Disclaimer: This is an open letter not to the white man, nor is it a letter to a white man, but rather one to The White Man. My intentions are not to accuse or target individuals with this post. All I want is to shed some light on the privileges many white men have but do not always recognise, and often abuse. This letter is an attempt to inform; to explain what life can be like for the rest of us.
Dear White Man,
You, my friend, are the most powerful being on this planet: top of the food chain, leader of the pack, sitting on the top rung of the ladder by virtue of your birth.
You, as a result of your skin colour and gender, receive opportunities that people like myself could only dream of. You, White Man, are a force to be reckoned with. A force which is often underserving of such power; a force which didn’t earn such privileges but was handed them at birth; a force which thrives at the expense of others because the world allows it; a force which leaves the rest of us feeling much less than we are.
A controversial declaration? Perhaps. An exaggeration? Absolutely not.
You see, White Man, the world has set you at the head of the table. Whether you admit this is entirely up to you. In fact, a lot of what goes on in this world is entirely up to you. You declare what war is, you define what beauty is, you dictate societal norms, you just generally hold more power than you appreciate.
First of all, you are a man in a world designed for men. A world where women are not seen as people but as empty vessels who are there to satisfy the needs of men, to soothe their egos and to do what they say. You are a man in a world where women are seen as weak of mind and body. You live as a man in a world where a woman is judged on her looks and not the contributions she makes to society; whether that be as a mother, friend, teacher or lover. You live as a man in a man’s world. How convenient that must be for you.
You occupy the highest roles in society and make the most money. You look dishevelled without being derided and disregarded. You walk at night without fearing constantly for your safety. You are always heard and you are always respected – that too for your mind, and not for your body. I as a woman, cannot expect any of these. You can, and do, just because you were born a man.
But that is not all that you have in your favour. The colour of your skin has also proven useful to you. History is the greatest witness of this. From forcefully colonising nations to reigning terror on those who were not in line with your ideals and practices, you, White Man, set forth a precedent, a reoccurring theme of entitlement. This so called “respect” which you have acquired through your tyrannical oppression in the past is still apparent today. You don’t have to worry about institutional racism. You don’t have to worry about being shot at mercilessly by the police because of the colour of your skin – an epidemic which is plaguing countries such as America today. You dominate the mainstream media and politics – the very fabric of our society – leaving the rest of us marginalised. You are not burdened by damaging stereotypes regarding your race. Nobody jokes that you smell of curry or that you come from the “ghetto” and have a tendency towards violence. You, White Man, have been let off easily.
I am not here to attack or antagonise you. Nor am I here to say that you don’t have problems of your own. Of course you do. We all do. You may be from a deprived area and that could hold you back. But even then, statistics show that you still have a better chance of “getting out” and beating this vicious cycle of poverty – more so than say men from ethnic minorities and just all women in general. I mean, all you have to do is search Google to see these statistics for yourself.* What I am trying to say is that you are privileged despite all of these issues which many others also face. You, White Man, do not have to face the systematic setbacks that people of other genders and ethnicities do. You see, we have to work extra hard and overcome far more obstacles than you do. Isn’t that unfair?
I do not expect an apology letter in return from you. I do not expect you to turn down jobs as a result of guilt. I am not saying that you are implicit or personally liable for all that is wrong in this world. I also appreciate that it is not always your fault that you seem to be the preferred choice because of who you are. I am just saying that it is a shame that this is what the world has come to. I am saying that it is heartbreaking that we are told that this is what we must become accustomed to.
You, White Man, are always taken seriously. You are always believed. You are always the right man for the job. If the world is anyone’s oyster, it is yours. So I ask of you only one thing: a simple request. Acknowledge the power that you have. Acknowledge your privilege. Instead of abusing it, instead of kidding yourself that you are entitled to the position you have in society, help us. Help me. Give us the opportunity and the space to thrive. Help make the world a fairer place. I hope that once you do recognise your privilege, you, when in a position of power, could potentially use that to hire and acknowledge the bias that exists and fight against it. Maybe I won’t be able to see this change in my life time, but I hope that talking about these issues will help to aid that process. I hope it will help to bring us closer to equality.
After all, the world belongs to us all. There is space for each and every one of us no matter what race or gender we belong to – all we need is for you to budge up a bit.
A Brown Woman
* ‘Persistent Poverty in the UK and EU’ (Office for National Statistics, 2014) and ‘Poverty rate by ethnicity’ (Joseph Rowntree Foundation, 2017)