Whilst the struggles against slavery, oppression, bigotry, prejudice and racism has lasted centuries for Black people, my understanding of my own White Privilege has only started fully developing in the past few years - since Brexit and the US 2016 election.
The seeds were sown when I went to university in New York, was voted as a Senator for my building and undertook diversity and leadership training.
However, my understanding has intensified and deepened over the past couple of weeks.
As my understanding of my privilege as a White person has improved, I have struggled with how best to move forward in the most appropriate, positive and helpful way. When should I speak? When should I listen?
Having now understood the difference between a non-racist and an anti-racist, I want to be, I have to be, an anti-racist. But I don't want to talk over Black voices, another White voice muting them. I want to look inward and work on myself, and encourage others to do the same, but I don't want to virtue-signal. I want to speak out (and I will), but I understand that simply saying "that's not right" is not enough. It's not deep enough, it's not long-lasting enough; it doesn't change things.
And so I've been reading, and watching, and listening. And also actioning.
Here's some of what's forming in my mind so far:
- Acknowledgement and Acceptance
- As someone who is of White Northern European heritage, I must both acknowledge and fully accept my White Privilege, and the advantages that it has brought both myself and my relations and ancestors before me, each generation improving our advantages in life - like compound interest.
- Far Right Racism vs Institutional Racism
- I've come to realise that only thinking of racism coming from far-right, prejudiced people is lazy. Racism can be, and most likely is, also institutional and structural as well as individual. And we need to understand that we are a product of that environment, whether we like it or not.
- HOWEVER, this does not give us a 'pass' in any sense. Indeed, we have a responsibility to check ourselves for biases that we are likely to hold and challenge them.
- Difficult Conversations - within and outside the family
- I've realised that whilst I like to challenge viewpoints, to date this has much more been within the safety of my family and my friends. I need to (and I have started to) take those conversations to my wider community and neighbours.
- As I've started to notice more subtle colonial / racist, yet innocently said, terms and phrases in the kids' play ("that fairy uses black magic"), I'm taking it a learning opportunity to both discuss the power of language and also to find new words of expression.
- Diversify Social Media / consumed content
- Without it being a conscious choice, I realised my social media feed was predominantly White. So I'm now making a conscious choice to diversify my feed more so I am exposed to a wider range of voices, experience and ideas.
- I will get it wrong
- This is a difficult one for me, as I always want to be as thoughtful and as considerate of other people's feelings and experiences, but
- I will get it wrong
- I will offend
- I will learn more and I will do better
And until then, I will do the best I can.
But we must, I must keep on listening, learning, reading, self-examining, challenging, changing, improving, teaching our children and making the world a better place, little by little.
As ever, with love from our family to yours,
Stay safe and keep well,