There’s an article floating around the Intertubes at moment explaining how being a straight, white male (SWM) is essentially playing a video game on the easiest setting. The only video game I ever play is Katamari, so I’ll let the author of the post explain himself, because I’ll just screw up the lexicon.
He starts the article thusly:
I’ve been thinking of a way to explain to straight white men how life works for them, without invoking the dreaded word “privilege,” to which they react like vampires being fed a garlic tart at high noon….So, the challenge: how to get across the ideas bound up in the word “privilege,” in a way that your average straight white man will get, without freaking out about it?
First of all…WOAH! Taking on complicated, nuanced societal topics. Ummm, the Internets are for funny cat videos and re-purposed pictures of Keanu Reeves, thank you very much. The ego of some people using a free, worldwide distribution system to be all blahblahmyopinions! Ugh.
Dudes. Imagine life here in the US — or indeed, pretty much anywhere in the Western world — is a massive role playing game, like World of Warcraft except appallingly mundane, where most quests involve the acquisition of money, cell phones and donuts, although not always at the same time. Let’s call it The Real World. You have installed The Real World on your computer and are about to start playing, but first you go to the settings tab to bind your keys, fiddle with your defaults, and choose the difficulty setting for the game. Got it?
Okay: In the role playing game known as The Real World, “Straight White Male” is the lowest difficulty setting there is.
This means that the default behaviors for almost all the non-player characters in the game are easier on you than they would be otherwise. The default barriers for completions of quests are lower. Your leveling-up thresholds come more quickly. You automatically gain entry to some parts of the map that others have to work for. The game is easier to play, automatically, and when you need help, by default it’s easier to get.
Second of all…WOAH! This sounds insane. Why are video games so complicated?! That’s why I like my Katamari. You just push a ball around and pick stuff up with it.
Now, once you’ve selected the “Straight White Male” difficulty setting, you still have to create a character, and how many points you get to start — and how they are apportioned — will make a difference. Initially the computer will tell you how many points you get and how they are divided up. If you start with 25 points, and your dump stat is wealth, well, then you may be kind of screwed. If you start with 250 points and your dump stat is charisma, well, then you’re probably fine. Be aware the computer makes it difficult to start with more than 30 points; people on higher difficulty settings generally start with even fewer than that.
As the game progresses, your goal is to gain points, apportion them wisely, and level up. If you start with fewer points and fewer of them in critical stat categories, or choose poorly regarding the skills you decide to level up on, then the game will still be difficult for you.
Third of all…WOAH!! “dump stat”? Haha! That’s a hilarious sounding thing.*
Fourth of all..WOAH!! This is just wrong! Look, I do everything in my power to escape the cruel joke the universe played on my by injecting me with melanin and making me look like an RBP. But being white is totes tough!! I mean, just look at the very well-reasoned comments at the bottom of that article and you’ll see! Not being a minority comes with some serious baggage.
1. Sunscreen. You have to put that shit on like every time you go out in the sun. Every. Time.
I’ve had one sunburn in my life and yes, I was thrilled that I got to stick my toe in the waters of white life, but that thing stung like crazy! And so much aloe! I had to drop like $4 just to feel better.
2. Boring interactions with authorities. Imagine this: You get pulled over by a police officer and s/he just asks for your license and registration. Or this: You walk into a high-end store and NO ONE follows you around making sure you don’t steal things (this happened to me at Ralph’s the other week..No offense Ralph’s, but if my RBP takes over and I decide to rip off a store, it’s not gonna be for some fennel and sourdough).
Or this: You’re a kid in school and when you act up, the teacher wonders if you have ADD, talks to your parents and comes up with an action plan and DOESN’T call you a thug.
Where’s the excitement in any of that? While yes, profiling is insulting, annoying and inaccurate, it does make your average minority’s life a touch more exciting. People do expensive things to chase adrenaline rushes all the time. Who needs skydiving when you can get a random gun in your face?
3. Dull, predictable hair care and beauty products. Sure, some white people have difficult hair, but you can generally go into any place that sells hair stuff and just buy it. You don’t get the action adventure of traveling to three separate places to find the right combination of products that allows you to actually reposition the hair on your head. And that sucks! We evolved from hunters and gatherers, we crave adventure and scarcity, we want to fight for what’s ours. And being brown forces you into hours-long pursuits to find stuff that works on your scalp and makeup that actually matches your skin.
4. Not being able to get into college. One of the big comment trends in the above article is about how it’s harder to be white because thanks to Affirmative Action, poor, dumb brown kids are taking the place of deserving white kids at schools.
And that’s totally true. Because when I think of a college campus, I basically picture South Central. Nothing describes the look of a college campus more than “basically a still from The Wire” or “kind of like the set of a Spike Lee joint” or “wait, this is Harvard, I thought it was Madea goes to Cambridge.”
I mean, goodness, look what Affirmative Action did to the White House.
5. The boring ol’ benefit of the doubt. When life is too predictable, with no bizarre threats to keep you on your toes, complacency follows. Then depression and soon you’re writing passive aggressive blog posts and not living up to your potential. Just think how much more exciting it would be if you had odd systemic threats lurking around corners.
Like, you could be Florida’s George Zimmerman who tracked and killed an unarmed kid who was leaving you alone and then ONLY get arrested after everyone in the nation threatened to disappear your state. ORRRR you could be Florida’s Marissa Alexander who DIDN’T kill her terribly abusive ex-husband after he ran after her threatening her life and you could get 20 years in prison!!
C’mon!! Which makes a better facebook update: “still livin’ life, yo” or “holyfuckingfuck!! i’m going to be removed from my children’s life because I tried to protect them against a known abuser, thus making it more likely that since they’ll grown up without parents, they’re more likely to continue the cycle of violence that I was hoping to shield them from!!! hashtag HungerGames.”
Even with these burdens, I’m still committed to my Oreo lifestyle. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy not having to worry about the angry angry sun and getting jobs that I’m not qualified for, but if one more person at Zumba says something to me like “You sisters are so lucky–you can do all those moves ‘cuz you’ve got natural booty,” I might go all Marissa Alexander on them.
And Bonus: Slavery totally had TONS of benes that only a certain segment of the population got to take part in. And to think, RBP have the nerve to white about the peculiar institution like it wasn’t kind of baller.
I’m starting with a quick review of the Oreo basics. Won’t you join me?
Not sure you’re using the term “Oreo” correctly? If you’re still reading, you probably are. But click here to double check.
Why go white? Lots of reasons!
Stuck talking to an RBP or someone who thinks you’re one? Remove yourself in 3 easy steps!
What do you think? Is there an easier gameplay setting? Wanna hang out and play some Katamari together? Let us know in the comments!
*Seriously, though, what’s a dump stat?