Chris Graham: My white male privilege

312_stopthepressesAmong the demands made by a group of Mizzou students seeking the resignation of the president of the University of Missouri was that he “acknowledge his white male privilege.”

Turns out I’m a white male. Nobody is asking me to resign, which is good, but I thought it necessary that I come to grips with my white male privilege.

Ahem, here we go.

I’m white. That’s about it as far as any privilege I may have.

I was born to teen parents, one a high school graduate, the other a graduate of the ninth grade. I grew up in a trailer park, the trailer in question being a single-wide, 12 feet wide by 60 feet long, 720 square feet for a family of four.

I didn’t know any different that I wasn’t privileged as a kid. Everybody I knew in the trailer park also lived in tiny single-wide trailers in a trailer park, you see.

I started to get an idea of what it might mean to be privileged when I started playing little league baseball, and we played teams from neighboring communities where the kids all lived in houses.

Then in high school, when my friends in college prep classes started to invite me over for birthday parties.

I clammed up when they asked me where I lived.

My parents divorced when I was 13, and my mom was barely able to scrape by, since my dad didn’t make paying his child support a priority.

I had one pair of pants in ninth grade, had to wash them every day. To this day, I prefer my jeans washed out and a bit torn. They feel more comfortable that way.

I joined the debate team in 10th grade, and my grandmother gave me one of my grandfather’s old suit jackets so I didn’t have to go to tournaments looking like a complete hobo.

I graduated second in my high-school class, then earned my degree with honors from the University of Virginia.

I landed after college in journalism. I’ve won 17 Virginia Press Association awards, written five books, hosted TV and radio shows, started a successful marketing and website design business.

It wasn’t until three years ago that I was able to go to sleep in an actual house.

After years of living in rentals and homes-on-wheels, I finally made it.

Some would have you believe this was because of my white male privilege. I do consider myself privileged that I was able to work myself out of the trailer park, as challenging, and downright frustrating and also at the same time rewarding, as my life was getting from there to here.

And I still say I’d have traded places with an upper-middle-class black kid in a heartbeat.

So there’s what I think of my white privilege. If I could give it to you, I would, for nothing, because it meant that much to me.

– Column by Chris Graham


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