Understanding White Privilege

‘Inherent advantages possessed by a White person on the basis of their race in a society charaterised by racial inequality and injustic’

White privilege is an institutional set of benefits granted to those of us who, by race, resemble the people who dominate the powerful positions in our society. This allows for greater access to power and resources for White people. This privilege is not a choice or something that can be given back and it is not earnt or even deserved. It is a product of both historic and enduring racism, biases and practices designed to oppress people of colour and White people benefit from this regardless of their stance on racism. The extent of this privilege varies depending on gender, sexual orientation, age, pyhsical ability and so on. It doesn’t mean that White people can’t have a hard life, it just means that the colour of their skin isn’t something that is making it harder.

The freedom to not notice our lack of knowledge about people of colour and their history is a privilege only to White people. I often see people proclaiming on social media that equality suggests that their should be a White history month to go alongside Black history month. The problem with this is that every month is White history month. All throughout school we learn the history of White people as the norm. We are taught through a white-tinted lense. We all know so little about Black history and so we now need to take it upon ourselves to learn and educate others about what we find. The movement is Black Lives Matter, not White Lives Matter, because everyone is already aware that White lives matter, it doesn’t take a huge army of protesters, campaigning or changes to law to make this known. When the Manchester bombing happened, we all stood with Manchester, we didn’t proclaim that all cities matter. When someone’s dad dies, although it’s true that all parents die at some point, this would never be the response given.

Another privilege is that the actions or words of White people are held accountable to the individuals who did/spoke them. If we are rude or angry, this is attributed to you as an individual, not to our race as a whole. Whereas for people of colour, it is often stereotyped to an entire race – ‘Latinos/as are so fiery’ or ‘Black men are so scary’. You don’t get these judgements when you are White and no one makes up their mind about you before you’ve even met or exchanged words.

There is a huge array of privileges we recieve for being White. These can be as simple as always managing to find a plaster/band aid that matches our skin colour or hair product that works for our hair. All the way to inconsistencies between races in the criminal justice system.

There is a huge array of statistics that prove the existence of White priviege;

White people in the US are 2-10x more likely to get a housing loan than people of colour. Black women in the UK are 5x more likely to die from childbirth (2014-16). Between 2018-19, black people were more that 9x more likely to be stopped and searched. They were 3x more likely to be arrested. They were 5x more likely to have force used against them. 25% of the prison population in the UK consists of BAME despite them only representing 14% of the total population. This is the result of racism being so heavily embedded in society for decades, where black people are portrayed as lazy, good for nothing and as criminals.

These crime statistics demonstrate how problematic the current system has become. I watched the documetary ’13th’ on Netflix and learnt a lot about the history of black people and the racial injustice they have faced. I was gobsmacked throughout and had no idea about the history I was watching, the history that I was never taught. The 13th amendment meant that everyone was free and this put an end to slavery. But, the loophole was that a convicted criminal was no longer considered a free person. The documentary shows how this amendment was abused to essentially have black people arrested for very insignificant crimes, be given a heavy sentence and be used as slaves…again. The documentary was devastating but so important and I would encourage everyone to watch it, if you haven’t already.

White people benefit from White privilege whether we like it or not. The important thing is what we do with this privilege. We must teach our White peers about the barriers to success that people of colour face. We must promise to listen and amplify the voices of people of colour. We must be more than ‘not racist’ and be actively ‘anti-racist’. We must confront racial injustices even when it makes us, or people around us, uncomfortable. It is inevitable that we will all make mistakes, but it is important to hold ourselves accountable, learn from the mistakes and do better. Do research, diversify accounts you follow, speak up, address your own biases, buy diverse children and adult books, support Black businesses, ask your company about hiring policies and pay structures and be anti-racist. It is not enough to be just a non-racist anymore.

Visit my last blog post (below) ‘BLACK LIVES MATTER’ to find things to read, watch and people to follow to learn more about White privilege, police brutality and racial injustice and also to keep up with current events and ways to help.