“What I am looking for is not out there, it is in me.” ~Helen Keller
I am a white male of a certain age, arguably Protestant, straight, educated, and American. If I were to believe the popular view, there is no excuse for me not being the trillionaire playboy president-for-life of the universe. Where o where did I go wrong?
Nowhere. For all my supposed “advantages”, I still have to work for what I get.
Some Revisionist History
I could tell my story another way. I grew up lower middle class, blue collar, without access to an Ivy league education and no connections to speak of. I was not big enough to be captain of the football team or popular enough to be prom king.
I got no shoe-ins and no handouts. Poor me.
What Color Is The Glass Ceiling?
Have there been color barriers and glass ceilings? Of course. There have been good ol’ boy clubs, nepotism, cronyism and favoritism. But the fact is there was a black President of the United States for eight years, there is presently a distinguished latina woman on the Supreme Court and there is a pretty high likelihood that a near future president or justice will be black, latino, asian, gay, a woman or some combination thereof.
When Barak Obama was elected (the first time, remember it has happened twice), those who had fought all their lives for equality for people of color has some real soul searching to do. For some of them, accepting victory was not something they could wrap their minds around. They were in it for the fight for so long, they had no clear idea what winning the fight would mean and they sure didn’t know what the day after victory would look like. In the face of it, they were confused and lost.
The same thing is going on for many women in both government and business. They already have their seats at the table and they have their accomplished exemplars. I say “they” because I am considered to be “other” by them, certainly not by my choice. I am their avatar for the antagonist, the opponent.
I’m More Than Just a Pretty Avatar
I am not that avatar and I am not alone in finding such broad brush painting to be unjust. I am not “against” the young or immigrants or latinos or anyone one else that by some arbitrary measure is not “like me”. I am certainly not standing in anyone’s way who has a mission in this life, quite the opposite.
Everyone has disadvantages. Brad Pitt is too short to play professional basketball, Hillary Clinton is never going to get her own cookie baking show on the Food Network and Donald Trump is too American to run for Prime Minister of Iran.
But Daddy, I Want a Pony!
We each have limits to the range of our opportunities. But within that range, the possibilities are infinite. We need to stop asking for infinity plus one.
When you focus on the disadvantage, you are at risk of identifying with it. Once that happens, you are sunk.
If your identity is tied to being below the glass ceiling, getting above it would crash your concept of self. That is egoic death and I promise you that your ego will have none of that. You must separate yourself from the notion that you are this or that barrier.
Being Human Is an Inside Job
Identify with being human, a citizen of the world, a member of mankind. What have humans not accomplished? Furthermore, humans accomplish never before realized feats every day. In the most glorious and spiritual sense we are evolving as a group. The question is, will you be part of that evolution personally?
You may find yourself in competition with others in various settings. Seek the settings where merit will matter. If you are trying to join Daughters of the Mayflower and you’re male and your grandparents migrated from Sweden in 1900, expect to have problems. Make the team because you play well. Get the promotion because you bring in the business. Get the grade because you do the homework.
The whole of humanity is turning toward what works. At the end of the day, we as a society cannot put up with failure in misguided support of has-been traditions. Some of these traditions are putting up a mighty struggle but one by one we are seeing them fall.
Countries have failed, even entire systems of government. But humanity survives. Play on the side of the survivors. The fact is many “minorities” automatically do this already because that is all they have. It is this association with pragmatism that will cause us to endure.
“Clinging to disadvantage is a crutch.” click to tweet
We as humans survive because we are particularly good at survival. You are already on a winning team. So play like the winners. Do what works. Forget about your disadvantages, they were just imaginings. You have the greatest advantage there is: you are a card-carrying member of the human race.
What crutches have you discarded? Tell us about it by commenting below.
Photo credit: Tony Cornish
2 thoughts on “Why Clinging to Disadvantage is a Crutch”
As a white man you cannot deny that you have automatically received some privileges that others are denied. Have you ever been pulled over because you are white or denied a promotion because you are male? I am all for looking on the bright side but you can’t just ignore it when you are discriminated against.
Oh, I have received many privileges to be sure. But the ones that have been most valuable have had far less to do with my stereotype and far more to do with me personally. The same has been true of my denials and obstructions. Rather than focus on the fact that I don’t have movie star good looks or presidential charisma, I focus on what is working (and what I can make work with a little more effort). Anyone who has seen my wife knows that I am capable of succeeding out of my league. 🙂 And if I can, so can you.