White Privilege

by Charlotte Belmore @charliebelmore

The area of ‘white privilege’ is the uncomfortable elephant in the room that is not going away anytime soon. The idea of racism for many conjures up images of angry white men shouting offensive slurs with many seeing it as something visible and easy to spot. However, this is not the case as modern racism is more subtle and presents itself in ways that you might not expect.

It is found in the unconscious biases and the actions many of us are guilty of. The idea of white supremacy and privilege has put issues of race and equality firmly back in the spotlight. We are seeing another generation fighting against a system their parents, grandparents and ancestors fought against. The book Me and White Supremacy highlights just how much work there is to be done and how little as a society we have moved on. @WomenEdBookclub's discussion was a welcome opportunity to engage with those who wanted an open conversation on these issues. As a white person I am aware of how my privilege puts me at an unfair advantage over others in society. I will never know what it is like to experience racism or to have doors closed on me just for the colour of my skin. White people have got to get to get over feeling uncomfortable, to realise that a discussion is not an attack, it is not about guilt or white shaming them.

I have had conversations with my white friends who justify this with statements such as ‘I don’t see colour’ or ‘it’s different now, not as bad as the past’. This rationalising of racism is part of the problem. It took a while to openly reflect on my behaviour. It was difficult admitting my own complicity in allowing racism to go unchallenged. However, to move forward and tackle the issue, the luxury of sitting on the fence and being a passive bystander, must go.

Silence is a problem. Silence paves the way for complicity. Silence leaves racism unchallenged. Silence helps normalise racism and keeps things as they are.

Institutional racism infects every corner of society. As a teacher I know our BAME students pick up from an early age that teachers have lower expectations of them, that they are viewed or labelled in a certain way, that they are more likely to be placed lower sets or not be as pushed as much as others are. It doesn’t come as surprise for them to learn that this is reflected in the society they live in. My students shrug and say ‘Miss, it’s just something you get used to.’ As a white teacher I can only sympathise, but it’s not good enough.

Our young people cannot be what they cannot see. Society needs to do better than another series of empty promises or token gestures under the banner of ‘diversity’ or ‘inclusion.’ It hasn’t solved or tackled anything so far. I don’t have the answers but having these open and honest discussions without judgement so, as a collective we can move forward in the hope for a better tomorrow, would be a start.

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