When I was growing up, I knew about racism and I knew about how certain people were treated differently. Although I’ve been brought up in predominantly white areas, I’ve still known about racism and had it ingrained into me that it was a bad thing.
That’s it. A bad thing.
Being white, from a developed country I would never truly understand how privileged I was, until my later teen years. By priveleged I don’t mean rich or high in status, but I mean the privilege that came with my whiteness. The fact that my mum would never have to worry about me not getting a place in a certain school because of my skin. Or the fact that she would never have to worry about not getting a house in a certain neighbourhood. Or even myself, the fact that I won’t and never will have to worry about not getting a job because of my skin or my hair. All of these things that I so often take for granted, are because of the colour of my skin. Make no mistake, I am not saying that all of these things have come about because of my white skin, but more so I will never have to place my concerns with going without these things.
The subject of racism is always a sensitive one. A discussion that very few are willing to contribute towards or take part in, but it is a discussion that must be held. Racism as we all know, is the act of discriminating against an individual due to the colour of their skin, even thinking that one’s own race is superior. So why is it that racism towards white people is such a difficult subject? Surely if a person of colour, were to insult a white person based on the colour of their skin then this would be inherently racist? The short answer is: no. It’s not.
‘What, so you’re saying that because im white people can’t be racist towards me?’ Pretty much. I’m not saying you can’t be subject to prejudice or abuse from people of colour, however when it comes to racism it is truly impossible to be experienced by white people. Although it is totally possible for a black person to walk up to me and hurl prejudice and hurtful remarks to me about the colour of my skin, this is not me experiencing racism but prejudice. This is once out of maybe a handful of times where I may have been targeted for the colour of my skin, in my entire life. However, when this person has finished insulting me and I am finally allowed to walk away, I might be a bit butthurt, I might even go cry in a corner but other than that my life goes on as normal. I am free to walk around with all of my privilege, with no care in the world. If we switch the situation and I start hurling prejudice abuse at the next black person I see, then it becomes racism. They walk away from that situation with another tally mark to add to the amount of times they’ve been targeted because of their race. They leave the situation with the knowledge that once again their race put them in a difficult situation. Me on the other hand, just put it down to being a bad day and leave it at that.
Whether you like it or not fellow white people, it’s impossible for us to experience racism. Systemic racism is built into governments, communities and organisations which have made it impossible for the black community to strive, until recent years. It’s a system which allows the mass incarceration of african-american males and the flourishment of the KKK. It’s a system that will see hundreds and hundreds of young black men shot in the street every year by the very people who are supposed to be protecting them. It’s a system that will see a young african american male incarcerated for up to 3 years for the possession of marijuana, but will allow a white rapist to walk free after just 6 months. The system was built to fail those who are not white. As white people, we benefit from the system, the system works in our favour. Not only can we not experience racism socially, but the system was not designed for us to be subject to racism. An african-american male is six times more likely to be incarcerated than a white male for the same crime. In a recent study carried out in New York 80% of individuals who were targets of stop and frisk were blacks and latinos whereas just 8% of white people were stopped in the street. Black children are three times more likely to be expelled than white children. Black children are also 18 times more likely to be tried as an adult in comparison to white children. In the UK they look a little bit more like the fact that the unemployment rate for ethnic minorities is 11.3% more than twice that of their white counterparts at 5.5%.With 17% of young white men unemployed in Britain, there is a staggering 38% of black men in the same age range that are unemployed. These employment figures could perhaps explain the huge wealth gap, with the average white home having assets totalling up to £221,000 while the average black household totals just £76,000. Moreover Bangladeshi’s contain just £21,000 worth of assets and the average Black African household having about £15,000. In fact around 60% of blacks and asians in this country have no savings at all. The statistics are endless.
The bottom line, is that white people cannot suffer racial oppression. The perceived superiority of white people over hundreds of years means that we will never truly understand how it feels to be racially oppressed. My white hair is not likely to stop me getting a job. My blue eyes will never deny me or my children the opportunity to live and study where we choose. My pale skin will simply never restrict me from living unapologetically how I want to. However for some people that is their reality.
Privilege is a powerful thing, that many have to fight and work hard for. Privilege that celebrities have for example, by means of wealth and fame can be used to bring light to various causes and issues.The same goes for white privilege as it can be used to shed light upon the issues of those who aren’t as entitled, so that they can tell their own story. I would never assume that I know what it’s like to experience racial oppression, nor am i acting as though I know the struggle. I simply hope that with posts like these, we can educate more people on the profound realities of those who shouldn’t still be having to fight for their rights.