Masterclass In White Male Privilege

I want to speak to my fellow Straight White Men this morning. I want to show you a videoclip. It’s just :55 seconds of Judge Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearing yesterday.

I want to show it to you because it uncovers the ugly heart of White Male privilege like almost nothing else I’ve seen recently. This clip is a masterclass in exactly what White Male Privilege is.


First, this caveat…
Yes. After a break, after no doubt being coached, Brett Kavanaugh apologized to Senator Klobuchar for this interaction. OK, fine. I get that.

But don’t miss this: the unscripted, off the top of his head, Brett Kavanaugh SAID IT.

THIS is the unscripted him.

With his career on the line, he talked back to sitting US Senator, like a thirteen-year-old boy called into to the principle’s office, instead of a 50-something man, interviewing for the highest court in the land.

Dear Straight White Men, don’t miss this:
No woman (of any race), No person of color, No LGBTQ person, would be allowed to address a sitting US Senator in such a dismissive way. The only class of Americans who can get away with this kind of behavior are Straight White Men. It is the cancerous heart of our continuing White Male privilege.

Fellow Straight White Men, If you don’t get or understand this, if you want to scream “but, but, but….” you are missing a crucial point of what people are trying to tell you about yourself, and about our culture.

I *know* you feel attacked and besieged at times. (I feel it too, sometimes…) I *know* the culture is changing. (I experience it too…)

But if you can only see a man “defending his honor” and not see the utter contempt and lack of respect that Brett Kavanaugh showed to Senator Klobuchar in this moment, *you* are a part of the problem in our culture. And we need to have a serious talk.

Perhaps you have never considered the concept of Straight White Male Privilege.
Perhaps you have before, and you will even dismiss it here.

All I can say is how I see it. We White Straight Men have a problem. Far too many of us descry special treatment for women and other minorities…even as we squeal, whine, and demand to be treated specially ourselves.

I hang around with more politicians and judges —men and women, Republicans and Democrats— than the average minister. I have seen something over the years that bears saying here. Sometimes, among elected and appointed politicians, there is a sense of “entitlement” to their positions. A sense that they “deserve” to be elected to the positions for which they serve.

For almost two decades now, I have privately heard politicians complain when somebody “runs against them,” as if they are kings and queens anointed by God, and not elected by the people.

(Lawyers even have a name for it when it strikes judges: “Black Robe Disease.”)

THIS is why people (of all political persuasions) hate government.

Federal Judges are not exempt from this, of course. And the process of *vetting* Federal Judges is the process underway right now. (And likely to conclude a few hours after I post this…)

Federal Judges are not “owed” their positions. They earn them through being vetted and through showing that they have the correct temperament and demeanor to be *public servants.* (Both words are important: “Public,” and “Servant”)

In this :55 second clip, Judge Kavanaugh shows he does *not* have that proper demeanor. No, this is not a plot against all Straight White Men.

Two words: Neil Gorsuch.

You see, like any job interview, you have the hearing to see if he can take the heat. It’s seat on the highest court in the land, for crying out loud. Not a fry cook at Whataburger.

Which is an acceptable and good job, of course.

But can you imagine this scenario just for a moment…

A young, African-American woman is interviewing at Whataburger.

The manger asks “Have you ever drunk too much? Ever blacked out?”

And the young woman replies, “No…have YOU?”

And then, when the manager seems slightly flustered and asks the question again, the you woman says, “I’m curious if you have…”

Would that African-American young woman get that job?

Of course she would not.

So, if you can’t see this unscripted moment as the beating ugly heart of Straight White Male Privilege, we all have a problem, my friends.

THIS is exactly the kind of moment that, far too often, makes me embarrassed to be a Straight White Man. No, not because I’m “self hating.” Not because I’m effeminate…whatever…

Because of the way WE, straight white men, act…far too often.

If you don’t see this, spend more time talking to women you know. Spend more time talking to people of color. Stop. Listen. Don’t interrupt or belittle, or have to have the last word.

Listen to them talk of the times they are dismissed, ignored, or belittled.
Listen to them talk about how they are often ignored in public spaces.
Listen to their painful stories of assault at our hands.
Listen to how many times it happens, in little :55 second increments…just…like….THIS.

I’m not saying I’m perfect, of course. My privilege rears its ugly head all the time. In ways I fail to see.

Brett Kavanaugh is not perfect, either. And whatever you think of the allegations against him, he deserves to have to defend his name against these kind of allegations, and should be expected to keep himself as composed as we would expect *any other witness* to be…or anybody interviewing for any job…

Can you imagine what he would say to a witness who addressed him this way in his courtroom?

No American is promised or guaranteed a position or status of privilege. Yes, Kavanaugh has worked hard. No doubt. But he is not any more qualified than hundreds of other people who could have been sitting in that chair yesterday.

And if he whether or not he is confirmed, this one moment should give us all pause.

And if it doesn’t?

That will simply be more evidence of the problem we Straight White Men are to everybody else in America today.

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Eric Folkerth is a minister, musician, author and blogger. He is Senior Pastor of Kessler Park UMC United Methodist Church in Dallas, Texas. Previously, he was pastor at Northaven UMC in Dallas for seventeen years. Eric loves to write on topics of spirituality, social justice, music/art and politics. The entries on this blog reflect that diversity of interests. His passion for social justice goes beyond mere words. He’s been arrested at the White House, defending immigrants and “The Dreamers,” and he’s officiated at same sex weddings in his churches, in defiance of what some believe is Methodist teaching. Eric is an avid blogger and published author, and 2017 recipient of the prestigeous Kuchling Humanitarian Award from Dallas’ Black Tie Dinner. (Human Rights Campaign) Eric has led or co-led hundreds of persons on mission trips around the globe, to places such as Mexico, Haiti, Russia, and Nepal. He has worked with lay persons to build ten homes, and one Community Center, in partnership with Habitat for Humanity of Dallas. He’s a popular preacher, and often tackles challenging issues of social justice in his writings and sermons. His wife, Judge Dennise Garcia, is a State District Judge for Dallas, County. As judge of the 303rd Family District Court, she consistently gets high ratings from area lawyers, and was named “best judge” by The Dallas Observer. First elected in 2004, she was the first Latina ever elected to a county-wide bench in Dallas County, and is currently the longest service district judge in that district. She was re-elected for a fourth term in 2018. They have the world’s best daughter, Maria, and an incredible dog, Daisy. Find links to Eric’s music-related websites, at the top of this site’s navigation menu.

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