because I was born this way I am automatically classified as the recipient of more privileges than those who are not. I do not want to believe that we still live in a country and a world where this is even possible. Yet today I am overwhelmed with the truth that I can no longer ignore or hope doesn’t really exist.

Today I was brought to tears as I began to realize how so many people in our country woke up scared, angry, broken, and devalued, simply because of the color of their skin, or their passionate love for someone of the same gender, or because they are female, or one of numerous other things that classifies them as a “minority”. (Please forgive my inability to name you all — I fear I would mess up the terminology or leave someone out.)

I have choked up throughout the day thinking about my friends and relatives that fall within this label of “minority”, wondering if they feel like a message was sent to them from “white America”, and, if so, how they personally are dealing with the emotions it stirs in them.

And I can’t answer that question, because it is not and never will be my life experience as a straight white male. For the first time in my 50 years on this earth, I feel like I understand this so clearly. And I am shattered.

So, I write in hopes that I can encourage you somehow. I write to tell you that not all of us SWM’s are unaffected by your struggle or the place you find yourself in today. I write because I really don’t know what else to do, but I must do something.

And that brings me to this question that is raging inside of me: WHAT CAN I DO? How can I use my privilege for the good of those who do not have what I was born into? I don’t even know where to begin, but I know I must. Can you help me help you? I so desperately want to be a part of change in this, but at the same time I absolutely do not want to cause further damage, so I am trying to speak my heart without stepping on toes or offending.

Please, friends, can you tell me what I can do? Whatever it is, if I can do it and it will help in the cause to bring real change, I will give it my all.

This post was originally published on my Facebook profile on 11/9/16. I am working on moving previous related posts from there to Medium in order to continue the journey here that I started sharing there.

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