As part of my continuing education as a white American and thus a beneficiary of systemic racism, I am reading a helpful, hard-hitting book by the mixed-race author-activist Ijeoma Oluo, So You Want to Talk about Race (Seal Press, 2019). In it she asks her readers, especially the white ones, to undertake a simple yet daunting task: To reflect on their privilege in 21st-century America. My list numbers 30 items and counting.
First, the big ones: I am a white, cis-gendered, heterosexual middle-class male. As a member of the white race, I am less likely to be stopped by police, followed around in stores, and suspected of having something bad in mind. I am also likely to find jobs more easily and be a salaried rather than an hourly worker. As a male, I live in a society where, as we used to say of the Soviet Union, all people are equal, but some are more equal than others. So, I am more likely to be a manager or CEO or an elected official and to be paid more than a female with similar qualifications for the same job. Being straight rather than gay, moreover, gives me a leg up in everything from hiring interviews to memberships in elite clubs. Finally, being middleclass suggests that I probably had the advantage of growing up in a nice neighbor, attending good schools, becoming a well-paid professional, and being able to give similar benefits to my own children.
Besides such major privileges, many of us have numerous social advantages. Here are some of mine: