If you’re a white man like me, you’ve been hearing the same question a lot lately: “How may I help you, sir?” It’s a great question, and yes, you do have my permission to help me. I’ll take those shoes, and that phone watch, and North Carolina’s 4th Congressional District. But men like me have also been hearing another question: “You need to check your privilege.” Which I’d like to point out is not actually a question. Now, as a white man, my natural response to non-questions is to get sarcastic and ask to see somebody’s manager. Which I did. And it turns out I was their manager. So I sat down for a long meeting with myself, and came to one conclusion. I do need to check my privilege. Because what if I’ve lost it?
I can’t imagine life without my white male privilege. Literally, my mind cannot conceive of what that would be like. And I’ve got a really good imagination. Ask me to imagine a half-man, half-zebra dressed like a half-woman/half-lion. No problem, already done. I can even see how the fake fur of his yarn lion mane gets tangled in the real hair of his zebra pelt. And just for extra credit, I imagined he was on the beach eating a blue steak, a color no real steak has ever been. So let’s not kid ourselves, my imagination is probably in the top seven or eight imaginations of all time. If I can’t imagine life without my privilege, then it’s probably outside the realm of human thought, like string theory or the rules for frequent-flier mileage.
If my privilege was missing, I needed to know right away. Taking a few days off from work (I’ll tell them I was sick or had a family thing or something — if my boss/dad’s college roommate even asks me), I checked the status of my white male privilege in a variety of situations.
Joining an all-hands staff meeting a half-hour late, I immediately take control of the room through constant interruptions, derisive snorts, and loudly slurping two-dozen chilled oysters. When the meeting breaks, I am taken aside and told I have management potential. The fact that I don’t work there is never brought up.
Arriving five minutes after the posted closing time at my local Best Buy, I interrupt a female sales associate while she rings up someone else and deliver a nearly hour-long lecture on which Blu-Ray player is best for watching streaming HD video of college lacrosse games. She and her non-white customer listen patiently, nodding their heads meaningfully at some of my stronger points. Leaving without buying anything, I am offered membership in their Preferred Purchasers Discount Club and handed a complimentary bag of 80” flat-screen televisions.
Spend two hours circling an elementary school at high speed while announcing, “I have a bomb” through a bullhorn. Asked to pull over by a police officer, I roll down my window and take a swipe at him with a machete. The officer immediately hands me a beer and asks if I think the Mets have a shot at a series win. We bond over our shared love of pornography and cargo shorts. Not once during this interaction am I shot to death.
Squeezing into a packed subway car, I lie across the laps of four elderly Chinese women and deliver a speech about modern America’s crippling lack of respect for the one true male caucasian heterosexual god. Upon reaching my stop, I learn I am leading the Republican presidential field by twenty-seven points.
Privilege: As Expected
Checking my privilege was an incredibly eye-opening experience. For far too long I’d failed to see how much easier life was for me as a white male. I won’t make that mistake again. From now on, I will cherish and rejoice in how much easier life is for me as a white male. Thanks to the world’s urging, I finally checked my privilege. It turns out my privilege is awesome.