The Well Meaning White Guy (Which Can Also Be Me)


This post is all the more needed because I unintentionally insulted a transwoman on OKC last week while trying to compliment her. And it was totally because I was blind to my own privilege.

I can apologize until I’m blue in the face (and I did), I can keep wearing #IllGoWithYou buttons (and I will), but that doesn’t take away from the fact that my blindness to my own privilege meant that I insulted a woman and didn’t even realize it.

One of the most toxic things about privilege is its invisibility.

Not to the people who don’t have privilege. They’re well aware of it.

Privilege is invisible to the people who have privilege. The ways that we (remember, straight white male writing this) move through the world are shaped by that privilege whether we want it to or not.

The structures of the world are like a giant game of Monopoly: it’s just the way you play the game. And for people with privilege, the system works, after all.

And that’s where the well-meaning ally often fails.

We come up with solutions – just report the rapist, just stand up to the guy, just use a nicer tone, just ignore “race” and gender, just be civil and polite to the cops.

Those solutions that really would work.

For someone with privilege. 

For the person suggesting it.

But not for the person who it is being suggested to.

I can track several milestones in my own progress in understanding how much privilege I have – and how different life can be for someone without that same privilege. I’ve made most of the same mistakes, suggested most of the “reasonable” solutions that would never, ever work for anybody who didn’t have the same privileges as I.

But they were milestones. They were waypoints on the path to where I am now, on the path I’m still traveling.

It’s still painful when I see other, well-meaning white guys (and it’s almost always white guys) make the same mistakes and say the same stupid things I used to say.

I wish there was a way to bootstrap these folks into seeing why these plans wouldn’t work.

But until then, I’m glad they’re at least walking on the same path that I did.

The post, “Cloaking Device Off: Homophobia in the SF Community“, is well worth reading, as is this comic, “On A Plate“.