…I am white. And male.
I am ashamed of how those two facts alone have allowed me to assume my rightful place at the table of privilege, and I would like to take this opportunity to apologize for all the advantages I’ve had in life without even knowing it.
I’m sorry that my father only had to work 2, sometimes 3, jobs to support my family. I’m sorry that my mother only had to go to work so that we could have new shoes every year.
I’m sorry my parents were able to exploit their positions to make my grandmother sell her house and live with us, so that she could watch my 2 brothers and me while they worked for the sheer love of labor, instead of for such frivolous things as food and a mortgage.
I’m sorry that my father chose to abandon his family for 6 months on 24 hours notice to take a non-union job in Texas, after Ronald Reagan fired the striking Air Traffic Controllers.
I’m sorry that we chose to simply pick up and move from Pennsylvania to join my father at the end of the school year.
I’m sorry that I was able to overcome the crippling social anxiety of my teenage years to survive that move, and another 5 years later (halfway through my senior year), and graduate high school (with a half-credit to spare) with a 2.37 grade point average. I know that a lot of other kids would have simply folded under the pressure, but my innate advantages made sure that I was well-insulated from any possible negative outcome.
I apologize that my life was so assured by my white maleness that I had not one, but TWO choices of what to do after graduating high school: go enroll in college (which I”m sure some random, rich benefactor would have paid for, no questions asked, because: white), or join the military like my older brother did.
The choice was easy. Why would I not take the more culturally advantageous route of the military, when college is so hard for privileged white kids, who get a super-secret bonus of 10 points to their grades?
So the Air Force it was. My whiteness assured that I made it through Basic Training without being yelled at or corrected a single time. Born as I was with all possible knowledge required to complete any task society could invent, it was with a heavy heart that, for reasons unknown to me at the time, I respectfully declined the award for Honor Graduate.
What need had I for such paltry recognition? Surely my whiteness showed my excellence enough?
After carefully plotting my career track to hit every promotional goal exactly on the statistical averages (using such means as deliberately getting lower performance ratings in order to undercut the objective promotion criteria that my whiteness couldn’t overcome), I finally embraced my inherent superiority and accepted the rank I would hold until my retirement.
By releasing the full power of my European heritage, I was able to easily study and recall the various, commonly-issued materials and take my place as a manager, finally able to bend those beneath me to the whims of my whiteness.
As I prepared for retirement, I was shocked when I was interviewed over the phone for a job. How was I supposed to exploit my whiteness to ensure I got the position?
Thankfully, I was able to slip the interviewer one of our secret code words, thus ensuring my hiring.
Since then, life has gone pretty smoothly. I left that position 7 months later to exploit the post 9/11 GI Bill that I had somehow finagled getting during my 20+ years of active duty, even though they clearly don’t just give that to everyone that serves.
Working night shifts for less pay and for fewer hours, I completed my Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees in a leisurely 2 years, riding the wave of white privilege that enabled me to show up to class (whenever), write papers (or not), and give talks presenting academic ideas to my fellow students (or babble drunkenly, I can’t remember).
I’m not sure how many other people were interviewed for the next job I took, but I’m fairly certain I got it because I was white, as we only spent 20% of the interview talking about my college degrees and the job duties; the rest of the time we talked about lacrosse, volleyball, swimming, equestrian sports, and the problem of urban crime.
But, yes, I realize now that I have only reached the position I find myself because of my whiteness. My mortgage, credit card debt, car payments… none of these would have been possible had I not been born white.
I am so ashamed.*
*Doesn’t it sound stupid when you read it like this?