Straight white privilege

Will Peebles

Hey. I’m Will. I’m a privileged, straight white male who grew up in one of the most difficult places in the nation to overcome poverty: Jefferson County. Only recently have I truly come to terms with what that means.

By “privileged,” I mean that I grew up in a middle-class family where money was never really a problem. By “privileged,” I mean a lot of the appalling things my younger self did were shoved under the carpet primarily because of my skin color and the fact that my family was well-respected in the community.

That privilege became the bane of my existence this past summer. I hated it. I hated looking around at a racist, masochistic culture that people just like me created. A culture that only people just like me can easily thrive in.

I became ashamed of my race, my sexual orientation and the highly touted “southern heritage” I was raised in, but more than anything, I was ashamed that it took me so long to realize how much I did to promote that culture.

I cat-called and dehumanized women by only trying to get in their pants. While I’ve never been racist myself, I certainly stood by while other privileged straight white men said terrible things about Black people and Hispanic people in my own town. I watched my religion alienate homosexuals- a group of people who would become some of my most cherished company in college.

Through all of this, I DID NOTHING. Nobody ever told me shit like this was intolerable, so I just lived innocently and ignorantly within the “Good ol’ Boy” excuse, and learned from the adults that I thought understood how the world worked.

I’m here to tell you, straight white males: That shit is intolerable.

If that makes you angry, good. It made me angry too. It made me feel like the world was just looking for somewhere to leave the blame, and straight white males are an easy target. It made me set out to try to disprove it. That anger forced me to do research on racism, women’s rights, feminism, politics, the wage gap, slavery, civil rights and any other issue that I refused to believe were solely my demographic’s fault.

When I did, I found something that hit me right in the pride. For the most part, it was the fault of straight white males and our always-present, sometimes-cumbersome privilege. That was hard to admit. I quickly redirected my anger and set out to find ways to help.

The best, and often most difficult thing to do is to stand up and not participate when you see privilege happening. If your friend is telling a girl how much he’d like to “pee in her butt,” it’s perfectly appropriate to call him an asshole. If they say something racist, tell them it isn’t OK. Apologize to the person they have offended on their behalf. Reprimand them in whatever way you deem appropriate, just make sure they know that you don’t think what they’re doing is OK.

Things like culture don’t change overnight, but this is the future of your nation. You don’t have to be ashamed of how you were born, even if you were born straight, white, male and privileged. I, however, feel obligated to use the privilege I was lucky enough to be born with to fix some of things our misguided ancestors, grandparents and parents messed up.