Recognizing white male privilege

On May 28, my wife and I sat down together to have our morning coffee. Thursdays are my first full day home each week, so this is when we catch up on our news of the week and spend a couple of hours in conversation.

On this morning, we sat together and watched in horror as the video that documented the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minn., unfolded on the screen in front of us.

If you are a Canadian longhaul trucker that spends the bulk of your time in the U.S., the murder of Mr. Floyd cannot be ignored. The protests demanding the end to police violence and the systemic racism that exists across North American society have spread to 140 cities at the time of this writing, and a number of Canadian cities will see protests in the coming weeks. Truckers work in these spaces.

As a white male, I am in a position of privilege. The trucking industry in Canada remains a bastion of white male privilege in Canadian society. Change is taking place.

(Photo: iStock)

People of color and women are taking up career paths within the transportation sector in greater numbers. But if you were to say to me that change is taking place without friction, I would say you are deluding yourself.

You only need to turn on a CB radio tuned to channel 19 as you travel through any of our cities to hear racism at its finest. That is a fact. No trucker can deny this.

I’m not here to dole out any holier-than-thou advice or proselytize. But I’d like to give you something to think about, and I offer it with a sense of friendliness and kindness.

It’s 2020 and I believe that the vast majority of people reading this want to live in a world that is fair and equitable to all people. In your heart you are a person of good conscience who believes we all have the equal opportunity to succeed in this great country we live in.

You believe that success will come to all who work hard within our Charter of Rights & Freedoms, within the laws of our land. You are able to sit with anyone in private – white, black, brown, indigenous, male, female – and within the conversation you have together you will find that you share much in common.

You want financial security, a safe world for your family in which to live and prosper, to be treated equally under the law, and so on. You may believe this is readily available to all. But when you both leave the privacy of that conversation and enter into our public space, the treatment you receive from our society at large is very different based solely on the color of your skin and your gender.

I am not going to offer any examples of this. We live in a connected world. Open your mind and your heart and look for yourself. Examples of injustice abound. They are not fabricated. They exist across our society and within our industry. This is what the protests are about. Being treated unjustly, hatefully, in a society that claims equality for all.

I know that the term “white male privilege” pushes a hot button within many of you. It has taken me years to come to terms with that description of myself. For most of my life I never thought I had an advantage over anyone else, but I do.

Recognizing our privilege is the first step. The second is an aspiration to stand up to injustice and racism when we see it. We can speak up in public, to our employers, to our co-workers, to our elected representatives, and to our family. History continues to repeat itself. We need to use our privilege to bring an end to systemic racism.

Al Goodhall

Al Goodhall has been a professional longhaul driver since 1998. You can follow him on Twitter at @Al_Goodhall.