While my life can certainly be difficult, it is never difficult as a direct result of my being a white man. This is the part of white male privilege that is often missed, and it is the root of many misunderstandings that arise in conversations around
power and privilege. Once we can internalize this nuanced message, however, we can begin to explore ways to give up power without sacrificing pride.
If I know that people will take my words more seriously than if they came from a woman, then I should make a concerted effort to listen more closely when women speak. If I have seen that I can walk into any restaurant and use the bathroom without buying food, then I should act more compassionately towards people who are routinely turned away from these establishments and denied access. By acknowledging the benefits we receive and challenging the status quo, then bit by bit we can begin changing these double standards and injustices.
What gets in the way of this progress is the refusal to accept that we have things a bit better. Before we can agree to support others, we need to stop getting defensive every time we are called out. Cutting someone in line could be an honest mistake, or it could be a reflection that you really are not seeing all of the people around you. Look for them. Think about how you move through the world. And try to understand how they might feel when yet another white man steps in front of them in line or takes up two seats on the bus.
It is not a comfortable feeling to realize you are hurting others. But until you can accept it, you’ll keep making things worse. Start by making small changes, and see how others react to you with warmth and compassion. Soon enough, being respectful and humble will be second nature, and it will not take any effort at all to make space for other people.
Be polite, apologize when you mess up, and you will get the respect you deserve.
Have you read the original anthology that was the catalyst for The Good Men Project? Buy here: The Good Men Project: Real Stories from the Front Lines of Modern Manhood
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