A video of a white high school student publicly talking about race has gone viral, but not for the reasons one might expect when they hear the phrase ‘privileged white teenager’.
In May, 14-year-old Royce Mann participated in a poetry slam at his private school in Atlanta, Georgia and took home the first place prize for the poem he wrote, which he called White Boy Privilege.
In it, the eighth grader is brutally honest about the ways in which he better off because he isn’t black, Asian-American, Native American, or a woman — and signs off with a call to action to change that.
Though the video was filmed at the Paideia School in May, it has recently gained momentum online after being posted on YouTube by Royce’s mom, Sheri Mann Stewart.
As the clip begins, a fellow student introduces him to the audience, which is made up of other kids and teachers. Royce takes the microphone and announces the name of his poem — leading to a few hushed whispers through the room before he starts.
‘Dear women, I’m sorry,’ he starts. ‘Dear black people, I’m sorry. Dear Asian-Americans, dear Native Americans, dear immigrants who come here seeking a better life, I’m sorry.
‘Dear everyone who isn’t a middle or upper class white boy, I’m sorry. I have started life on the top of the ladder while you were born on the first rung.
‘I say now that I would change places with you in an instant, but if given the opportunity, would I? Probably not.’
Speaking entirely from memory, the teen explains: ‘Because to be honest, being privileged is awesome. I’m not saying that you and me on different rungs of the ladder is how I want it to stay. I’m not saying that any part of me has for a moment even liked it that way.
‘I’m just saying that I f***in’ love being privileged and I’m not willing to give that away,’ he says emphatically. ‘I love it because I can say “f***in” and not one of you is attributing that to the fact that everyone with my skin color has a dirty mouth.
Here, a woman — presumably a member of the faculty — can be heard saying ‘hmmmm’, either in annoyed agreement or disapproval.
‘I love it because I don’t have to spend an hour every morning putting on make-up to meet other people’s standards,’ he goes on, addressing his privilege as a boy instead of a girl.