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Posted: July 13, 2016

Teenager apologizes to women and minorities in 'White Boy Privilege' poem

By Cox Media Group National Content Desk

ATLANTA —

A teenager from Atlanta delivered a poem at his school's poetry slam in February, but now, in the wake of a resurgent Black Lives Matter campaign and the deaths of five police officers in Dallas, the poem is gaining attention again.

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Royce Mann, 14, delivered a poem titled "White Boy Privilege" in front of a crowd of friends, family and school faculty for his school's poetry slam.

"Dear women, I'm sorry. Dear black people, I'm sorry," he begins the poem. "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."

The high schooler offers a genuine perspective on how his race and gender have shaped his experiences and admitted that he'll never know what it's like to live life through a different lens.

"I say now that I would change places with you in an instant, but if given the opportunity, would I? Probably not," he says. "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 (expletive) love being privileged and I’m not willing to give that away. I love it because I can say '(expletive)' and not one of you is attributing that to the fact that everyone with my skin color has a dirty mouth." 

At this point in his recitation, a woman can be heard contemplating Mann's words with a thoughtful, "Hmmm."

"I love it because I don’t have to spend an hour every morning putting on make-up to meet other people’s standards," Mann says in reference to his gender.

Then he references his socio-economic status: "I love it because I can worry about what kind of food is on my plate instead of whether or not there will be food on my plate."

"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," he says. "If I lived a life lit by what I lack, not by what I have, if I lived a life in which when I failed, the world would say, 'Told you so.' If I lived the life that you live."

Watch the full video, which has been viewed on YouTube nearly 300,000 times, and scroll below to read a transcript of the poem. 

"Dear women, I’m sorry. 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.

"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 (expletive) love being privileged and I’m not willing to give that away,' he says emphatically. 'I love it because I can say '(expletive)' and not one of you is attributing that to the fact that everyone with my skin color has a dirty mouth. 

"I love it because I don’t have to spend an hour every morning putting on make-up to meet other people’s standards.

"I love it because I can worry about what kind of food is on my plate instead of whether or not there will be food on my plate. I love it because when I see a police officer I see someone who is on my side.

"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. 

"If I lived a life lit by what I lack, not by what I have, if I lived a life in which when I failed, the world would say, 'Told you so.' If I lived the life that you live. 

"When I was born I had a success story already written for me,' he goes on while the audience sits rapt. 'You were given a pen and no paper. I’ve always felt that that was unfair but I’ve never dared to speak up because I’ve been too scared.

"Well now I realize that there’s enough blankie to be shared,' he adds, earning a bit of laughter from those listening. 

"Everyone should have the privileges I have,' he recites, his voice getting increasingly louder. 'In fact they should be rights instead. Everyone’s story should be written, so all they have to do is get it read. Enough said.'

"No, not enough said. It is embarrassing that we still live in a world in which we judge another person’s character by the size of their paycheck, the color of their skin, or the type of chromosomes they have. 

"It is embarrassing that we tell our kids that it is not their personality, but instead those same chromosomes that get to dictate what color clothes they wear and how short they must cut their hair. But most of all, it is embarrassing that we deny this. That we claim to live in an equal country, an equal world."