Post No.: 0753
‘White privilege’ doesn’t mean that white people cannot experience hardships or still earn their successes. It just means that white people compared to other ethnicities, here in ‘the West’ at least, have the luxury of not needing to worry about their skin colour for just walking down the street, applying for a job, being stopped and searched for just driving a nice car, being followed by a security guard as soon as they enter a store, and so forth.
So white people can still face negative socio-economic factors like poverty, an unstable family or living in a high-crime neighbourhood – but they don’t have that extra burden of being an ethnic minority member. They have one less thing to contend with. So a poor white person is disadvantaged, let down and has it tough – but a poor black person is even more disadvantaged, let down and has it tougher; all else being equal. We might fail to recognise our relative privileges over those who have it worse than us as we focus on our relative misfortunes compared to those who have it better than us.
Privileged individuals often flippantly tell those who face racial abuse to ‘just let it bounce off you’, to ‘grit your teeth and ignore the racists’ or similar, but all this takes energy and is a distraction that can affect one’s confidence and functioning over time – energy and distractions that privileged people don’t mentally have to expend or face. If you’re walking alone and encounter a group of youths looking at you funny, you don’t have to wonder if they’re thinking of mobbing you just because of your skin colour. And it’s not just a concern about hoodlums singling you out but members of the police too!
When regular racist incidents occur at one’s family shop and you call the police but they’re useless or indifferent in doing anything about it, so you take matters into your own hands to teach some vandals and hooligans a lesson, but then it’s you who gets cautioned by the police for it – it just cements a vicious cycle of low trust and respect for the authorities. The police don’t help you as an ethnic minority member when you need them but then are there to punish you when white people need them. Your children will then learn that fact of life too. The police are thus part of the problem when it appears like ethnic minority members break the law more often.
According to a US Sentencing Commission report, black men in America received 19.1% longer sentences than white men for similar offences between 2012-2016 too! Caucasian ‘white collar’ (broadly desk-worker) criminals in particular are perceived as ‘good people who simply made a mistake in the pursuit of the American Dream’, while crimes committed by poor and minority members are more likely to be interpreted as a reflection of their inherently bad characters.
You might get stuff thrown at you and hear racist chants if you score a goal in a football/soccer match. You might get served last even when you’re standing at the bar first. And if you complain about your treatment then you’ll be labelled as rude or a diva! Or you might get racially gaslighted by those who don’t notice these more common but subtler discrimination incidents. White people don’t have to internally think about or externally deal with that sort of stuff nearly daily… and that’s a privilege.
You’re a technically competent leader but just because you’re an ethnic minority member trying to lead a team made up of ethnic majority members, no one listens to your ideas or gives their all for you because they’re thinking ‘I’m not going to obey your kind’. Consequently, outside observers will assume that you’re an incapable leader.
You don’t receive the kindness of strangers as much (e.g. when attempting to hitchhike) because you have a different skin colour i.e. you’re viewed as an outgroup member. So British hosts more readily welcome Ukrainian rather than Syrian or African refugees.
If, say, a racist white coach has a white student and an ethnic minority student, that coach might consciously or unconsciously think ‘I can’t have a foreigner being better than one of us’ hence offers the white student more favourable treatment. Of course they won’t make this obvious to observers but this kind of discrimination happens.
People might argue, “Why don’t you (ethnic minorities) just go back to where you came from then?” But many ethnic minority members were born and bred in the country they’re in so they’re already where they come from(!) Also, in places like North America or Australia, this neglects history because white people aren’t the natives in these places, so perhaps they should’ve been the ones to ‘go back to where they came from’?!
Some people talk about useful formative experiences of theirs when young, like when their parents left them on a random street and asked them to find their own way home. But they were white children in a white majority country and didn’t face the risk of getting potentially racially attacked on every street corner in an unfamiliar part of town. (The privileged then fail to understand why some people carry knives to protect themselves.) Their parents could somewhat trust their children would be safe. So even though members of different ethnicities may appear to have the same opportunities on paper – they can face different levels of risk if they choose to take them. Just going out to socialise, and thus build social confidence and network, can be a greater risk for some than others, just because of the colour of their skin. These things have compounding or knock-on effects on people’s lives.
Privilege is invisible to those who have it. So a white male who looks in the mirror and says all he sees is a human being fails to understand he has privilege as a white male. Claiming to be ‘colour-blind’ ignores how other people may face prejudice based on their colour. Even a white woman, compared to a black woman, has relative privilege – she may face sexism but not racism.
People may be discriminated against according to their gender, race (or more specifically features like their skin colour or ethnic name), age, class, disability, sexual orientation, etc.. And those who have combined characteristics (e.g. black, working-class women) face multiple prejudices – this is called ‘intersectionality’.
Ethnic minority members can exhibit disharmony within their own groups too though. For instance, we can get some, say, black people who criticise other black people for not being black enough in the way they speak or dress. Shouldn’t people be free to be how they wish to individually be? We can maybe understand why some minority members wish to anglicise their names or otherwise attempt to fully culturally assimilate with where they live in order to reduce the discrimination they face in employment contexts and elsewhere. Black people have been discriminated against in professional contexts just because of their traditional hairstyles!
Some ethnic majority members attempt to argue that they’re just less sensitive to abusive slurs and discrimination. But if they experienced the same kinds of abuse and prejudice on a regular basis starting from young, they’d likely react towards society in a similar way. We know that things like poverty, disability and grief affect the lives of all ethnicities in similar ways, hence racism would too. But some people are just luckier because they don’t face the challenges of racism (or poverty, disability, sexism, depression, etc.). Hearing a few abusive words from a minority group isn’t the same as hearing recurrent abusive words from a more powerful majority group.
White supremacists attempt to argue that they simply have the superior DNA, and perhaps the right ‘God-blessed souls’, that make them more successful and the rightful masters of deciding who should breed and who shouldn’t!
A culture of ‘those in white are virtuous and pure, and those in black are malevolent and soiled’ in fictional media just feeds the stereotypes.
Some white people struggling to find jobs will start to believe that, due to ethnic minority quotas or whatever, an Asian person stole their job. The ‘their’ biasedly assumes an entitlement to the job. When we’re used to receiving an advantage, it becomes the expected entitlement, and any attempt to tilt the scales less in favour of one’s group (even though the scales are overall still in favour of one’s group and the purpose is to better balance the scales for all) will be considered as unfairly giving an advantage to other groups!
…To combat these problems, we cannot just dress up as a minority member in a token gesture of diversity and inclusivity. This is where accusations of cultural appropriation can arguably be fair. If we want diversity and inclusivity then we must give authentic ethnic minority members a platform to have their own voices heard. Or we need to be more authentic ourselves (e.g. if you want to wear certain female Muslim religious headwear then follow Islam first). Where accusations of cultural appropriation aren’t fair however is when, say, a white-skinned musician who was born and bred in Jamaica, and so talks with the Patois, is accused of putting on a Jamaican image to try to financially benefit from it.
Whenever white people ‘call out’ somebody for making a racist comment, they’re usually viewed as persuasive; whereas whenever black people do the same, they’re frequently viewed as whining or rude. This however does mean that, with privilege, one does have influence. Thus if an innocent white person doesn’t feel like it’s their furry place to say something because it doesn’t concern them – it’s actually their opportunity to use their position to make a positive impact. This doesn’t mean speaking over those who are directly affected if they’re trying to defend themselves, but if the alternative is silence then one should be an ‘active ally’. This means actively supporting and showing solidarity with members of marginalised groups, whether one belongs to or identifies with that group or not. For instance, if you see a minority member being ignored even when they’re first in a queue then suggest they should be served next, or if you see them being spoken over then ask to let them finish speaking.
The fortunate may know no differently thus take their privilege for granted and assume all others share the same experiences and advantages as them (see Post No.: 0637). People also have a tendency to deny they’re lucky because they want to believe they didn’t have unfair advantages and that every good they get in life is because they’ve earned them without help or fortune. (People of all colours are generally biased to seize the credit for any successes and pass blames for any failures whenever it can be personally rationalised. The discrepancy between the truth and the perception is thus greater the more privileged we’ve been and are.) So the word ‘privilege’ can make some people feel uncomfortable if they wish to deny it, or ashamed if they accept it. But people with privilege should feel empowered for knowing that they can use their influence for good.
Many of us are only now realising that we haven’t yet learnt a full or true account of our own nation’s histories – for example concerning the statues in our major cities that were built to honour wealthy slave traders, or the land or important cultural artefacts stolen from native inhabitants or other civilisations abroad, because of the whitewashed history we’ve been taught. We mightn’t have been the perpetrators but might’ve inherited the advantages nonetheless. Only when we start to learn about our true histories can we better understand the problems of the present, and the possible solutions to generate more equity.
Meow. Racism hasn’t necessarily increased over time – it’s just that ethnic minorities aren’t going to passively put up with that **** anymore!