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 fur 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.