Today’s guest is Royce Mann, an 18-year-old youth activist and spoken word poet who went viral with a piece called White Boy Privilege when he was only 14. Since then, Royce has been wrestling with the balance between fame and responsibility as well as the privilege he has as a white male in Atlanta, Georgia. Royce has thought very carefully about the fine line between activism and virtue signaling, and in today’s show, he shares some of the lessons he has learned throughout his brief but exciting career. We tackle some pertinent topics including the responsibility that comes with visibility and privilege, the way we can best use our skills to further the causes we believe in, how important it is for us to become aware of our complicity in the systems we fight against, as well as the power of conversation, the spoken word, and art.
Royce shares a few of his poems today, and we discuss the different issues that inspired him to write them. We also cover the important themes that his poetry brings up about the intersection between identity and audience, the importance of speaking from one’s own experience, and the gap between the intention behind a piece and how it is received. Be sure to tune in for this valuable conversation about privilege, activism, and responsibility at one of the below links:
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Key Points From This Episode
How privilege amplifies the words of some over others
Royce didn’t write White Boy Privilege for fame, but he ended up garnering national attention. Upon reflection, he feels it was merely a result of his own white, male privilege that got him that platform. His voice was speaking the words of many before him, but his was somehow amplified. The moral? When speaking about injustice as someone who is not the voice of the oppressed, try not to steal the spotlight.
Look for gaps to fill — not to jump in front of someone else
In all aspects of life, but especially in taking action to dismantle harmful structures in our society (ex: systemic racism) ensure you are identifying what strengths you bring to the table, taking in feedback, and not using your privilege to jump in front of other voices.
Glory Activism: Why nothing we do is truly selfless
Although we may feel our activism comes from a place of total selflessness, that’s not really how we work as humans. We need to work to acknowledge our selfish motivations for things and make sure they align with the selfless reasons as well. Once we see our personal successes intertwined with those of our communities, then we can find work we are passionate about that is mutually beneficial.
The importance of pursuing things that don’t seem impactful
When zooming in on the big picture that is a social movement, small efforts that may not seem worthwhile or interesting can play a large role in furthering the cause. For Royce, this was found in activating to change the name of his high school, named after a white supremacist. Though the name didn’t matter to him, pursuing it for the larger cause and message did.
“I really just try to ask myself over and over, ‘Why am I doing this?’ And then whatever the answer is to that, you want to ask, ‘How does this help get there?” — @TheRoyceMann[0:07:29]
“The role that I as a white male can play is talking to other white folks.” — @TheRoyceMann[0:12:45]
“We must confront our own complicity. Then, only then, will we truly be men.” — @TheRoyceMann[0:17:57]
“Any time you put something out, especially in the form of words or art that is meaningful, you really end up losing control over it.” — @TheRoyceMann[0:23:43]
Links Mentioned in Today’s Episode
Benjamin Von Wong
Royce Mann on Twitter
Royce Mann on Instagram
Royce Mann on Facebook
All Lives Matter
White Boy Privilege
The Atlanta Board of Education
World Toilet Organization
Mr. Toilet: The World’s #2 Man
Coming Up Next
Tune in next week to hear from Jack Sim, founder of the World Toilet Organization. His mission is to ensure everyone has access to clean sanitation. If you’re already curious, check out the documentary on him out now on Amazon — Mr. Toilet: The World’s #2 Man. Be sure to subscribe here so you don’t miss an episode, and feel free to share or leave a review here so we can keep providing more content like this. See you next week!