During a time when racial issues and violence are at an all-time high, one Atlanta teen’s poem is going viral. The poem, titled “White Boy Privilege,” was performed during a slam poetry competition in May at The Paideia School in Atlanta, and has now been viewed more than 10 million times online.
Royce Mann, a 14-year-old eighth-grade student, wrote the poem to apologize and reflect on the privilege he has for being a white male in the United States.
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Royce started his poem by saying “Dear women, I’m sorry. Dear black people, I’m sorry. Dear Asian-Americans, dear Native Americans, dear immigrants who came 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.”
“To be honest, I’m scared of what it would be like if I wasn’t on the top rung, if the tables were turned, and I didn’t have my white boy privilege safety blankie to protect me.”
Mann continues his poem by recognizing the differences in the way people are treated in regards to race and gender. Royce said he is just trying to be truthful, and wants everyone to be able to experience the same privileges he does.
“Because of my race, I can eat at a fancy restaurant without the wait staff expecting me to steal the silverware,” Mann’s poem continued. “Thanks to my parents’ salary I go to a school that brings my dreams closer instead of pushing them away.”
“Everyone should have the privileges I have. In fact, they should be rights instead. Everyone’s story should be written so all they have to do is get it read.”
“I’m not asking anybody to give up their lives to fight for equality, I have other dreams, too,” Royce told CBS News. “I’m just asking you to try to be an ally, do your share. When you see something that you think is wrong, it’s discrimination – speak up.”
Since the deadly shooting that took place in Dallas, Royce Mann’s “White Boy Privilege” poem has gone viral. During an interview with HLN, Royce and his mother, Sheri Mann Stewart, said they were hoping to continue to spread Royce’s message with people around the world. Although he knew he was born with privileges others don’t have because of his race and gender, Royce said he didn’t recognize just how prevalent “Why Boy Privilege” was in society until he took a class called “Race, Class and Gender.” Royce said the class opened his eyes to the way others around him are treated.
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“I’m not the hero of this movement or anything,” Mann said. “There are definitely a lot of people who’ve done a lot more than me. I’m just trying to do my part.”
Royce concluded his poem by asking others to let go of fear and join in the effort to make a difference in our world.
“I get that change can be scary, but equality shouldn’t be. Hey white boys: It’s time to act like a woman. To be strong and make a difference. It’s time to let go of that fear. It’s time to take that ladder and turn it into a bridge.”
Needless to say, Royce’s poem was met with a huge round applause, and he ended up winning the slam poetry contest. Watch Royce’s performance in the video below.
[Photo via Shutterstock]