Previously, on memoirs of an unremarkable man:
“easy for me to say, part 1”, I wrote about the reasons “I am about as privileged an individual can be in the United States of America.”
But how am I privileged? What do I get out of it?
Probably a lot more than I realize, but here are a few things I’ve noticed over the years:
I can walk into a store. With a back pack. And no one will look at me suspiciously, or follow me around to make sure I don’t steal anything.
I never have to worry if a wheel chair ramp is too narrow. Or too steep. Or if people will think I’m drunk because I walk funny. Or if people will make fun of the way I talk. Or even understand the way I talk.
If a stranger starts a conversation with me (such as on public transportation, or just out on the street), I am not afraid that person has any malicious intentions toward me. I am not afraid that the person will become violent if I refuse to talk to them.
I go wherever I want, whenever I want. Example: There is a walking path along a river near where I live and work that does not have the best reputation. Along that path, homeless people sleep, punks spray paint graffiti, drunks drink and drug users use. People have been attacked, raped, murdered, and dumped in the river. I walk that path. Alone. Sometimes at midnight. And I am not afraid.
In general, I am not afraid.
I am aware of the possibility of violence or malicious acts. But I do not live my life in fear. Maybe it’s because I have never been the victim of such an act. Which is, most likely, due in part to my privilege.
It is pretty much guaranteed that some of the people who I have come across in my life would have treated me differently if I was a woman. Or African-American or Latino. Or Jewish or Muslim or some other religion outside of Christianity. Or homeless. Or gay. Or anything other than a white straight male. Or any combination of the above.
Once, when I was like 12, I went to a store, bought some candy, and then wandered the store looking at what else they were selling. At one point, I stuck the candy I purchased in my back pocket. A manager pulled me into his office and accused me of attempting to steal the candy. When I showed him my receipt, he advised me to wander the aisles, then pay for my items, and then leave the store, in that order. Imagine having store managers suspicious of you being a thief every time you walk into a store, no matter what you’ve done or haven’t done. Some people have to put up with that.
I’ve had stranger strike up random conversations with me, on the bus or on the street. Some of these people were drunk, some not. Some asked for money, some just talked. Some guy on the bus boasted about the katana he normally always had with him. One old guy showed off his taser to me. Not once did any of these encounters turned ugly or take a violent turn, even if I ended the conversation abruptly or declined to provide any cash. If I was a woman, could I have had any similar experiences without wondering if the person was talking to me because they wanted something from me. Something other than conversation or money? How could I not wonder if they thought they could take what they wanted if I tried to walk away or told them no?
I’ve had a few encounters with the police before. Being pulled over for having one headlight out. For having one headlight out and having out-of-state plates. For having tint on my windows the cop thought was too dark. Once for speeding. Twice my friends and I were caught basically trespassing on the town beach when it was closed. Even got pulled over by a police boat while in a canoe. There’s a whole crazy story behind that one (if you couldn’t tell). I might tell that story some other time. But none of the police officers asked me to get out of my car (or canoe), or for permission to search it. All of them took what I (or my white male friends) told them at face value. Oh sure, they checked my ID, my registration. But I was always soon on my way, and only once did I get a ticket. A speeding ticket. At that was even reduced. Would all of that had gone as smoothly if I was African-American? Or Middle Eastern?
I don’t know if I’ve had an easier time getting hired for jobs because I am a white male, but it’s possible.
I don’t know if I get paid more than my female co-workers on the same level as me because I am a white male. I doubt it, but who knows?
My life is not easy, or simple, nor do I get whatever I want. Things do not always go my way. But privilege doesn’t mean that I am privileged with everything. But my life has certainly been easier than if I was a woman. Or African-American or Latino. Or Jewish or Muslim or some other religion outside of Christianity. Or homeless. Or gay. Or anything other than a white straight male. Or any combination of the above.
I still have more to say, but I think I’ve said enough for today. To be continued…
Tale still not complete
Heavy words carefully placed
Walking a new path