White folks supporting a black movement for freedom, justice and equality is not a popular position to place oneself in. And yet, many are doing it, and we must applaud them for staring their white privilege right in the face and fighting against it.
A case in point is Royce Mann, 14, an 8th grader from Atlanta whose slam poem entitled “White Boy Privilege” spoke some profound truths and must not be avoided. This. Right. Here.
In his poem, Mann admitted loving his privilege in society. “I have started life at the top of a ladder, while you were born on the first rung,” the teen said, in a message to African-Americans and people of color over which he has advantages, but also to women, in a society of built on racism and sexism.
“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 you and me being on different rungs of the ladder is how I want it to stay.
I’m not saying that any part of me just for a moment even liked it that way,
I’m just saying that I love being privileged, and I’m not f*cking ready to give that away!
He went on:
“When I was born I already 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 blankly to be shared,
Everyone should have the privileges that I have. In fact, they should be rights instead.
Everyone’s story should be written so all they need to do is get it read. Enough said! No not enough said…
Royce had some strong words for his fellow white boys, telling them that he doesn’t feel sorry for them for feeling the #BlackLivesMatter movement is getting too strong. He won the poetry competition, as well he should have. And the young man received his kudos on social media:
I watched #whiteboyprivilege and cried. That brave young man gave me hope for the 1st time in weeks. Maybe the world can be better…
— Elizabeth Reid (@elledotreid) July 11, 2016
— Sherry Taylor (@martininow) July 11, 2016
— mommylaw ⚖ (@K__McG) July 11, 2016
— whodis (@jenique_p) July 11, 2016
— J.C. Gonder (@riproaringca) July 10, 2016
I have had SO MUCH privilege being white… boggles my mind other white people who are blind to it. #WhiteBoyPrivilege is fact.
— Danny G (@itsdannyg) July 10, 2016
— Stacey F. Johnson (@aaasmorg) July 10, 2016
"Hey white boys, it's time to act like a woman: to be strong and make a difference" -Royce Mann #whiteboyprivilege
— ⭐️Aquarian Warrior⭐️ (@kelworldpeace) July 10, 2016
Meanwhile, we have entered a period where white rage and racism are being validated and given an amplified voice. During a time when we are told that White Lives Matter — and Donald Trump wants to “Make America Great Again” — we must acknowledge that many white folks get it. To all of those who are marching in the protests for black lives and against police violence, we salute you. The work of standing up for black people and educating your ignorant and sometimes hateful friends and relatives is no easy task.
Of course, this is nothing new. In the civil rights movement, white folks were on the front lines. White soldiers for justice such as Viola Liuzzo, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner were martyred and lynched for the cause of freedom for African-Americans. This is how America makes you do it. Meanwhile, individuals such as Marlon Brando, Jane Fonda and composer Leonard Bernstein supported the Black Panthers. Ultimately, black folks must be the agents of their own liberation, but white allies have a leadership role to play in spreading the word about white privilege, then helping to break it down.
But we must be honest and also admit that the nation responds differently to the plight of the racially oppressed when they see their own white children protesting in the streets. Certainly this was the case in the 1960s and made for good coalition building and an effective tactical move, as white and black young people faced police beatings in the streets and on the evening news.
Black people today need and seek those coalitions with white allies. And Royce Mann is as good an ally as you will find.
Follow David A. Love on Twitter at @davidalove