Look past the labels and at the person

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

The discussion of "white male privilege" is a popular topic these days, especially in light of the #Black Lives Matter movement.

The presidential candidates of both parties were asked to define, defend, deny or distance themselves from the issue of "white male privilege." And unfolding on the University of Missouri campus was the demand by minority students that the university president apologize for his "white male privilege." Ultimately that demand cost him his job this week.

So I'm white and I'm a male. But I remain perplexed on exactly what this "white male privilege" comprises and just how I am guilty.

I was fortunate enough to attend college with the assistance of two hard-working parents, countless part-time jobs and a small academic scholarship.

I landed my first job not because of my skin color but because I had the skill set required by my employer.

In those early days, I paid for my own rent, utilities, medical care, food and transportation.

Like everyone else, I am permitted one vote on election day and that vote is counted equally with all others regardless of race or station in life.

I was not a product of affirmative action. No quotas were applied to my success or failure in any aspect of life.

Having worked hard, I have never relied on the government to provide my needs in life.

When I approached a bank about a loan, I was subjected to the same rigorous requirements asked of anyone seeking financial help.

There were many occasions in my life when I would have liked to do something but was unable because of insufficient finances. My "white male privilege" did nothing to assist me in those instances.

Princeton student Tal Fortgang said it much better than I.

"But I do condemn them (those who make accusations of white male privilege) for diminishing everything I have personally accomplished, all the hard work I have done in my life, and for ascribing all the fruit I reap not to the seeds I sow but to some invisible patron saint of white maleness who places it out for me before I even arrive."

Let's be accurate. There remains far too many instances of hatred and bigotry in our society. There remains far too many instances of racial distrust and injustices in all walks of life.

But to generalize on the issue of "white male privilege" is to do a massive injustice to those who hold no animosity nor hatred and who support equality in all aspects of life.

Dr. Martin Luther King once spoke of judging individuals by their character and not their skin color. But even that all-embracing philosophy has been abandoned.

"White male privilege" is the ultimate abandonment of personal assessment and individual conduct and judgment.

To be honest, I have been privileged. But that privilege stems from supportive parents who instilled a belief in a higher power, who valued education and who constantly emphasized personal responsibility and fairness.

It is well past time to stand up against those who put unfair labels on those who deserve no blame for the grievances they feel.

If I have any privileges in life apart from anyone else, it's because those privileges were earned with my sweat and sacrifice and not because of my skin color.

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