Foreword: Black people and people of colour has not been used interchangeably. Specificity has been given to circumstances that affect black people and those that affect multiple races
The white supremacist system was not formulated by anyone who is alive today, but rather carried through generations by those who wish to maintain white privilege (Layla Saad, 2018). The fear is the immortality of any structural system that oppresses. They are dominated by politicised beliefs and systems, which ultimately when challenged, creates such transparency for its mortality.
Despite the white liberal progressives defining the 21st century as one of post-racism, it can be argued that racism is as rife as it ever has been. As many of you are aware, the case of George Floyd has catalysed nations into taking progressive action against racism. It can be argued that whilst the world is seemingly headed in an anti-racist direction, history is repeating itself, resurfacing, using contemporary forms of torture. Thousands of people march the streets, fighting for the rights of black people everywhere. Before going to the Stand in Solidarity protest in Belfast, I looked on my newsfeed and found post after post of police brutality in America. We have all seen the occasional post, which horrifies us all, but George Floyd's case has opened America’s Pandora's box, unleashing the state of their so-called ‘American Dream’. Whilst it seems as if America is a world away, it’s the structural racism upheld by white privilege worldwide which enables police brutality to rein. It enables the deaths of many black people to go unnoticed. It enables the Corona Virus to kill far more black people than it does white. It hinders the freedom of black people everywhere, as we, white people, decide how much freedom ‘they should be allowed’. Enough is enough.
I’d be lying if I said that I would confidently discuss race. For years, like many others and even still today, I was ignorant of the white privilege I was born with. I went about my life, blissfully ignorant of how race has built our society. I feel, I’m sure as I will always feel, audacious for commenting on race. It makes me uncomfortable to acknowledge my privilege because it’s been built through a history of colonialism. White privilege has been defined as the ‘unearned benefits and advantages’ that are handed out to white people as a result of a system that is ‘normed and standardized on White-European values, with most of the structures, policies and practices of the institutions being situated in such a manner as to pave the road for white individuals while creating obstacles for other groups’ (Sue, 2003). However, I feel it’s incredibly important that we all acknowledge our privileges, rather than turning a blind eye and identifying as what Reni Eddo-Lodge calls “colourblindness” (Eddo-Lodge, 2017).
Black history is something that was barely touched upon in my school. We learnt a bit about Martin Luther King and Malcolm X and touched lightly upon the civil rights movement, but history classes became overturned by other periods of time. I know more about World War 2 than I know about my own mum. When I asked around about other experiences of history throughout school, that seemed to be the general consensus. That in itself shows the ignorance and privilege of the state for suggesting that it’s not something that we need to acknowledge, thus encouraging others to overlook black history. Black history is all around us, culture is all around us. We live in a multicultural society, so shouldn’t black history be a more prevalent topic?
I don’t see colour and I’m not a racist so it doesn’t exist...right?
I’m one of the fools that once said this. I believed (and still do believe) in egalitarianism. But when I read the book, “Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race”, my mind changed (would highly recommend everyone reads this book). Reni Eddo-Lodge made several statements that completely altered my view and made me realise how much of a di*k I was being: “Indulging in the myth that we are all equal denies the economic, political and social legacy of a British society that has historically been organised by race”. As white people, even those of us who want equality, are often blissfully unaware of the everyday racism that black people face. We are not an equal society. Reni goes on to say that she was raised to work twice as hard as her white counterpart, just to be given a chance. I, majoring in business and being a woman, was aware of tokenism. I knew that the white male dominated almost every sector. I knew that tokenism was a way of firms ticking boxes to say they were neither sexist or racist. I knew it, but I never really thought about it or needed to, unlike our black counterparts.
So bringing it back to the title. Being ‘colour blind’, makes you ignorant. “Colour blindness does not accept the legitimacy of structural racism or a history of white racial dominance”. Before anyone questions whether we ‘really’ have a structurally unequal system, ask yourself these questions:
Why did it take 2 decades for only 2 of Steven Lawrence’s murderers to be convicted despite countless evidence against the murders?
Why are white people twice as likely to get into an Oxbridge university than black people?
Why: "Job applicants with white names needed to send about 10 resumes to get one callback; those with African-American names needed to send around 15 resumes to get one callback." (Employers' Replies to Racial Names, 2020)
Why do black Caribbean and Mixed White/Black Caribbean children have rates of permanent exclusion about three times that of the pupil population as a whole?
Why is it that black workers with degrees earn 23.1 percent less on average than White workers?
Why are rates of prosecution and sentencing for Black people were three times higher than for White people,18 per thousand population compared with six per thousand population for White people?
Why in England and Wales are ethnic minority children and adults are more likely to be a victim of homicide?
Why is it that black African women have a mortality rate four times higher than White women in the UK?
Why is it that black people who leave school with A-levels typically get paid 14.3 percent less than their White peers?
Why is it that in England, 37.4 percent of Black people and 44.8 percent of Asian people felt unsafe being at home or around their local area, compared with 29.2 percent of White people?
(Race report statistics | Equality and Human Rights Commission, 2018)
I’m not racist, but...
One of the sentences I hear most when it comes to my white counterparts is, “I’m not racist but…”. But. The word that holds so much power, ignorance and stupidity. There is a 100% chance that whatever you’re going to say whenever you say that sentence, will be racist or beaming with white privilege. I fear that in Britain, we are talking the talk with culture but not walking the walk. We are shouting that we want a multicultural society, whilst putting up white walls, expecting different cultures to conform to what we deem “normal”. We also pick parts of different cultures we like and scrap the rest. Dreadlocks, large lips, curvaceous figures, cornrows, music and so much more. These characteristics have been important to different cultures for years and they became mainstream whenever white people decided it was “cool” and yet white people that cultural appropriation is 'unfair'. We are taking so much from other cultures without acknowledging the burden we place on them. We will ‘allow’ different cultures to express themselves, but we will choose what aspects of culture we want to see. That’s white privilege. It doesn’t include all white people, but a significant majority of people would have partaken in these actions. It’s the white privilege of picking and choosing how people of colour can express themselves and yet people are STILL ignorant to the fact that they hold such power. Unearned power.
What we all must learn is, white privilege is still as prevalent as it was one hundred, two hundred, three hundred years ago. We must take progressive action through destabilizing the right wing regime surrounding race. We must challenge the multifaceted aspects of white supremacy. What I fear is, whilst everyone is currently so active, we will become dormant again through comfort and tradition. That inequities, injustices and aggressions will once again become a thing of normality, rather than that of inconceivability. It is imperative that we, as white people, become vigilant to everyday racism, challenge it, question it, fight it. Dismantling racism without unity will result in a malfunctioning machine of temporary success, rather than that of structural change. The changes we make today, must be indelible. Temporary change will not suffice. There’s no freedom until we are all equal.
Structural Racism: A system in which public policies, institutional practices, cultural representations, and other norms work in various, often reinforcing ways to perpetuate racial group inequity. It identifies dimensions of our history and culture that have allowed privileges associated with “whiteness” and disadvantages associated with “colour” to endure and adapt over time. Structural racism is not something that a few people or institutions choose to practice. Instead it has been a feature of the social, economic and political systems in which we all exist.
References: Upon Request