An open letter to my fellow white, heterosexual, males:
Boys, we have had one hell of a run.
It’s been a blast for the past 12,000 years or so since the agricultural revolution when humans started to move from hunter-gatherer societies to settling down and growing crops and mastering the art of animal husbandry.
Along the way, let’s be honest, many of us straight white males (SWMs) haven’t been super nice. We ended up with a world where – in Europe and in North America at least – we took charge, took credit for the work of others, and profited on the backs of women, slaves, and indentured servants.
Decade by decade, those we took advantage of may have clawed back one tiny bit of recognition and apology after another, whether it was women, or descendants of Black slaves, or Chinese head-tax payers, or Indigenous victims of Canada’s attempted cultural genocide.
After some (not very) civil disputes in the U.S., we finally decided to free the slaves, which was pretty nice of us. Right?
We apologized to the Chinese Canadians. You’re welcome.
We also decided to let women vote and do other stuff that even incompetent white men are allowed to do.
You know: drive, sit on juries, have jobs.
As for Indigenous people? Please hold, it’s coming. (I’m told.)
The LGBTQ community? Well, we legalized sexual activity in 1969. And us SWMs listened to Frankie Goes to Hollywood in the 1980s, and watched Will and Grace in the 1990s, didn’t we? We allowed the entertainment industry to create a whole bunch of shows that included many (mostly white) homosexual (mostly male) characters.
Listen, we are not bad people. Sure we get Tasered and carded and harassed way less often than people of colour. Sure the worst of us spent decades physically bashing, emotionally torturing, and professionally oppressing members of the LGBTQ community. And some of us haven’t always treated women the way they should be treated.
But it’s not our fault, we were born this way.
White privilege? Sure, it’s pretty sweet to be born a straight white male, but many say that is not our collective fault. There has been a lot of white privilege pushback in recent days, many SWMs – others too – claim that it’s not a thing.
At the risk of being shunned by some of you, my fellow SWMs, I think it might be time we take a back seat. If not a back seat, can some of us at least ride shotgun for a bit?
No one is asking SWMs to be eliminated from the planet. They aren’t shipping boatloads of us in chains to unknown worlds, and horrific futures of permanent slavery. No one is trying to erase our culture, whatever that exactly is. But some are asking we be a little more inclusive and accepting.
While those in our SWM ranks, such as Don Cherry, accuse “you people” (i.e. immigrants of colour) of stealing from us, what is generally sought by people of colour, women, the LGBTQ community, isn’t more than we have or frankly even as much. For the past few hundred years, all “they” have been looking for is something at all.
Recently the voices have been getting louder suggesting the scraps we threw off the side of the table weren’t enough.
Guys, let’s stop getting so defensive. “Straight pride? Male pride? White pride?” Please. That’s what the last 12,000 years has been all about.
As I said, boys, it’s been a hell of a run.
We’ve been metaphorically standing on the neck of so many people for so long that I don’t think we can cry about them scratching at our ankles, telling us they can’t breathe.
To my fellow SWMs who have been resisting, please pull the car over. Take your hands off the wheel, sit in the passenger seat and just observe, maybe listen for a bit.
It doesn’t have to be emasculating or an existential threat.
Let’s just learn to take turns.
Make no mistake, things are a lot better for the non-SWM community today than they were even 20, 100, or certainly 1,000 years ago, but clearly we still have a ways to go.
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