Opinion: Are Straight White Males Being Penalized for Being Straight White Males?  

Straight White Male

That is a question that some straight white males seem to be asking recently, and the short answer is “No.” The long answer is, “No, you are not being penalized.” Just because women, people of color, the LBGTQ+ community, and other marginalized groups are finally getting access to certain opportunities that in the past almost automatically went to straight, white males doesn’t mean we are being punished or mistreated or discriminated against.   

Change is happening, and it is easy for a group who has historically faced almost no discrimination to feel uncomfortable and at a loss for how to support these changes. It is a great time to get comfortable being uncomfortable! As I’ve become more aware of the inherent discrepancies in how people are treated in our country, I’ve decided that I need to take action as an ally.  

A better question for straight white males to be asking is, “How can I be part of the solution to our country finally living up to the ideals on which we were allegedly founded — providing equal opportunities for all?” I understand that standing up for causes that don’t (on the surface) provide any benefit to oneself may not come naturally to all of us, but it is far past the time for making this country a better place for all of its citizens.  

The answer to my proposed question has multiple answers. The first, and maybe the simplest, is to vote in local, state, and national elections for candidates whose viewpoints you genuinely feel will benefit the most people. Whatever your politics may be, educate yourself on local matters that have an impact within your community, and decide how your vote and your involvement can help better your local community as a whole.   

A second way to act as an ally is for straight white males to support via donated time and/or money, groups whose mission it is to bring about change and make our country a better and fairer place for everyone. It could be the NAACP, League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), The National Organization for Women (NOW), Amnesty International, Human Rights Campaign (HRC), or literally hundreds of other local or national organizations that strive for similar goals*.  

The third and most personal answer is for straight white males to mentor people who don’t look like themselves. I’ve heard discussions where people have recommended that women, people of color, and leaders of other identified groups should lift up their own kind. While that is absolutely true, there are some tangible benefits for straight white males mentoring individuals who do not identify as such. First, there are far more straight white males in positions of power to mentor and make a real difference than any marginalized group. A second reason is a bit less obvious. If there are only so many seats at the table, a non-SWM could be lifting someone up to take her/his place rather than having them join in.  

Obviously, the best answer is to do all three of these things and to be here as an ally for those around us. The more people are living well and doing well, the more we all benefit as a nation.   

*Goodwin Recruiting does not publicly endorse any of these specific charitable organizations. The above list gives examples suggested by the author of this blog.