What White Men Can Get Away With, But I Never Will | Unpacking White Male Privilege

Donald Trump and I live in two very different Americas.

He lives in an America where irresponsibly spewing baseless judgments, accusations and declarations about anyone and anything without justification will win you an army of devoted supporters.  I live in an America where presenting a well-researched argument with multiple scholastic references will still leave my knowledge and competence of the subject area at hand in question. He lives in an America where there are no consequences for a consistently poor and questionable track record of work. I live in an America where making one small mistake will impact my entire reputation and be leveraged as the reason for why I am unqualified for certain positions or opportunities. He lives in America where treating people with disrespect isn’t a reflection of anything but his own poor manners. I live in an America where emphasizing a point a little too strongly makes me aggressive, unapproachable, and part of the reason why Black women are so unlovable. He lives in an America that excuses and rationalizes his pervasive character flaws.  I live in an America where my oversights are representative of everything that’s wrong with Black America.

This post isn’t going to be an assessment of all of the vile and destructive claims Donald Trump has made against the Black community over the course of his campaign. Instead, given that most sane and rational people can agree that Trump is a rude, egotistical man that has no regard for anyone whose life and experiences do not mirror his own, I’m going to focus more on why Trump’s candidacy has larger implications about the indestructible immunity of white men in America.

We have to talk about how absurd it is that white male privilege has paved the way for someone with no political experience at all to run for the most powerful office in the world, while our Black president–who holds two Ivy League degrees, served as the President of the Harvard Law Review, practiced civil rights law and served as a U.S. Senator–has had his decisions and stances consistently and ruthlessly scrutinized, mischaracterized, and placed under a microscope more than any other President in recent history throughout the duration of his Presidency

We have to talk about how absurd it is that white male privilege allows a presidential nominee to build a campaign off of the routine insults and attacks against any and everyone whose opinions and experiences differ from his, while we brush it off as ‘unconventional’ or ‘surprising,’ knowing that if the same were true for Obama, he would be impeached by now–or better yet, would’ve never made it to the Oval at all.

When Black people are indignant and fed up, we are silenced and criminalized. When white men firmly speak out against the issues they disagree with, they are elevated and given more air time. Even though Hilary Clinton carries her own set of privileges by merit of her whiteness, as a woman, she understands that the playing field is not leveled, and that she cannot match her opponent’s mannerisms and condescending tactics without running the risk of ruining the opportunity for future women to sit in her seat.

Donald Trump doesn’t have to worry about what anyone will say or think about white men as a result of his actions. Why? Because he is a perfect demonstration of what happens when a system is designed for you, by you. When the system is designed by you, you call the shots. You assign meanings to actions, you have the power to blur the lines between right and wrong, and you ensure that the system always works in your favor.

The distressing reality is that everyone who isn’t a white heterosexual man is fighting to be a part of the America that white men created for themselves. The America that Donald Trump lives in. The America where you are always given the benefit of the doubt over others. The America where you can show up as your full, authentic self, anywhere you go. The America where making one mistake won’t alter the course of the rest of your life. The America where your culture is never misunderstood or made to feel subordinate to someone else’s. The America where banks will quickly offer you a loan and financial incentives to help you accumulate wealth, and where neighborhoods populated by people who look like you are given the best resources, schools, and hospitals. The America where there are no barriers associated with your race or gender. That America, who wrote the words “land of the free and home of the brave,” and meant them–for themselves.

I can see why an inhabitant of that America believes America is the greatest country on earth. I can see why they believe that this is where prosperity is possible, and that there is no better place to achieve your dreams. I can see how easy it is in that America to put on blinders to the crippling injustices that individuals of other racial groups face, instead of understanding that those injustices exist as a result of the privileges that you built on their backs.

We have to talk about how truly absurd and disturbing it is – the privilege to be exempt from the rules and to be able to create your own. The privilege to be able to get hired for jobs you aren’t qualified for, to be able to engage in questionable or downright unacceptable behavior and maintain your status in society, and to be able to control and distort the narrative so much that people actually believe that poverty, crime and lack of access just happened to create themselves in communities of color, rather than acknowledging that they were strategically placed there.

We have to talk about it so we can do something about it.

 

 

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