I stumbled upon an article the other day. This stumble must have been some sort of divine providence, because I have no idea how I got there and I can’t even begin to remember. The important thing to note is that this article is about being a straight white guy from the perspective of a straight white guy who is, in no sense of the word, deluded about what it is to be a straight white guy. What is it? It’s easier. Plainly and simply, it’s just easier to be a straight white guy than it is to be any other sexual orientation, race, gender or any combination thereof.
The author is a man named John Scalzi, and he has his own blog entitled Whatever. He’s a fantastic writer, and a great humorist, as well. How could you not like a guy who says things like, (in reference to guys who are macho-douchebag-alpha-males) “By all indications their definition [of a 'beta male'] is something along the lines of ‘a man who sees women as something other than a mute dispensary of sandwiches and boobies…’” That. Is. Classic.
You can read the article here and I suggest you do so, regardless of your sexual preference, race, or gender: http://whatever.scalzi.com/2012/05/15/straight-white-male-the-lowest-difficulty-setting-there-is/
The article is an attempt to get us straight white guys to understand that we are privileged in that our skin color, sexual orientation, and gender are less of a barrier to advancement in our jobs, social lives, and everywhere else than those who are not straight, white and male. What’s probably the best vantage point to explain this to white guys? Video games.
Yes, video games. The author, John Scalzi who is a New York Times bestselling author, is also obviously a genius. Now, not EVERY white guy is going to understand video game-speak, but the majority of us will. Mr. Scalzi understands that it’s somewhat of a common factor among younger, straight white guys. Perhaps because we’re privileged enough to all have the money and time to play them. The point could be argued.
Anyway, the title of the article is, “Straight White Male: The Lowest Difficulty Setting There Is.” An apt name, and Mr. Scalzi lays out exactly how being a straight white male is just easier, in terms of the difficulty settings that video games operate on.
What If I Don’t Play Video Games?
Well then firstly, congratulations. You are probably much more productive than the rest of us. Secondly, no problem. Just know that video games have difficulty settings that determine how difficult it is to play the game. If you choose the Easy difficulty setting on a game, then tasks will be easier to complete, money easier to acquire, characters in the game will more than likely be apt to help you; whereas, all of these things would be much more difficult if you were to choose the Hard difficulty setting – or, as John Scalzi states in the article, the Hardcore setting, if you’re a Gay Minority Female.
I won’t get into the details of the article, because you should read it for yourself. I will, however, put forth my personal viewpoint.
Brace Yourselves, Fellow White People
Yup. It’s true. It’s just easier to be a straight white male than it is to be any other combination of sexual orientation, race, or gender. Economically, we get better jobs and make more money. Sociologically, there are less of us in jail. Educationally, there are more of us in college. Racially, we are less likely to be profiled by just about everybody. Socially, we move through the ranks with more ease.
Now, am I upset at the realization that I’ve had it easier? Definitely not. I AM however, upset about three things:
- It’s probably made me more soft than I’d like to admit.
- Other people aren’t afforded the same opportunities that I am.
- I’ve taken my opportunities for granted for a very long time.
Maybe, if I had more hardship growing up, I would have more common sense (I’m a bit lacking in that department). Maybe, if I had more barriers to overcome, I would be more organized and hard-working. Maybe, if I were made to suffer, my successes would have more meaning and I wouldn’t take so much for granted. Or, maybe I would have just given up. Who knows?
I know a lot of white people. Many of them do not take their stations in life for granted, and appreciate what they have. Many of them are interested in helping those who might not have it so easy. And there are many who are oblivious to the fact that they’ve had it easier.
Some might be upset with me and think, “well I grew up just as poor as many of the minorities around me.” That may well be true. I would say to them, “you may have started off at the same level of poverty, but your difficulty setting is lower and so it’s much easier for you to get a job and change your station.”
I feel like there are a bazillion cases of this “white privilege” that could be examined, not only in viewing the ease with which straight white males move through the various realms of society and careers, but the higher degree of difficulty with which minorities deal with daily. I would use a really stereotypical example, but that just wouldn’t be me.
Take Ameenah Kaplan. Ameenah Kaplan is a mildly successful actress, dancer, choreographer, and drummer/percussionist/musician. She plays the character “Val” on seven episodes of The Office (American version). She’s black, her sexual orientation is unbeknownst to me (although I sincerely hope that she’s straight. I’ve got a serious crush.), and obviously she is female.
I found out about her when I saw an episode of The Office that she was in. I immediately went to IMDB and looked up her profile. You can find it here: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0438188/
I was stunned to find out that she’s been in STOMP!, The Office, directed a Rap Opera about homosexuality, and been in numerous tv shows and movies. I had never heard of her!
I then thought, why is this woman not a headlining star? She’s BEAUTIFUL. She’s been in everything. She’s (at the very least) a quadruple threat. And she’s black.
Oh yeah…she’s black. Upon this realization, I got pretty frustrated that people would discriminate against my future wife. She’s put in what is possibly more work than 99% of Hollywood stars, and yet gets about 1% of the recognition. How is that fair? It’s just not. I cannot imagine the amount of work that she’s put into her career to gain the modicum of success that she has. I also cannot imagine the amount of success she would have if she were a straight white guy. She seems like a very kindhearted individual, and I hope that her station in life does not frustrate her.
She seems like the type of person that said to herself at a young age, “I know that people are discriminating against me because I’m a minority and a woman. I refuse to let that stop me from achieving any of the dreams that I have for my life.” She most certainly has been a busy person, claiming victories in her career.
In summary, straight white guys DO have it easier. Please don’t hate us for this, because we did not choose our skin color, gender, or (debatably) our sexual orientation. Unless one of us is disrespectful toward you based on your skin color, gender, or sexual orientation. In that case, feel free to write them off.
You might be upset because of the straight white male’s privileged history, in relation to the lack of privilege in others’ history. I cannot control the actions of my ancestors any more than any of us can. All I can do is to learn about all people and try to make the future a better one.
Also, if you know Ameenah Kaplan, tell her that I’m in love with her and will move to wherever she lives, and marry her and massage her feet whenever she wants. For now I’ll just have to be content to continue watching the videos of her playing percussion, with great skill and beauty, on her YouTube channel, which you can find here: