Why is it that the mere mention of white privilege elicits fervent denialism, exposing the fragility of whiteness?
Privilege is something intangible that white people need to, but don’t quite understand and acknowledge. Understanding how racism has been internalised and is being perpetuated is a critical and necessary first step to achieving equality in society.
I grew up not seeing colour. For many people, this idea of looking past race still exists. But, as I got older and started learning about the world and how it works, I realised that my naive view needed to change. Race is significant and informs the world around us and how we live.
Privilege is about the way in which white people continue to benefit in life, solely based on their race. Within a society of white supremacy, privilege isn’t difficult to identify and acknowledge.
Yes my fellow white person, you were born into a society in which you are #blessed, more blessed than people of colour. Your success in life is almost pre-destined, whereas for people of other races, it is an achievement against all odds. Next month, I will be the first person in my family to graduate. While it is a great achievement, I can’t help but think that part of the reason for this is that it was previously not necessary for others in my family get a higher education. They would somehow be set either way thanks to the availability of structural opportunities for the white minority, and truthfully, maybe I still do. So the fact that I have a bursary and could consider myself ‘struggling,’ as many other white people who deny their privilege do, the indirect benefits I get from my whiteness are evident.
The fact that my physical presence isn’t questioned or feared, that I’m not commended for the way I speak and that the media will probably view my life as more valuable are all indications that my life is not a daily struggle, the way it is for others. While white people worry about losing their ‘place’ in society, they don’t think about what it’s like to have never had one. To know that your entire ancestry was systematically oppressed.
We may have been labelled ’born frees’, but are we really? We have inherited the legacy of apartheid. Twenty-two years is not long enough to say: “it happened so long ago, it’s time to move on”. In a country that was once an apartheid state, it is simply unacceptable to think that you have not, in some way, benefitted from the system and even more unacceptable to be racist.
We (white people) need to find our place in movements and protests that seek to change our society; that job is up to us. We also need to know that when events like For Black Girls Only and Black Lives Matter happen, they’re pro-black, not anti-white and we should be supporting these movementsin the background. We need to take every opportunity to teach the not-so-politically-correct and downright racist people what’s up.
The key to combating racism is the recognition of white privilege and the societal inequalities that exist all around us. The goal is to move towards an equal society, so let’s work towards creating a platform in which people of colour are no longer victimised and have a the same chance as you and I. Let’s start to see the whiteness that is all around us, appreciate rather than appropriate black culture, and start acting like the ‘Africans’ we claim to be.
Wits Vuvuzela Whose blood is thicker? April 2016
Wits Vuvuzela Slice of Life: Where is our humanity? May 2015