PICKART: White men must use privilege, power to make difference


Graphic via PayScale

I make up 31% of this country’s population. I hold 65% of all elected offices. I have eight times as much political power as women of color. I am 90% of all Fortune 500 CEOs. I am a white man. 

This is America. To be more exact, this is the white man’s America. 

These are just a few examples of the privileges that white men hold in today’s American society. White men must hold other white men accountable and work towards a common goal: justice, equity and equality for the under-represented and underserved. 

In reality, the list of privileges of white men are even greater and seemingly endless. 

According to PayScale, the wage gap for white men compared to any other race or gender highlights the privilege of white men, as American Indians and Alaskan Natives make 75 cents for every white man’s dollar, Black or African American individuals make 75 cents for every white man’s dollar and Pacific Islanders make 80 cents for every white man’s dollar. Additionally, when considering median salary, women earn 81 cents for every dollar men earn, and when women and men have the same qualifications for a job, women earn 98 cents to every man’s dollar. 

In May of 2019, 25 white males in Alabama’s state senate banned almost all abortion options in the state, while the most severe consequences of this ban fall exclusively on women. Men make up more than 70% of college presidents, and 80% of those college presidents are white, according to the Hechinger Report, a nonprofit newsroom that specializes in education reporting. 

The ratio of white men in power, whether it be government or corporate levels, compared to their percentage of the United States’ total population ultimately comes with a large amount of responsibility. Any person holding power in the U.S. must promote, create and inspire change around the injustices in this country. The dire need for change lies in the hands of the most privileged: white males. 

Ultimately, it is in white men’s hands to promote diversity in the workplace, our government and our education system, as these are all necessary to better this country, its values and the future of our society.

Until the 1960s, white men were usually unchallenged in the United States’ cultural and economic pyramid, as women and Black people were not able to be in the workplace. Many laws and legislation led white men to sustain these privileges in the workplace, politics and even at home. Though certain legislation has since been created to promote equity, equality and diversity, the underserved are still clearly underrepresented in today’s positions of power. White men believed that the American culture prior to the 1960s was fair and even drove our successes, triumphs and progress. In a place that served them so well for so long, they saw no need for change. 

A combination of the recent push for diversity and confrontation of the disproportionate economic struggles underserved individuals face ultimately lead to a response by white men that embraces a brew of resentment and victimization. A survey conducted by CNN and the Kaiser Family Foundation shows that non-college educated white individuals feel forgotten by the government, resent immigrants and fear for their children’s social status in this country more than any other demographic group. 

This response to increased efforts of diversity, inclusion and progress must be condemned. There can be no compromise. Thus, conversation is necessary.

Straight, white males founded this country, formulated legislations, education systems and workplace agendas. We have systemically oppressed all other individuals. Thus, we are the most privileged demographic group in America, and we must hold ourselves accountable in an attempt to undo the patriarchy we set in place.

White males must listen to, learn about and amplify underserved voices. We must educate ourselves on the systemic and disproportionate injustices that impact Black and other underrepresented communities across the nation.

The systematic racism that this country was founded on has been highlighted by COVID-19. Black Lives Matter’s #WhatMatters2020 focuses on issues that concern racial injustice, police brutality, reform of the criminal justice system, Black immigration, economic injustice and LGBTQIA+ rights.

The ratio of white men in power compared to our makeup of the whole population is quite irrational. This is yet another example of the privilege this country was founded on, as white men formed it, shaped it and did as much as they could to remain atop the economic, governmental and educational hierarchy. Today, white men have the opportunity to be a part of a movement led by underserved and underrepresented communities across the nation. This would allow the nation to improve, grow and change the way that today’s society, rightfully so, is asking it to. 

Rather than compare our struggles and successes to underserved individuals white men must listen to their concerns and struggles, as we will never understand what it is like to be systemically oppressed. White men have to listen, learn and educate themselves on the systemic oppression of almost all individuals. After learning and educating themselves, they must put their new knowledge to action.

We, as white men, must inspire and motivate other white men to fight for justice among all people, not just objectives that benefit our population. Until progressive conversation and constructive criticism is happening consistently among white men, this nation will fail to reach its full potential, and the underserved will continue to suffer. 

This story was written by Max Pickart. He can be reached at max.pickart@marquette.edu.