Dear white man, you were lucky enough to be born into privilege. More so than white women and even more than people of color. And we get it, you want to be understood as well and not just pointed at as ‘that piece of white privilege’. So, here are six tips for you for dealing with your privilege and simultaneously supporting minorities by doing so.
- Acknowledge your privilege
Many men have mixed feelings about the word ‘privilege’. How about you? Do you feel weird about having a privilege or are you struggling with the fact that people say you have it, like you worked for it? Well, it’s a fact that you were born into privilege without you even asking for it. But as we like to say, with great power comes great responsibility. You acknowledging your privilege is simultaneously acknowledging people’s experiences with discrimination, which is very helpful and a good start to actually helping marginalized groups. There’s no going forward without recognizing what you have and the effect it has on your life.
- Don’t interrupt
It’s widely known that interrupting someone can be highly impolite. Yet, when people share their experiences people often tend to interrupt just to share their side of the story. Why though? Are you trying to deny someone’s experience or do you think that you are ranked higher and can therefore simply interrupt someone else? Most cases you’re probably not, so just let them finish. It’s nice to have people actually listening to what you’re saying. And how can you learn from someone when you don’t even let them finish?
- Support leaders that are from a minority
‘’Success and likability are positively correlated for men and negatively correlated for women’’ Sandberg (2015) wrote. Research has actually shown that women are perceived more negatively, despite being equally competent as the male counterpart. This shows that we tend to appreciate our white male leaders more. But why? Maybe he’s just a proper cool boss who is very good at his job. But think about it, is that woman who’s outranking you really the bitch you think she is? Same goes for leaders from a minority community. Choose to judge leaders by their capability and not their sexuality, gender, skin color or validity.
‘’Washing one’s hands of the conflict between the powerful and powerless means to side with the powerful, not be neutral.’’ – Paulo Freire
- Respond to micro aggression
Not choosing a side means that you’re siding with the oppressors since you’re not doing anything to prevent injustice. Micro aggressions (an indirect, subtle, or unintentional discrimination against members of a marginalized group) are everywhere around us. For example: clutching your wallet when a black man passes you by, labeling the female leader as a ‘bitch’ and the male counterpart as an impressive leader or men catcalling women as they walk down the street. If you want to help, please speak up when this happens around you. It shows support, which is needed and very much appreciated.
- Know when to listen
It is often wondered why people think they are entitled to an opinion about something when they really don’t know anything about the subject. Especially, when the man starts to explain the situation to the other. Quit the mansplaining (It’s what occurs when a man talks condescendingly to someone (especially a woman) about something he has incomplete knowledge of, with the mistaken assumption that he knows more about it than the person he’s talking to does) and listen to what people have to say. Be respectful of the experiences of minorities. Their perspective is different from yours.
- Educate yourself
It’s easier to act appropriately when you have more knowledge about a situation. So, educate yourself about struggles that minorities face, the history of it and how you are still connected to it. Having knowledge will make you able to see beyond initial perceptions and to stop treating people like stereotypes. This can be done by reading books, articles, talking to people or so many other ways.
DiAngelo, R. (2011). White Fragility. International Journal of Critical Pedagogy, Vol 3 (3) (2011) pp 54-70.
Kivel, P. (2017). Uprooting Racism. Gabriola Island: New Society Publishers.
Sandberg, S. (2015). Lean in. London: WH Allen.