Tag Archives: current events

Why Some White People Can’t See White Privilege

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I was 23 years old when I heard the term “white privilege” for the first time. And I immediately hated and resented it.

First I had to learn what white privilege meant. Simply put, it’s a term that describes the inherent advantages people like me enjoy simply from being born white. For instance, I don’t have to worry about being pulled over by the police just because of my skin color. I can live my daily life absent any and all concerns about race and how it affects my career, negative judgments during daily interactions with people, and my personal safety. Basically, white privilege means I have an easier path in life with fewer obstacles than people of color.

But for someone raised in America the land of the free where opportunity abounds and success always follows hard work, the entire notion of white privilege was impossible for me to swallow.

I heard “white privilege” and immediately classified it as someone making excuses for black people instead of holding them accountable. I heard someone trying to tell me I was spoiled and lazy just because I’m white. And I was threatened and defensive because I heard someone trying to take away from my accomplishments and hard work, simply because I supposedly had things handed to me due to my whiteness.

Basically I felt like I was being called a cheater.

So I went on the attack. I said things like “this is America and everyone has the same chance at success,” and “if black people want the success white people have, they need to work harder.” I screamed about Al Sharpton and shouted about the ridiculousness of the “race card.” And I capped off all such arguments by reminding anyone who would listen that slavery was a long time ago and we live in a modern, enlightened society largely free from racism.

It would take several years and a whole new network of friends from all over the world to see what an absolute jackass I was being.

Through new jobs and the power of online networking and social media, I began to talk to a variety of people with a plethora of life experience. Those friends and acquaintances made the difference, as suddenly the world as I knew it opened up – and looked very different from what I had known.

I’ve seen a mother with a black son and white son, and the pain she goes through when they enter a store and her black child is routinely followed and eyed with disdain, while her white child wanders around free from suspicion. I’ve listened to black fathers break down emotionally when they have to explain to their children why other kids at school refuse to play with them simply because of their skin color. One friend of mine was in a group of underage people who were caught drinking by security. Despite all of them being under 21, only my friend was detained while the rest were told to scram. I’m sure you can guess what color my detained friend was.

Even now you can see real-life stories of everyday racism and unfairness by viewing hashtags such as #AliveWhileBlack. It’s terrifyingly eye-opening, especially compared to #CrimingWhileWhite, which describes the leniency many white people experience during run-ins with law enforcement officers.

I know you’re thinking “Oh great, another I-used-to-be-racist-but-now-I’m-an-enlightened-progressive-white-guy” article. Fair enough. I’m well aware that for some people, that’s all this will ever be.

But my point is, the things I learned in the classroom about civil rights and MLK as a suburban white kid in a town that’s 93% Caucasian? They’re not enough. It needs to be personal.

I had no black friends because there was no diversity in my community, so I never had the opportunity to talk to different people. And I know I’m not alone in that boat. I truly believe if the majority of white people who don’t believe in privilege connected to people of color and listened to their perspectives – if they actually witnessed the pain and fear as they describe their experiences – things would slowly start to improve. A foundation will be built.

It’s not ever fun to admit you’re wrong about something as fundamental as how you view the world. Yes we live in America and yes it is a land of opportunity, but I was born a lot closer to opportunity than others. Too many white people think white privilege means they don’t work hard or earn their way in life, but that’s not true. White privilege does NOTHING to devalue the success that only hard work and determination can bring. But in the midst of all that, it’s important to realize we face fewer obstacles than people of color, who often have to work twice as hard for the same results. It’s all about perspective.

I hope white people will see white privilege is not an accusation – it’s just reality. Because that’s the starting point for the larger conversation about race this country so desperately needs.

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Female Teachers Sleeping with Male Students: Where’s the Outrage?

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There’s a seminal moment in the movie A Time to Kill, when Matthew McConaughey’s character is attempting to convince a jury to acquit his client, played by Samuel L. Jackson. Jackson, a black father in racially charged Mississippi, is on trial for killing the two white men who raped and tortured his young daughter. With the all-white jury champing at the bit to convict his client, McConaughey makes them close their eyes as he painstakingly details the unspeakable horrors visited upon the young girl. But because he knows the jury is inherently racist and unable to see her as human, the lawyer makes one final plea.

“Now imagine she’s white.”

I thought of this scene recently after reading about a string of incidents involving female teachers having sex with their underage, teen students. The trend seems to be similar in all the cases, with attractive teachers in their 20s and early 30s allegedly initiating sexual contact with children ranging in age from 13 to 17. In some cases the affairs last for years, even though some of the teachers are married and have families.

Here’s where I harness my inner Matthew McConaughey.

“Now imagine it’s a male teacher.”

When people close their eyes and imagine what a sexual predator looks like, it is almost always a man. People hear a teacher molested a student and they automatically think of a balding, older man – maybe a creepy science teacher – blackmailing some poor young girl to trade sexual favors for straight As. We label him a sicko, a pervert, and a child molester. Fathers talk about the beatings they would inflict on the monster who dared violate their little girls. And heads shake in negative uniformity at the horror inflicted on these poor kids by a disgusting criminal.

But here are some things I’ve seen people say when stories about attractive female teachers taking advantage of male students make headlines.

“Good for him!”
“Where were those teachers when I was in school?”
“Wow. That’s the luckiest kid in the world.”

It’s a nasty double standard to think the rape of a child or the taking of innocence is somehow mitigated because it’s a teenage boy being sexually assaulted instead of a girl. And even more insidious is the idea that these boys aren’t really victims.

The fathers who talk of pummeling the men who violate their little girls suddenly change their tone, and speak of high-fiving their sons should they ever bed a hot female teacher. The boys are praised for being taken advantage of, and some even condemn them for blabbing about it, because that means it had to end. It’s bad enough an immature teenage boy is now confused and possibly ashamed about sex after being assaulted by someone he’s supposed to trust, but that’s only the start. Because now he’s being told he should actually be thankful for what happened, and that he’s lucky.

That’s right, lucky. We’re telling male victims of sexual assault they’re lucky. Can you imagine the horror and general revulsion if we told teen female students they were lucky to score a fling with a hot male teacher? That they should be thankful for being taken advantage of and abused by a trusted adult figure?

Look, I used to make the same jokes. I’m not proud of that, but it’s true. But then I became a parent and now that I have two boys of my own, I can say without a shadow of a doubt I’d be horrified if my sons were victimized like that. These boys have been violated by an adult during their adolescence, and likely face serious and long-lasting repercussions down the road that will affect them and potentially their families, for years to come.

I don’t care how attractive the teacher is, because when a teacher uses the significant power differential to abuse a minor sexually, that is a real problem. That is horrible. That is sexual abuse.

And that is always unacceptable, regardless of gender.

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Adrian Peterson, Child Abuse, And Why It Doesn’t Matter If That’s How You Were Raised

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It is never acceptable to beat a little kid bloody with a weapon, because that is always child abuse.

I can’t believe it’s 2014 and I have to spell that out for people. Yet in the wake of star running back Adrian Peterson’s grand jury indictment for reckless and negligent injury to a child, it’s clear there are grown men and women out there who still think it’s OK to strip leaves off a tree branch and whip a 4-year-old until he bleeds. To stuff leaves in his mouth. To cut him on the legs, thighs, buttocks, and scrotum. To whip him between 10-15 times, leaving defensive wounds on the poor kid’s hands that were still readily apparent even a week later when photographs were taken.

What Adrian Peterson did was wrong. That’s fact, not opinion. And yet, for so many, they don’t accept that. Why?

I’ve been told it’s a southern thing. A cultural thing. A black thing. A religious thing. I’ve been told it’s the only way to make sure children are raised to be respectful. I’ve been told if more kids were disciplined like this, there would be fewer school shootings and spoiled children. But mostly, I’ve been told this kind of corporal punishment is acceptable because the parents who do it were raised this way themselves. And after all, they were whipped and they turned out just fine.

Want to know how I know they’re wrong? Because they still think it’s OK to take up weapons against children and beat them bloody.

If this is part of your southern culture, then your southern culture condones child abuse and needs to change. If this is because you’re African-American, then the black community needs some serious internal reflection and a change of heart, because this is wrong. And if this is how you were raised, well…I’m sorry for that. But just because your parents made a terrible mistake out of ignorance, doesn’t mean you have to continue the violent cycle.

Because that’s the thing — your parents weren’t perfect. They made mistakes, probably because they didn’t know any better. Some of our parents smoked while pregnant because the dangers of smoking weren’t well established yet, or didn’t use car seats because the safety standards weren’t in place. Our parents didn’t have the wealth of information available to us today, so why repeat mistakes made out of ignorance when we know better now?

NFL analyst Cris Carter — a black NFL Hall of Famer no less — said he was whipped as a child when disciplined. However, he chose to parent a different way. Watch this.

Cris Carter learned from his mom’s mistakes. But the saddest part of this whole fiasco is Adrian Peterson believes he didn’t do a damn thing wrong.

When Peterson was asked how he felt about the incident, he said, “To be honest with you, I feel very confident with my actions because I know my intent.”

If Adrian Peterson thinks he turned out so wonderful because he was whipped with various objects as a child, just imagine what he could’ve accomplished if he hadn’t been physically abused. And I’m sorry, but when it comes to putting our kids in danger with physical violence, ignorance is no excuse.

And let’s not forget, this is a TEXAS grand jury that indicted him. If I had to pick a state that would likely be the most lenient on a parent engaging in corporal punishment, Texas would top the list. Yet here Peterson is, facing charges. And boy do I hope he’s found guilty.

Also, please don’t let Peterson’s defenders turn this into a public debate on spanking and government intrusion in our lives.

This isn’t about spanking because Adrian Peterson didn’t spank his son. I can count on one hand the times I’ve given my oldest a swat on the butt, mainly because he was attempting to run toward the road or trying to tear off the electrical outlet cover after putting his hand in the dog’s water bowl. And even then, it wasn’t the force that made him cry it was the stern “NO!” that accompanies the light spank.

That’s in stark contrast to Peterson, who reportedly took the time to fashion himself a switch and proceeded to beat his small child bloody with it by hitting him more than a dozen times. A grown man who smashes into offensive linemen and linebackers for a living, whipping a small boy who he’s supposed to love and care for. How anyone can defend that is beyond me.

Allow me to bottom line this for you. If you think hitting your kid with a stick until he bleeds is an acceptable form of punishment, you’re a bad parent. And, more than likely, you’re engaging in a criminal act. Your culture, race, ethnicity, and upbringing don’t matter in this instance. I don’t care where you’re from or what color you are, because when you decide to whip your 4-year-old with the branch of a tree, you are committing a crime. And I hope you face the same charges Peterson is facing.

But mostly, I hope it doesn’t get to that point. I’m hoping this will be a wake-up call to the parents who still condone this kind of nonsense. I’m hoping people realize you can raise respectful kids without beating them with tree branches and household objects.

Times have changed. And they’ve changed for the better. So stop abusing your kids.

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Stop Criticizing the Ice Bucket Challenge

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Apparently it’s not enough to do good deeds anymore, unless you’re doing them “correctly” or for the right reasons.

Perhaps you’ve participated in the now infamous ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, in which people video tape themselves getting a bucket of ice water dumped on their heads, donate, challenge others to do the same, and then post the entire thing on Facebook and other social media. You probably did it, donated, and felt pretty good about yourself, right? Well wipe that smug smile off your face, because some people think donations that come via marketing campaigns and viral memes are negative.

Yup, that’s right. You’re donating incorrectly and for all the wrong reasons. You big jerks.

Nevermind the fact that as of August 20, the Ice Bucket Challenge helped raise $31.5 million (and growing) for ALS research. Because (and stop me if you’ve heard this in the last couple of weeks) it shouldn’t take Facebook and videos of ourselves getting buckets of freezing cold water dumped on our heads to donate. We should donate because it’s the right thing to do, not because we’re guilted or pressured into it by friends, family, and social media, according to the critics.

Look, if someone had told me a month ago that I’d be showering myself with freezing cold water and donating to charity because of it, I would’ve mocked them. In fact, I was so dubious about the Ice Bucket Challenge that I held off on doing it, even though I had been repeatedly nominated. I only did it after I found out the challenge had actually led to a spike in donations.

Because here’s the thing — it doesn’t matter how or why people donate. It just matters that some good is being done.

Same goes for this story making the rounds, about a bunch of Starbucks customers in Tampa who started a “pay it forward” campaign, in which each person paid for the coffee of the person behind them. Hundreds of people in a row performed the good deed, but it ended when one pompous blogger intentionally broke the streak because the Starbucks baristas had begun asking each customer if they wished to continue the streak. To him, that violated the unwritten rules of good deed doing because it was more peer pressure than anything else.

Bullshit. Utter bullshit. Because good deeds are good deeds, even when they might have been prodded into existence by a little guilt.

Who among us hasn’t taken our kids’ fund raisers to work and hit up coworkers? Ever dug a dollar out of your pocket at the supermarket because the Scouts/Cheerleaders/Pop Warner are having a charitable drive? Volunteers man phone banks and make calls to raise money for charity as well.

If you gave to any of these, you’ve done something good. Something worthy of celebration. So what if you felt some pressure from social media to donate to ALS? I bet a lot of people knew nothing about the disease before they did the challenge and donated. And so what if a barista asks you if you want to buy coffee for the person behind you? First of all, you can always say no. There’s no shame in that. Second, I’m hoping knowing about “pay it forward” will prompt people to do it more often.

The world is so fucked up right now. Whether it’s racial tensions exploding in Missouri, another truce broken in Gaza, beloved actors committing suicide, or journalists being beheaded, we’re under siege from bad news. The world strikes me as off kilter and our humanity has never felt so fragile.

So in the face of all that, I think it’s pretty abhorrent and ill-advised to sit there and criticize things that are helping people.

No one deserves a medal for doing the Ice Bucket Challenge. Our donations don’t make us superheroes and we shouldn’t pat ourselves on the back and be done with charitable giving and random acts of kindness, simply because we took part. But you know what else people who give to charity don’t deserve? Condescending and misplaced scorn from people who have nothing better to do than knock people doing something positive.

In a fit of irony, those railing against the millions raised the “wrong way” for ALS are guilty of the very same narcissism they allegedly abhor in others. So let’s criticize actual problems and misdeeds, and celebrate the fact that for a little while, we all came together and did something positive.

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Why I Won’t Ban Bossy

ban-bossy-badge2If you don’t like a word and you’re a massively influential figure, just have it banned.

That’s the mindset of Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, who is making headlines this week for starting the Ban Bossy campaign. Basically Sandberg feels little boys who assert themselves are told they’re displaying leadership skills by teachers and parents, while girls are called “bossy.” The result, according to Sandberg, is girls become hesitant to speak up and reluctant to take on leadership roles as they get older. So the author of the renowned Lean In book says the answer is simple — ban the word bossy.

Except, in my opinion, the only thing that should be banned is this contrived Ban Bossy marketing ploy.

Continue reading Why I Won’t Ban Bossy

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