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Jack Johnson

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Royce Mann: Teenager blasts white privilege in poem

Atlanta (CNN) It’s been a tough week for race relations in the United States.

Two African American men killed by police. One in Louisiana. The other in Minnesota. Both caught on tape. Each causing an uproar.

Days later, a sniper gunned down five officers in Dallas.

It’s been one bad week. But the root of the problem dates back generations.

A 14-year-old white boy from Atlanta breaks it down in a slam poem called “White Boy Privilege” that has gone viral.

“Dear everyone who isn’t a middle or upper-class white boy. I’m sorry. I have started life at the top of a ladder, while you were born on the first rung. I say now that I would trade 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 and 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 fucking love being privileged… and I’m not ready to give that away.”

Royce Mann joined Isha Sesay on “CNN Newsroom L.A.” where he talked about his good fortune of being born with white skin and parents with deep pockets. Sesay asked him why he felt the need to apologize for that.

Mann: “I’m not apologizing because I think it’s my fault. I was born only 14 years ago and the problems date back much further than that. I’m just apologizing because I think that it’s sad what some people have to go through because of the color of their skin and/or their gender and things that they were born with that they didn’t choose.”

Sesay: “And you have a message for other white boys. Let’s listen to that.”

Mann (from slam poem): “Dear white boys, I’m not sorry. I don’t care if you think the feminists are taking over the world or the Black Lives Matter movement has gotten a little too strong — because that’s bullshit. 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 let go of that ladder and turn it into a bridge.”

Sesay: “Royce, what’s been the reaction from your other white friends to that call?”

Mann: “It’s been very positive. A lot of people who said that it inspired them to do more and it’s made them realize how privileged they are compared to many other people.”

Sesay: “I wanna share with you the reaction on social media because people have been reacting really passionately to what you had to say. Tracee Ellis Ross of the ABC show “Blackish” tweeted: “If you watch nothing else today, please watch this!”

Ross Tweet

Golden Globe winning actress Taraji P. Henson tweeted: “God bless this little brave angel.”

Henson tweet

And this person wrote: “Retweet this please far and wide. if this 14 year old white boy gets it — what excuse do others have?”

Boy Tweet

What do you make of the reaction to all of this from celebrities and people outside of your circle?”

Mann: “I’m just so glad that I’m hopefully helping to start a discussion about these issues that are very prevalent as we saw with the killings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile — and then the killings that followed of the five police officers in Dallas. I think these discussions really need to happen now because it seems like in our society we let tragedies happen and then we talk about the issue for maybe a few months after it — but then we sorta forget about it. We really need to get some change to happen now. We can’t stop talking about these issues because it’s gonna take a lot of change for everybody to be equal. People don’t realize how far away we are from that. We’ve come a long way, though, and I think we shouldn’t forget what’s already been done — like in the Civil Rights Movement, for LGBT rights, for Women’s Rights — but we also need to realize that there’s a lot more that has to be done.”

Royce Instagram

Sesay: “Where does this come from? You’re such a worldly young man at just 14. How difficult was it to sum up all of this emotion that you have — all this awareness that you have? How difficult was it to write this poem?

Mann: “It was a little bit difficult to get it started because I know you have all of these thoughts and it’s just sometimes hard to get them onto paper. But once I got started, I think I really knew what I wanted to say and then it was pretty easy after that.”

Written & Produced by: Ben Bamsey for “CNN Newsroom L.A.


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