I’m a white male. By today’s definition, I’m the most privileged person to step foot on the planet. Well, let me tell you a story…it’s a long one, but bear with me.
I was born to a single mother, poor, and started off life in a poor neighborhood. I was fortunate that my schools included people from a variety of different ethnic groups, so there was no big culture shock for me. What I find funny, way back when, is that all of the kids in my class didn’t even know what racism was until we were taught about it at school. Everyone got along, aside from normal childhood squabbles, and didn’t really pay much attention to our differences.
My mother and I moved from place to place, no-where really nice, one place where the roof caved in on us during the winter. My mother sacrificed a lot to make sure we had food on the table, and I did my part by not asking too much of her.
When I was 10, we moved from the area that had been what I knew most of my life, and into a majority black neighbourhood. The area was public housing, and the apartment was subsidized to be affordable and was actually fairly nice, considering that it was still a low-income area. There was a recreation centre for the neighborhood kids that had a wide variety of programs and activities, and staffed by people who cared about everyone. Jim, Glenn, Bruce, Troy…those 4 guys I remember fondly, and only 1 was white.
I made friends with three kids, one of which was my age and the other two were younger…and then I hit a wall. The other kids from the neighborhood didn’t like me, and I didn’t understand why. I couldn’t figure out what they meant when they called me ‘cracker’ and ‘honky’. I’d never heard those words used -at- someone before. I really couldn’t understand why they tried to beat me up all the time, twice with groups of 15-20 kids, and on one of those occasions chasing me with sticks.
It was so bad that I didn’t go outside unless I had to, right up until I was 16…and even then it was to cycle out to my old neighborhood to see old friends, 45 minutes by bicycle away.
Times weren’t all bad…I was part of the neighborhood baseball team, and while we were playing everyone seemed to get along fine…it was when we weren’t playing that things seemed to slide back to me getting beat up.
When I was 14, my mother met Davey Upshaw, and they had a lot in common and knew a lot of the same people..Davey was a hell of a nice guy, and he became my father-figure. When I was in my first year of Highschool, I joined Sea Cadets. It was here that I first truly encountered the stereotype, well one of them, that angers me so today. Two Arab kids, while we were in line waiting to sign in, started kicking me in the back of my legs. Not gentle, but hard enough that it was almost knocking me down. I told them to stop, but they kept doing it. When the petty officer caught them, he told them to stop and that he would be writing them up. They immediately went and found another petty officer and said that I had called them racist names, and so I found myself being hauled in front of the CO who said that he knew the kids had been kicking me, but that he KNEW that I had made racist remarks towards them. It took 3 witnesses, one of whom was Chinese, to clear me, because I was white and so I was racist by default. This was the first time, but it wasn’t the last time it happened.
Davey was diagnosed with cancer in his throat at roughly the middle of my first highschool year, and for the next few years we fought through it…in grade 11, I was working two jobs and still going to school…in grade 12, I left school to get fulltime work to help support us, because if I hadn’t she would have killed herself trying to keep a roof over our heads (Davey had become unable to work). Davey died on my 19th birthday, at a little after 5 in the morning (all three of us had moved to a new neighborhood, and so were all living together when he died). It had only been a week before that he married my mother and became my step-father legally.
I worked minimum wage jobs until things stabilized, then I signed up for an Adult Highschool program to get my grade 12…I had to wait a year because the only seats left were being held for minorities and women. I then signed up for trade school, got a student loan to pay for it because I didn’t qualify for any grants or scholarships, and had to wait again for a year because the only seats that were open were being held for minorities and women.
I got my trade, worked my ass off to get my apprenticeship done, and got it done in record time for the province I live in. The average is 7 years, I did mine in 5.
Why am I putting all this up here? Because my life has not been easy. I have never had any outside support from anyone, I have had to work hard to get where I am…and even now I’m running the risk of losing everything because of a severe shortage of work.
Up until 3-4 years ago, I was pretty certain that we were finally putting all this race nonsense behind us and focusing on the real cause of our collective misery, the uber-rich and wealthy corporations that had created a system where only a few, usually their wealthy friends, could get ahead. Hell, I was cheering for the occupy movement, right up until it got hijacked by the social justice crowd and imploded…up until that point, we had all finally started coming together as a united front to say that we weren’t taking the bullshit anymore.
Since then, I’ve seen us grow further and further apart…a media blitz of race-baiting, supposed equality movements that spring up and demand that we pay attention to skin color over everything else (not talking about BLM, for the record, but things I’ve seem on campuses), a near constant rhetoric that all white men are privileged above minorities and women…constant messages that only white people can be racist, that white people are the root of all the worlds problems, that white people automatically get free passes in life…that white people, white men especially, are the scum of the earth, that we’re racist, rapists, sexist, homophobic, transphobic…you name any bad thing, and the message has clearly been that we are it…by default. And that we are not able to be oppressed, to be discriminated against, or have racism thrown at us.
I am living proof that what we’re constantly be accused of is bullshit. Do I want to trivialize what black people have gone through? No, of course not…I’m glad we know better now. But at the same time, not only are white people not the origin of slavery, not only was it white nations that made slavery illegal before anyone else, but the actual percentage of slave owners compared to the general population was TINY. AND white people have been enslaved…just look at the Irish, or what happend with Muslim slavers in the Mediterranean (long time ago, I hold no modern Muslims responsible for what happened then). AND a lot of us, myself included, didn’t have a single ancestor involved in the slave trade! Yet for some reason, we’re -all- expected to bear the blame and guilt from it.
I just…I just want the world Martin Luther King envisioned…where people are judged by the quality of their character, not their skin color. I want us all to be the very best we can. All this bullshit about white privilege, and blaming white people for everything under the sun, is just recreating and reigniting old hatreds that are PUSHING US APART when we should be TOGETHER. We have ALWAYS been stronger together than apart…look at how many inventions were co-invented by black and white people working together. Look how much GOOD can be accomplished when we all work together!
I don’t know how much more I can take…every time I go onto facebook, or watch the news, I see articles that just keep putting me down. Every time I try to talk about this, I get people telling me my experiences don’t matter because I’m white, male, and privileged.
I’ll break before I succumb to hatred. I don’t even hate the kids that used to beat me up when I was young, I hope they did well for themselves.
We need to stop this bullshit and start coming together again, and not let ignorant people on both sides of the so-called ‘racial divide’ keep tearing us apart like this. We need to stop blaming each other, stop being jealous of one-another, stop FIGHTING one another, and work together so that the next generation can live in a world devoid of this crap.
I’m spent. Thank you for reading.