“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.” – Desmond Tutu
I’ve wanted to write this for days but didn’t know what to write or how to write it. Still don’t, but I guess I’ll work it out as I go. I’ve done more listening than talking over the last couple of weeks. Ever since George Floyd’s death, there’s been an uprising. It’s overdue I think, but sometimes it takes something so shocking to really get it going. Unless you’ve been under a rock, you know what’s happening, and I’m not here to report the news. I’d be terrible at it anyways. I haven’t said much up to this point, on social media or otherwise. I feel like more listening and less talking has been a good way to approach it. Racism has always kind of sickened me. I have a lot of friends and family that are people of colour. I personally enjoy that kind of diversity, and I’m lucky to live in a place that has a lot of it. All of that said, how much do I know about it and how often do I have to think about it? The honest answer is not much and not often. That is a small part of what’s known as white privilege.
I’ve been trying to learn a bit more about systemic racism, and read a few articles and opinions. I never really thought that I was being part of the problem, but if I was I’d probably be the last person to know it. Even still, I don’t think I’ve been part of the solution either. When I read the quote at the top of the blog, it kind of impressed upon me that I need to say something. Just hanging back and keeping quiet isn’t making me an ally right now. I do have a blog! It has seen better days, more prolific entry habits, and readership for that matter. Still here though. While I don’t have lofty expectations for this post, I think I can get something important off my chest, and contribute in some pedestrian way to the ongoing conversation.
The thing I saw in every good piece of media I encountered on this, is that it would be a thoughtful first step to acknowledge my white privilege. I had a vague idea of what this meant, but didn’t fully understand it’s importance. I’ve always understood that I was less likely to get pulled over by the police, or less likely to be discriminated against in some other way. Digging a little deeper though, there are a lot of luxuries that we are afforded, that we take for granted, and most of us are blissfully unaware that it should be an issue for people of colour. From schools teaching our history, seeing predominately white faces on TV and in the movies, not being excluded from anything based on skin colour. There are probably thousands of little examples, but if they don’t come up in your life, you may find it difficult to notice it. It’s not super obvious like someone coming up to your door and giving you a bag of money because you’re white, but more that absence of certain bad things happening on account of you being white. So you wouldn’t notice it. Not noticing it is part of the privilege. Not having to act on it is also part of the privilege. One I can totally relate to. I haven’t marched at rallies, I haven’t really called out racist behaviour, and up until today, I don’t think I’ve ever said anything in my blog about racism. I’ve basically sat comfortably on the sidelines, and that’s part of my privilege as a white person (not proud of it, but just being honest). I can delete this post right now, and go watch TV, and nobody will think less of me. It’s not my fight, unless I choose to make it my fight, but I do have that choice. People of colour don’t have that choice. The fight comes to them whether they want it or not. They could use our help.
White privilege doesn’t seem to be as much about taking personal responsibility for a system that’s been in place for hundreds of years, or feeling guilty about your ancestors that may have been involved (I don’t think)….. It’s more about acknowledging that the system is there, and should be fixed. It’s about admitting there’s a problem. Does it solve anything? I don’t know, but almost any problem you can have in life can’t be fixed until you take that first step of admitting the problem exists. What if we all did it? What if we were all just more aware? It can’t hurt. Let’s learn from all of this.
So today, I take the very small step of acknowledging my white privilege. I hope that maybe someone else after reading this, might do the same. Don’t know if you have to do it in a blog, or on social media or in the presence of someone who might appreciate it, or just say it to yourself in the mirror. It’s the smallest of gestures in a way, but I think it’s meaningful.