An Open Letter To Self-Entitled White American Men

Dear Self Entitled White American Men,

Let me start by stating right off the bat that I swear I don’t hate you. Unlike most of the things you put the rest of us through, this is not an attack on your existence – simply a plea for you to change your ways. I’m also acutely aware that not all White American Men are like this – in fact, my own father is a very lovely, very NOT self-entitled White American Man, so please don’t assume I’m being “racist” or “derogatory” by pointing out a distinct and common phenomena that a huge proportion of Non-White, Non-American, Non-Male People can relate to in regards to our interactions with you. I’ve experienced a running trend with some you that I’ve met here. You act like you own me, culturally, physically, and emotionally. And I’m done. I want to talk about it.

I am sick to DEATH of aforementioned Self-Entitled White American Men dictating what my culture means to me. Conversations, in cafes, pubs, at work, even at typically uniquely inclusive dance events frequently go like this:

Him: “Hey! Where you from?”

Me: “Oh, I’m Scottish.”

Him: “Oh, REALLY? What’s your Clan name? I’m a Smith!”

Me: “Well, actually not every Scot has a clan, and actually Smith is an English na-“

Him: “HAHA but know what, you Irish are great! I know all about your country, I actually visited in 1982. Yeah, we were in Cardiff for a couple of days discovering our ancestral history, oh my God, what a cultural experience! Scotland’s so great! I love your country!”

Being interested in my culture is something I appreciate. And, in reality, if you were to ask me about the internal politics of someplace distant to me – let’s say, Fiji, for example – I wouldn’t know jack shit. But if I met someone from Fiji, and I asked them about their politics, culture, and lifestyle, and they gave me an answer, I wouldn’t have the audacity to interrupt their answers with blatant misinformation. Furthermore, I wouldn’t have the audacity to then further belittle their response by insisting my ignorance was correct. The Self-Entitled White American Men I have met completely invalidate what I have to say. Which is strange, because given the fact that I am, y’know, Scottish, it might be safe to assume that I know a tad more about Scottish culture than they do. Yet because I don’t fit with your narrow, self-entitled mindset, you think you can talk over me and not listen to what I have to say.

Let’s talk about another, more serious, and more relevant example. I went dancing last night. I looked hot. I asked a friend to dance. He is a White American Man. I greeted him with a polite “How are you?”, to which he replied “Hm, you’re quite distracting tonight, so I’m not sure I’ll be able to concentrate, haha” *stares intently at my breasts*.

Hahaha. No.

Another example. Later that night, we had a jam. For non-dancers, a “jam” is where you dance with multiple people in quick succession. People are encouraged to “steal” you from your other partners. A certain *ahem* White American Man seemed to think it was okay to “steal” me by grabbing me by the belt hooks of my jeans, and holding me very tightly by the waist. I’d never met this bloke before. Although he didn’t touch my breasts or genitals, his touch was definitely sexual. He was much older than me, and proceeded to leer at me for the remainder of our thankfully short dance together. There was something about both of these interactions which made me realise that both men assumed I’m like a piece of ripe fruit they are entitled to pluck. Self-Entitled White American Men traditionally pluck lots of things from trees – once it was my ancestors from West Africa, now it’s the jobs you’re more likely to get through your familial connections – so why should an attractive woman be any different? Well, I hate to break it to you – you owned my grandfather’s grandfather, but you sure as hell don’t own me.

I’m very angry right now. I’ve realised that internally or externally, white American men – much like white southern English men in the UK – have become the yardstick by which we measure ourselves in this society. Everything we do is in relation to them. Have you noticed that? You’re Swedish, because you aren’t a White American Man. You’re a black woman because you aren’t a White American Man. And so, by extension, white American men are the default. And when they’re the default, when they become the norm, they not only do they privatise normalcy, but they also own and dictate everything that is “un”normal.

So, Self-Entitled White American Man (yes, I’m talking to you) – I guess I can’t ask you to stop being entitled, or to immediately understand the full impact of what your words and actions do to us. To me. What I will ask is to simply have some goddamn humility. Your privilege is inherent in your being. That’s as much your ancestor’s fault as it is yours. You have a responsibility to me, and the generations you proceed, to simply recognise your privilege and admit when you’re wrong. Try it. Do us all a favour.

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