When I started a blog, so long ago, it was an odd kind of thrill to write something and put it out there for anybody in the world to see. I was almost embarrassed. I didn’t even tell my friends or family for years. Eventually, I gained a few followers and learned a little about shameless self-promotion.
In time I found some places that would let me submit some of my stuff and they would publish it on their website. The Good Men Project, for example. I don’t even post on my blog anymore. They have a lot more viewers than I could ever find.
Occasionally I will look on The Good Men Project Facebook page, just to see if anybody is sharing or saying anything about my posts. People don’t normally seem to comment if they approve of something, but just knowing somebody took the time to complain is enough to feed my ego. And normally people don’t criticize my writing so it’s a win/win, right?
However, recently I sent in an article about the advantages of being a white guy. I referenced two politicians who seemed almost cast by Hollywood to prove my point that white guys really game the system: Josh Hawley and Donald Trump.
When you write about politicians you are always going to make some people angry. You just have to live with that. Sometimes, though, there are comments that make you want to respond.
One gentleman was mad about my choice of subject. He didn’t say why, maybe he is tired of the endless political carping. And, maybe he has a right to be. The commenter suggested it might be more illuminating if I chose myself as the subject for a piece on being a white guy.
So, here goes.
I was born 63 years ago in a small town in western Nebraska. My heritage, as far as I know, which isn’t far, is European. But, we didn’t talk about it very much.
Most of my friends were the children of Mexican immigrants who came to town to work in the plant that turned sugar beets into sugar or the meatpacking plant. They didn’t care that I was overweight, shy and awkward. In fact, most times they didn’t even seem to notice I was there. I was welcome at the dinner table, snack time or in the crazy games of tag or hide and seek that were always going on. It was one of the most comfortable places I’ve ever been.
I remember them, the families, the boisterous rooms packed with people, the solemn prayers of blessing before meals, the pride they felt at being American, when I read about border walls and ICE raids.
Today, I live in a medium-size city in the east, or the very beginning of the Midwest depending on your outlook. I work downtown, and on my commute I see women walking to work, intensely focused on their destination, never looking right or left, unwilling to even offer the suggestion of eye contact. They can’t accept the risk.
One time, a long time ago, a friend and I were going somewhere, driving somewhere. There was a shapely, attractive young lady walking down the sidewalk. My friend yelled something to the effect of “where have you been all my life, baby?”
She turned, a withering glare, filled with implied violence and obvious hate directed right at my friend, she was furious. “Eat my rat,” followed by an obscene reference to my friend and his mom.
In that moment, one sparkling second, things crystallized. That girl became my hero. Men felt free to drive by and honk, or yell, or whistle, and it was too much for her. It wouldn’t have mattered what my friend had yelled; “Hey I love your purse, it really compliments your shoes.”
And really, who are we to assume anybody wants our opinion, complimentary or otherwise. I think of that girl, often, when I see women looking hunted just walking to work.
Recently, I was driving home, just getting ready to turn onto the ramp that would take me to the freeway. I was turning right, so any break in traffic would launch me to the superhighway to home. There were two young, very happy black men riding an electric scooter. It wasn’t really built for two, so they were moving slowly, and the light turned green while they were still in front of me. They looked sheepish, and smiled at me, flashing me a peace sign. They didn’t know I didn’t care, I was happy to wait for somebody so alive with joy. All they saw was an old white man in a pickup truck. I smiled and waved and waited. It made me happy to share a few seconds with them.
Every day I see the helpless, the homeless, drifting around the periphery, trying to be invisible, almost always black, almost always wearing a coat and stocking hat, they may never be warm again. They are the hardest to contemplate; life has taken everything from them. I don’t even know what to say, when I give one of them dry socks, or a bag of cookies, and try to talk to them. “Have a nice day.” Yeah, right.
I have always been a white guy. I was never bright enough, certainly I was never ambitious enough, to take advantage of the unique opportunities this accident of birth provided. In fact, it was only recently I realized how beneficial this had been.
My few, brief ugly encounters with the police would have ended much worse except for the fact I was a white guy. I don’t worry walking down the street, because nobody looks twice at a white guy. I have always lived on the fringes of responsibility. I didn’t have a checking account or sign a lease until I got married when I was thirty years old. I spent a lot of life on the fringes of reality, stoned, oblivious to everything.
It was easier. I could always drift into the real world, make a few bucks, and check out again. It’s easy for a white guy.
This post is republished on Medium.
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