When I first started this blog someone gave the advice that for this to mean anything I had to be authentic to myself and write about stuff I believed in, so this is what I am doing with this post, I am speaking up for what I believe in. This blog has taken me a few days to write, because I felt scared, I felt apprehensive and I felt nervous, but ultimately I know I have to do this.
I’m going to talk today about what has been brought into the light with the murder of George Floyd, the protests across America and the importance of acknowledging white privilege.
I’m going to speak to you today as a white woman and the privilege the white race has been given in life. What I am going to say is potentially going to make you feel uncomfortable, but this is why it is so important. It is time we, as a white race, feel uncomfortable, sit back, open our eyes and our ears, listen and more importantly act!
On Tuesday I sat on my sofa watching morning telly, and scrolling through Instagram. Obviously and I’m sure like many others my feed was full of black squares. Usually when a movement like this takes place on social media I don’t get involved, I often think what difference will I make? I only have a few hundred followers. But this is when I realised I was wrong – this was a time for everyone, no matter how small, to unite, with a black square and say enough is enough. The black squares and the #blackouttuesday forced everyone to stop and look. Many people would have posted black squares and carried on about their day as normal, a bigger amount of people would have sat and looked, and researched, and learnt, and understood a bit better the significance of those black squares.
I watched countless interviews with people of colour and finally, after 30 years I started to actually listen and I started to look within myself for how I had contributed to this. I have contributed because I wasn’t aware of how the colour of my skin has made me “superior” and in turn forced other races to be viewed as “less superior”, therefore giving me a privilege. This is something I wasn’t really fully aware of until Tuesday.
For a moment I sat there and I thought this is wrong, but what can I do? How can I possibly make a difference? But again this is where I was wrong. I knew that for me personally and for my morals I had to say something, I wanted to pass on what I had learnt over the last few days.
I named Wednesday “work it Wednesday” – just for myself! Time to actually get working and make some changes. I fully believe that little acts and changes can cause a big ripple effect in the world.
And let’s be honest these changes are long overdue!
It is not enough now to simply say “I’m not racist” because you don’t use racist slurs, or you have friends of colour, it has moved on from this. I know there are a few people out there who are just racists. There will always be that handful of people who don’t like other people based purely on the colour of their skin. There is no other way to say it than these people are just narrow minded racists. But I strongly believe there are many, many, many more white people out there, like me, who aren’t racist but who equally aren’t actively anti-racist and this is what needs to change to really make a difference in the world.
White privilege is a word that makes a number of white people feel uncomfortable – good!! To make a real difference white people have to feel this awkwardness and a responsibility to accept what white privilege is and that we, as a white race, have been given privilege and opportunities over others based purely on the colour of our skin. It’s uncomfortable to accept this, but ultimately we MUST accept this to move forward. It doesn’t mean you are a bad person, or a racist but it does mean you have been given a step up straight away in life based just on your skin colour. It doesn’t mean you haven’t had it hard, that your life hasn’t had its struggles, challenges or heartbreak,
“it simple means your skin tone isn’t one of the things making it even harder.”@courtneyahndesign
We, as white people, have gone our whole lives seeing people like us represented in positions of power, on the TV, in adverts, curing illnesses, in our dream jobs, making the world a “better” place. Everyone we aspire to be has been shown to us through an image of ourselves, of a white male or female. Now imagine you are a child of colour, how often have you seen an accurate and positive representation of you? In a position of power, on TV and in some cases in front of you in your classroom? It is not that these people do not exist, we know they exist, we just aren’t shown them. What does that do to your self-belief? Your self-worth? When you are taught, without being taught, that people who look like you have contributed nothing to the world – this impacts you, and not in a good way!
If you are still unsure about how our race gives us an automatic step up in life watch this video…
I will be completely honest I have been a by-stander my whole life. I have never been racist, I’ve never viewed someone negatively because of the colour of their skin, I have often stood up against prejudice, but I am still guilty of not having done enough. This is why I felt compelled to write this because I want to be someone who is willing to say this is not acceptable. I will be anti-racist and call people and things out that aren’t fair or right, and I am asking you to do the same. Don’t just not be a racist, be actively anti-racist.
Yesterday when I was watching TV I consciously watched the adverts and counted how many people of colour were represented in these adverts and the results were shocking. I’ve never noticed this before and this moment woke me the hell up!
I then started looking within myself, how well do I present people of colour in what I do? I’m a secondary school teacher and when I set about looking into the national curriculum and what I teach I was shocked and saddened that I had become so blind to the lack of diversity in education today, in 2020. I found that majority of set texts studied in English are written by white people, majority of plays studied in drama are written by white people, majority of scientists we look at are white, majority of artists we explore are white. We study black history for one month a year, the rest of the time we predominately look at white history only – how white men paved the way for the whole world.
This is white privilege!!
When you are teaching children about the great things done by only white people. To me education is the starting point, if we educate our children right then they will change the world naturally. And this means looking at great things done by ALL people and not just white people through the schools education system. But unfortunately like many institutions, the education system needs overhauling and starting again. The education we currently give our children was planned and designed by white people, for white people.
As white children we study people like us, we are taught, subliminally, that we are capable of anything, because we see it represented and presented to us through people who look like us. Can we say the same for people of colour?
I think what is important at this point is to fully understand what white privilege means. White privilege refers to the societal privilege that benefits white people over non-white people. It is generally agreed that white privilege refers to the implicit and systemic advantages that white people have in comparison to non-white people. White privilege is often hard for us to understand as it has been ingrained in us and in society for so long and through-out history. White people will have never felt the same level of oppression and in turn we have some level of privilege over other races because of this.
Understand it, accept it and set about to change this. White privilege was designed to elevate white people and bring anyone else who was not white down. It was designed to create a hierarchy of races and I am pleading with you now, as a white woman to set about changing this! Sit back, listen, learn and understand what this means! We, as a privileged white race, have a responsibility now to understand this, to acknowledge it, accept it and to make a difference. Don’t get offended by this term, in turn use this privilege for good!
I was taught a few years ago
that to change the world you firstly have to focus on your little corner of the worldH Fox
if you can change that into a positive area it will eventually spill out into the rest of the world.
Have those uncomfortable conversations at home first, at your own dinner table
“sweep out the racism in your own home first”Candice Brathwaite
Challenge your friends, family and co-workers. Don’t be a by-stander, because if you are standing by saying nothing you are contributing to the problem.
It is not enough anymore to just not be racist, we all have to be actively anti-racist and this means challenging things which we have become accustomed to, unlearning certain things which we have been taught and becoming aware.
It is now our responsibility, as the white race to use this privilege for good, stand up and be counted, say enough is enough, make small changes which change the balance, ask questions, feel uncomfortable but above all else do something TODAY! Read, research, question and ask! I honestly believe that this is the change the world needed to finally put a stop to this once and for all. This is an elephant that has been in all of our rooms, for far too long, it is time to acknowledge it. Remember small stones can make big ripples.
To all people of colour, I am sorry I have added to your struggles by not fully understanding my own privileged position as a white woman.
I know I will never understand the struggles and oppressions you have been through and continue to go through to this day, but I stand with you in this fight and I am committed to changing my corner of the world, for the better of the whole world.
Peace and love always
I will leave the final words to Jane Elliott, an educator, an activist, an inspiration:
“We hate because we are taught to hate. We hate because we are ignorant – we are the product of ignorant people who have been taught an ignorant thing, which is that there are 4 or 5 different races, when in fact there is one race. The human race.”Jane Elliott