What is it about white male swimmers that people have an irresistible urge to forgive any of their transgressions no matter how reprehensible and abhorrent they may be? Judge Aaron Persky decided that Brock Turner would be severely damaged if sentenced any longer than six months in jail for raping an unconscious woman. Mario Andrada, the spokesperson for the Rio Olympics, has downplayed the disrespectful behavior of Ryan Lochte and co. for public vandalism and fabricating a story about being robbed at gunpoint. Andrada stated, “Let’s give these kids a break. Sometimes you take actions that you later regret. They are magnificent athletes…Lochte is one of the best swimmers of all times. They had fun. They made a mistake. It’s part of life. Life goes on. Let’s go.”
I think it would be low hanging fruit to discuss the double standard between the treatment of these white males in comparison to anyone else if they were in the same situation. Obviously, white privilege is fully present in both of these instances. It would be too easy to point out that there seems to be more moral outrage for Gabby Douglas choosing not to put her hand on her heart during the national anthem rather than Ryan Lochte’s disgraceful drunken escapade and completely embarrassing the country in the process. What I wonder about is how these two examples are played out every single day in a variety of ways with so many other white people. What does it do to white males when they are allowed to behave anyway they choose without being held accountable for their actions? How much does it inhibit any meaningful progress and development for white males that have had similar experiences? You cannot grow nor mature if you’re always given a get out of jail free card.
White privilege has been dangerously harmful for so many of us. It’s the by product of a system whose brutal foundation is genocide and slavery. That goes without saying. Usually, what I find absent from the conversation is how white people also experience damage from a system that permits behavior such as Turner and Lochte’s to go unaccounted for. There’s a large segment of the white male population that receive this pampered treatment, that get the pass from any genuine hard work, that are shielded from any struggle, that never have to learn the painful lesson of how their actions harm others which in turn negatively impact themselves. I feel this disqualifies them for leadership. They have not had to go through the gauntlet that is required of a leader to fully understand what that role involves. A leader has to possess an unwavering fortitude that is unshakeable by the circumstances around them. Not just on the physical level but also mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Strength comes from putting in the painful work of growing, if you skip the growth process you can never be in a position to be strong enough to be a leader. One of the many problems with this system is that it rewards this segment of the population with leadership roles when clearly they are not fit for such positions. With the direction of this country serving as our example, you can see the result when these decisions are made.
If you were to ask me, I’d say we need to diversify the representation of leadership in this country within all sectors and institutions (in hopes to set into motion a creation of a new system more supportive and sustainable for everyone). Let’s include all other demographics outside of the wealthy white male category and see how they do in leadership positions. A hunch tells me that this is exactly what is needed for us now.