A 14-year-old student won the poetry slam at his private school in Atlanta, Georgia, with a devastating take on the privileges inhering in the simple fact of being born white and male.
Royce Mann, a white eighth-grade student and rising acting star, recently brought the house down in a passionate slam poetry performance about white privilege that is spreading like wildfire.
Mann’s poem, “White Boy Privilege,” is about awakening to the fact that the world has set the 14-year-old up to succeed while stacking the deck against women, people of color, and immigrants. In the poem, he at first celebrates his privilege, saying he “loves it” that he has innate benefits as a white male in American society, but later comes to the conclusion that his privilege wasn’t created by his generation, calling on other young white males to reject their privilege and actively demand the privileges afforded to them be shared with the rest of society.
Read the poem in its entirety:
Dear women, I am sorry.
Dear black people, I am sorry.
Dear Asian Americans, dear Native Americans, dear immigrants who come here seeking a better life, I am sorry.
Dear everyone who isn’t a middle or upper-class white boy, I am sorry.
I have started life at the top of the ladder, while you were born on the first rung.
I say now that I would change places with you in an instant, but if given the opportunity, would I?
Probably not. Because to be honest, being privileged is awesome.
I’m not saying that you and me on different rungs of the ladder is how I want it to stay,
I’m not saying any part of me for one moment has even liked it that way,
I’m just saying, I fucking love being privileged and I’m not ready to give that away.
I love it, because I can say “fucking” and not one of you is attributing that to the fact that everyone of my skin color has a dirty mouth.
I love it, because I don’t have to spend an hour every morning putting on makeup to meet other people’s standards.
I love it, because I can worry about what kind of food is on my plate, instead of whether or not there will be food on my plate.
I love it, because when I see a police officer, I see someone who’s on my side.
To be honest, I’m scared of what it would be like if I wasn’t on the top rung.
If the tables were turned, and I couldn’t have my white boy privilege safety blankie to protect me.
If I lived a life by what I lack, not what I have, if I lived a life in which when I failed, the world would say ‘Told you so.’
If I lived the life that you live.
When I was born, I had a success story already written for me. You, you were given a pen and no paper.
I’ve always felt that that’s unfair, but I’ve never dared to speak up because I’ve been too scared.
Well, now I realize that there’s enough blankie to be shared.
Everyone should have the privileges that I have. In fact, they should be rights instead.
Everyone’s stories should be written, so all they have to do is get it read. Enough said.
No, not enough said.
It is embarrassing that we still live in a world in which we judge another person’s character by the size of their paycheck, the color of their skin, or the type of chromosomes they have.
It is embarrassing that we tell our kids that it is not their personality, but instead those same chromosomes that get to dictate what color clothes they wear, and how short they cut their hair.
But most of all, it is embarrassing that we deny this, that we claim to live in an equal country in an equal world.
We say that women can vote? Well, guess what? They can run a country, own a company, and throw a nasty curveball as well. We just don’t give them the chance to.
I know it wasn’t us 8th grade white boys who created this system, but we profit from it every day. We don’t notice these privileges though, because they don’t come in the form of things we gain, but rather the lack of injustices that we endure.
Because of my gender, I can watch any sport on TV and feel like that could be me one day.
Because of my race, I can eat in a fancy restaurant without the wait staff expecting me to steal the silverware.
Thanks to my parents’ salary, I go to a school that brings my dreams closer instead of pushing them away.
Dear white boys, I’m not sorry. I don’t care if you think that feminists are taking over the world, or that Black Lives Matter has gotten a little too strong, because that’s bullshit.
I get that change can be scary, but equality shouldn’t be.
Hey white boys, it’s time to act like a woman. To be strong and make a difference. It’s time to let go of that fear.
It’s time to take that ladder and turn it into a bridge.
And just for the fund of it, here’s another take on the privileges of being born white and male from comedian Louis C.K. presented in 2014 at the 3% Conference: