The primary reason that I was able to rise above the circumstances of my upbringing is because the society was set up to give me, as a white man, every opportunity to succeed. Study after study has shown that my poor grades likely posed less of a threat to my ability to get into college than they would have for a person of color. When I walk into a room for an interview at a school or a job, most of the people in that room have been subconsciously conditioned to believe that I am more capable and deserving, despite my flaws, than a person of color or a woman. Even though I grew up relatively poor, my skin color and my accent enable me to easily pass as wealthy, which gains me access and acceptance into social circles of those who truly are wealthy and powerful. I also get the chance to be bolder in pursuit of things that I want because I live in a society where that’s what white men are supposed to do, whereas women and people of color are not permitted to act in similar ways.
These are not small benefits. They are also not easily recognizable to those of us who are white men, but I guarantee that any person of color or non-male-identified person who reads the paragraph above would nod in agreement and be able to point out many more areas where society privileges my whiteness and my maleness that I have not even thought to mention. Remember, it’s hard to see the reality of one’s benefits if you’ve never taken time to wander beyond the marble walls of the country club.
From “Filled to Be Emptied: The Path to Liberation for Privileged People” by Brandan Robertson – Westminster John Knox Press