Recognizing white male privilege

Al Goodhall

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.

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  • All well and good Al, there is no place in a progressive society for discrimination of any form. People have inherent preferences certainly, but I don’t know if you could call ‘whitey’ previleged. To work a 70 hr. week? To get home on weekends, holidays? To get a 15 minute break several times a day? A 1/2 hr. lunch? An hourly wage? Like the rest of those equal citizens?
    I assume that you have been affected by lack of rest areas and washrooms, not to mention meals.
    Lest I get going on how the law treats Truck drivers equally, please provide more space.
    I’m reminded of Martin Luther King’s dream; That we be judged by the content of our heart, not the colour of our skin.
    If that doesn’t get it, Lennon suggested that we ‘Imagine’ ….because he was said to be a dreamer also. But he’s not the only one.

  • I strongly disliked your message regarding systemic racism and pervasive injustice. It is patently untrue. Perceptions and feelings are a poor gauge of the truth. You should know better.
    Further, you are guilty of false witness, implicit slander against thousands of police officers and our society.
    Please stop the virtue-signaling and cultural Marxist propaganda.

    • To quote another Commie musician; ‘ You don’t need a weather map to see which way the wind blows’ Robert Zimmerman

  • I always laugh at people saying Canada is a great country, while calling it a problematic racist country. If we have systematic racism in place, how are immigrants becoming ministers, judges, police etc. I see people from all walks of life working everywhere. I’ve lived in 4 countries and Canada is not even close to being a racist country.

  • As a woman who has spent 90% of her adult life in trucking I say this:
    It’s no easy life for a woman. You cannot change the perception as easily as it changes you. Racial and gender inequality abounds everywhere. Mindsets come from EVERY group and some were taught in their former Society to disrespect women!
    All lives matter and no one is above the Law. Sadly, the Media slants some stories and doesn’t report the truth in it’s entirety. Sadly this is the catalyst of serious problems.
    Saddest of all, innocent victims are injured, victimized or unjustly killed because the media whipped up “Mob Frenzy”.
    Let’s just leave it at that. Life is not a Disney/Hallmark movie.

  • Thank you!!

    Especially for writing this part:
    “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.

    History continues to repeat itself. We need to use our privilege to bring an end to systemic racism.”

    I am a white female. It warms my heart to hear this from a white person.
    Racism does exist in Canada.
    It is well hidden.
    From cliques at high schools, to towns where real estate agents dissuade clients of colour of even considering to live there, to store clerks’ reactions when an indigenous person presents their status card (and why do stores make it so hard to process those cards? It should be an automatic button on the register).

    How many cities are truly multicultural in Canada?

    May we all, young and old, take your words to heart, and take this time now to look inside ourselves.