For the past two months, I have been hitting twitter hard with white privilege. And unsurprisingly, white twitter followers (and non followers) are filling my mentions with the likes of ‘you racist’, ‘go back to your country’. Now most who follow me on twitter, don’t really know my origin, I don’t look like a white European, my name isn’t that common, you’d only guess if you were from the same country, but due to the nature of my tweets (pro Palestine) I’m regarded as Arab or at least some ‘rag head sand nigger Muslim’. I am Muslim that’s for sure, but everything else is questionable.
Now coming from an ethnic minority in the UK, having been born here (but I firmly argue that I am not from here) and been brought up here, I have decided about 2 years ago that I will go back to my own country (good news for EDL). This derived from the concept of reclaiming my roots, which is arguably one of the hardest things to do for people like me who are born out of their homeland. See people like us, we exist in a ‘third space’. At home we’re the western one, and in the West we’re the foreign one. On 3 month long summer vacations back home, my grandmothers neighbours would call me that ‘English’ girl and I’d go to my grandmother almost in tears. Returning to the UK, I’d get the complete reverse. I only fully grasped this notion of mental colonisation by the works of Frantz Fanon and observing my mother. When I was younger I’d get angry with her for not learning English, always having me translate wherever we go, for having only friends from our ethnicity, for not making an effort to assimilate. By no means was I ever embarrassed of her, or our country (in fact she raised me with a nationalist ideology), but at the same time I still saw her like my coloniser did. I’d also hate it when white people would treat her like she was inferior to them because her English was poor, as if organising verbs and nouns was a measure of her worth. Both she and I have and are reduced to the food and stereotypes of our country, and I realise now that my singling out by teachers wasn’t just because I was ‘loud’. Although was lucky to grow up in East London, home to a large Black and Asian community and it was only up until college and university that I was exposed to a white community and things like orientalism, racial prejudice, stereotypes didn’t occur to me until the invasion of Iraq.
So let’s talk about white privilege and what it is. Now this isn’t a topic that there is little on. Do a google search on white privilege and you will get countless pages and articles talking about it. So I’m going to include paragraphs and quotes from a range of sites (since Twitter has made a lot of people lazy) compile them here with my own analysis and thoughts, and end having to explain myself on twitter what I mean what I say ‘white folk’, or ‘white privilege’ (or respond to bigots with white trash, hell yes). Let’s look at society for a moment. Social privilege is an exclusive benefit granted to persons who are members of a demographic that holds power in society. So who dominates the social infrastructure? Are they white? Yes. Are they men? Yes. Are they wealthy? Yes. Do these factors amount to privilege? Yes.
Here’s what a white guy on the internet had to say about his privilege, quite correctly so;
First, I have most of the common social privileges. I’m white, straight, male, able-bodied, cisgender, Christian, and have a rather “non-threatening” and common appearance. I’m not ashamed of any of these; they’re part of who I am. But I do recognize that I have an easier time in life because of them. For those of you about to foam at the mouth, ask yourselves this question: How often do you feel legitimately threatened on a daily basis (physically, financially, professionally, etc.) in society because of your membership in one of these groups? I’ll bet it’s not often. I’m sure it happens, of course, but it’s nowhere near the frequency of someone who belongs to a different demographic than yours. White, straight, cisgender, able-bodied, Christian men are the most dominant cluster group, by far, in the US (and UK). We disproportionately have the most power in every sphere of influence by a whole lot. This doesn’t mean I hate myself or anyone else in my cluster demographic, but it does mean that I have a responsibility to recognize my privilege and help those without it achieve equal opportunity. It means speaking up against oppression of any kind, even if the person doing it is someone I love or respect. It means pointing out–and acting out–ways in which we can be more inclusive of those who belong to oppressed groups. It means not taking it personally if someone in an oppressed group talks about how they’ve been oppressed by someone in your dominant group. It means not getting angry if someone doesn’t compliment you on “being aware” of a problem or working to fix it. That’s your obligation as a human being, and you shouldn’t demand a reward for it. It means not trying to one-up someone who talks about their oppression.
Another brilliant post that I applaud:
Haven’t we all heard it before? -“I got bullied in school for being white. You can’t tell me that’s not racist!” No, this is called you being picked on by a mean child. -“Someone called me cracker!” This is someone calling you by your privilege. -“People can be racist against white people too.” No, they cannot. There is an inherent logical fallacy in your argument that will never make it true. However, white people can be discriminated against. Discrimination is different from racism. Let’s start from the beginning. Your first step is to accept that “a hatred or intolerance of another race” is not the definition of racism. The dictionary is wrong. Get over it. Racism is when intolerance in government laws, attitudes and ideals of a society are ingrained in a culture to the point where patterns of discrimination towards a certain race are institutionalised as normal. If you keep this in mind, you’ll understand that reverse racism doesn’t- and can’t- exist.
There is another saying “Racism (or sexism) = prejudice + power. POC (people of color) can be prejudiced against white people. But they can never have power, i.e. a whole system of structured support that backs them. White people often don’t understand how much power they have. Just ONE white person has more power to do actual harm to a black person than one hundred black people do to that white person. A white person can KILL a black person without any consequences, while if the situation was reversed you can bet the killer wouldn’t see the outside of a prison cell for a long, long time. When white people complain about reverse racism, they are not complaining about losing their RIGHTS. What they are complaining about is losing their PRIVILEGE. White people can never call someone else racist against them because that ‘someone else’ does not have the power to OPPRESS them. The person has the power to be mean.To hurt feelings. But not to OPPRESS. THAT is the key difference. When a POC is mean to you, they are JUST being mean to you. Their entire society is not ACTIVELY discriminating against and oppressing you. Their society is not one where it is difficult for them to not be racist against you. But yours is. And you need to accept that.
Also white privilege doesn’t mean you have a perfect life and etc:
It means that white people do not have to deal with institutionalized, systemic racism in addition to their everyday problems. It means institutionalized, systemic racism does not cause white people’s everyday problems.It means when white people go home and turn on their TVs after a long, hard day at work, they can rest assured knowing that they will not only be guaranteed to see people who look like them on the screen, but they will never have to actively search to find a positive depiction of people who look like them. It means even when white people buy their groceries with food stamps, they don’t have to worry that they’ll be followed around the supermarket for “no reason.” You think you have no white privilege because you’re poor? Think again. You think your white privilege disappears because you’re not a cisgendered heterosexual? Think again. You think your white privilege disappears because you’re disabled? Think again. It means that all problems white people face are not exclusive to white people. People of colour face those same problems, too. But in addition to any problem white people face, people of colour must also bear the burden of dealing with an entire social, cultural, political, economic climate that works against us each and every single day. And here’s the thing about the effect of racism on PoC’s everyday lives: it’s not like adding one more little thing. This isn’t simple math. Racism isn’t just a “minus 1” on our radar. It informs, guides, and shapes the way every other problem is handled. Think about it. When white people are pulled over by the cops, their biggest fear is jail time. When black people are pulled over by the cops, our biggest fear is that they’ll kill us and we won’t even get 30 seconds on the 5:00 news.
Personally thats all I’d need to hear on the concept of white privilege, and all makes sense in the world. But I guess if you’re a white person, you’re a tad too sensitive. You’re not used to people telling you about the privileges of your race, so when someone is just talking about ‘these white folk’ you immediately take it that we’re talking about you. Now if you know yourself not to be racist, why are you so quick to defend? As for white privilege whether you like it or not, whether you want it or not, you have it. Now I’ve heard it all on the white front. ‘I didn’t chose to be white’. ‘It’s not my fault‘.Well sure, if your ancestors cut down all the trees, it’s not your fault, but you still don’t live in a forest. ‘You’re scaring white people from our cause‘. Hold up. Really? I have to convince white people to do the right thing? To be decent human being’s and call out oppression in this world (that is caused by your group)? And by saying ‘white folk’ I’m spreading hate? (And to all the Muslims saying “oh but there are Muslim white folk” are essentially saying “I do think you’re being racist but remember white Muslims do exist”, just take a hike). Even responding with ‘cracker’ to racists would not be spreading hate. Do you even realise that the word cracker comes from white masters ‘cracking’ the whip? Unlike ‘nigger’ there is not a history of the words cracker, white folk or white trash being used by a group of people who have systematically oppressed, enslaved, murdered white people. I’m gonna pull a white move (yes white move) and say, but I have white friends! Yes, I could count them on one hand. But at the same time we’re friends because they are decent people doing the right thing. They check their privilege. They know that their opinions on racism is irrelevant. They know that our liberation from their dominating group comes by being our allies, by listening to us by allowing us the platform their fellows deny. And most importantly, they know when we say ‘white folk’, when we say ‘ugh those white people’, we’re talking about the rest of the group that practise racism and do not recognise their privilege, which is not them. Part of white privilege is that society is crafted to appeal to white people. And when PoC voices the reality of privilege, the message is not crafted specifically for white people. Therefore, they will naturally feel as if they are in a hostile environment. They will naturally feel alien. That’s a part of being an ally. Confronting privilege, a gift received from white supremacy through the deaths of millions of PoC throughout the years, should make them feel pretty damn shitty. If they feel bad, it just means they’re taking the first important step. And if you’re ready to be allies, see here. But having said that, when we talk about racism, and we get angry at white folk, it isn’t because we’re blaming them for their ancestors. We’re blaming them because time and time again, they simply do not care or value us as human beings.
Effects Of Thinking White People Are “All Like That” (not that I do, but here’s to proving a point):
- Literally nothing other than white people having their feelings hurt on the internet
- There is no real world consequence of this
Effects Of Thinking People of Colour Are “All Like That”:
- Saudi student is literally surrounded by FBI for cooking rice under terrorist suspicion
- Black people who “sound Black” earn less money than those who don’t because of associations with stereotypes. Black people who “sound Black” are less likely to get called back for jobs
- Black children grow up literally associating being Black with being bad and ugly
- Hate crimes increase after Boston tragedy
- Moroccan High School Student is linked to Boston tragedy for being Brown
- Bangladeshi man is beaten by people out of racism
- NYPD Commissioner wants Black and Latino men to fear him after the police targeted literally 90 percent Black and Latino men in New York and humiliating them by frisking them in public under the assumption that they had weapons. Studies found that white men were the ones who overwhelmingly had weapons while Black and Latino men didn’t
- Stop and Frisk, ruled unconstitutional was practiced by New York police disproportionately and unfairly affecting 90% Black and Latino men because of racism
- Universities throwing racist ‘Fiesta Party’ homogenizing culture with extreme racism
- Every 28 Hours an African American is Extrajudicially Murdered in the U.S.
- Black people 3 times more likely to be arrested for Marijuana
- Black people receive much harsher sentencing than white people in the US and in the UK
- Conservative Party Member says schools dominated by Black and Asian pupil will create “sexual volcano”
- Stop and Search rates for Black and Asian’s in the UK doubles
- G4S guard that killed Angolan refugee shared racist jokes
- Double standard of white sexual abusers against Asian sexual abusers and their representation
- 333 die in Police custody since 1998 in the UK, with nobody held accountable
- Black man records police abusing him and saying ‘nigger’, in which the police is still not charged
- ‘Foreign’ sounding names are dismissed on job applications, need I go on?
But I’m not writing this to convince white people by no means. I haven’t got the time to sit down and educate white people about their privilege. I have my own struggle, my own people, my brothers and sisters of colour and faith telling me that reverse racism is real (and that its not reverse racism ‘its just racism’). This breaks my heart, and makes me pity our state. I’ve lost many friends to mental colonisation. I’ve lost them to the books, the theories, the language of the Anglo-man. I’ve lost them to the dream of being accepted by the coloniser who constantly tells us we are inferior, and to be accepted we must leave behind everything that we are. I’ve lost friends who trampled on their own name, who have shortened them to Western lexicon to comfort the tongue of the Anglo-man. But no matter what we do, no matter how hard we try to be like our colonisers, to the coloniser, we will always be the other. We are always reduced to the colour of our skin. When they call out ‘Paki’ they reduce you. They take away your experiences, hobbies, histories, pack them up and smack a label on them. The ‘Paki’ label, the foreigner, the other, they dehumanise you. So it breaks my heart when my brothers and sisters are trying to hard to assimilate, constantly apologising for actions that they have nothing to do with (e.g. 9/11), constantly trying to prove that we are a compassionate people, that we are ‘British’ and ‘American’ people. Embracing the label of the coloniser is nothing to be proud of. What has been done in the name of Britain? What has been done in the name of America? Not only to our people but countless of other races and groups? These countries thrive on our destabilisation, thrive on our resources, decide that progression in our countries are measured by their imitation of western society whilst sending drone strikes and NATO, yet we still want to bare our chests and shout at racists that ‘we are British/American too!’? We are not. We never will be, and that’s OK. We are not British-Indian, we are not British-Pakistani, British-Ugandan, we are Indian, Pakistani, Ugandan alone, and that is OK. This is not a call for segregation by any means, but a call to reclaim our roots, our history, our culture and love for who WE are it in it’s purest form whilst living in the West, the same West that tells us we’re savage, our countries are savage, our cultures are primitive, all whilst eating our food and wearing our gold. It was the same in 9/11, 7/7, Boston Bombings and now Woolwich. It doesn’t just bring out the already existing white supremacy in full force, but it brings out those of us who has been colonised. A scramble to ‘apologise’ and say ‘we have to stand in peace’, not only to white people who were already looking for an excuse to display their inherent racism (and Islamophobia), but to their own people. We need not apologise for anything, just as white/christians feel that they do not need to go around apologising for the acts of what happened to those in Iraq and Afghanistan. Retweeting white people saying ‘I read the Qur’an, Islam isn’t terrorism’, because only when a white person voices what we’ve been saying, does it hold value. The last straw for me was a photo of 3 young Muslim men sitting around flowers holding a photo of the soldier who was killed in Woolwich. The soldier who spent time in Afghanistan as a machine gunner under the British Army. The soldier who did not go to Afghanistan to save his people, but went to Afghanistan because the ruling white supremacist class of his country wanted him to go to Afghanistan. Afghanistan, a predominately Muslim country, with Muslim civilians that were massacred, had their bodies mutilated for kill sport trophies, urinated on their corpses, had their holy books burnt, that Afghanistan. Of course, we can’t say whether the Woolwich victim killed anybody, did any of these things, but the fact of the matter is he still participated in an invasion of a foreign land in the name of corporate greed and global hegemony. And he had a choice in this. The British Army is not a conscripted service. Those who choose to join do so out of their own free will. Now I’m definitely not making this argument to condone the attack, I do not by any means. But to keep calling the Woolwich victim ‘innocent’ would be naive in every sense, and to honour him as a ‘hero’ would be to spit on the graves of those murdered in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Apart from non-white races and ethnic minorities saying ‘you are being racist’ when all the above in mentioned, some instead resort to “we’re all human” which is something liberal white folk also resort to, the colour blindness ideology. First of all, thank you for pointing out the obvious, that we are part of the human race, second of all, nobody claimed otherwise and said you were a unicorn. But once you claim being human, and human alone, you whitewash everything that a PoC is. You deny the lifetime of struggle that comes with being Black, Brown, Asian, the struggle that comes with being a woman, being working class etc. Colourblindess simply denies racial/social inequality to those that live under it. I am sick of seeing ‘we need to work with each other, not against each other’. Yes! How beautiful would that be? Just how great would unity be? But how unity achieved? Through the elimination of white supremacy. And where can we find white supremacy? Right in the core of society, in the laws, in the institutions, in the government, in the media, trickling down into the public mind frame who essentially is the grease to the machine that is society. You see, “Black/Brown/other ethnic women wake up in the morning, look in the mirror, and see Black,/Brown/ethnic women.White women wake up in the morning, look in the mirror, and see women. White men wake up in the morning, look in the mirror, and see human beings“. This is how privilege works.
It’s time to be unapologetic for who we are.