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Perspective: A Middle-Aged White Guy

Susan Stephens

I live in a nice house with a nice lawn, in a nice subdivision and am comfortably upper middle class. My wife and I have both worked hard to have what we have. I also have the advantage of being a white male. I also have the disadvantage of being a white male.

My disadvantage as I see it is this: I can understand why so many people of color are angry, and I know full well that anger goes back 400 years when the first African slaves landed on this continent. I’ve read a lot of history and have read and taught some of the right books, such as To Kill A Mockingbird and John Howard Griffin’s Black Like Me to make myself a more enlightened middle-aged white guy. What’s missing for me, though, is the visceral, life-altering state of being that comes from exposure.

I don’t know the comingled anger and fear while driving or walking, or shopping or simply standing on a street corner while (insert the name of any minority group who’s ever faced systemic discrimination in this country). I do sympathize, but I am not able to empathize because I’m a lucky, middle-aged white guy. And I know my feeling badly doesn’t really matter and doesn’t solve the problem.

What I do know is this: Once again, another big chunk of anger and frustration tied to race has shaken loose in the United States. Skin color still matters in this country for all the wrong reasons. Perhaps with this round, more folks will understand that behavior isn’t driven by something as simple as skin color, but by a complex economic and social structure that’s tinged with racism.

I’m Andrew Nelsonand that’s my Perspective.

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