I acknowledge my white privilege and instead of allowing it to put a muzzle on me, I will use it to speak up for what is right and what is wrongPerrie Edwards
On 25th May 2020, George Floyd was murdered after police officer Derek Chauvin pinned him to the ground with his knee on his neck for over 8 minutes. Mr Floyd was unarmed and detained on suspicion of using a fake $20 bill in a shop. This event was filmed and shared online, sparking outrage and leading to some of the biggest protests for Black Lives Matter in history. Of course he is not the only black person to have faced police brutality. Mapping Police Violence has compiled a list of black people who have been killed by police and their stories, along with some startling statistics on police violence that is well worth looking at. Today I wanted to write this blog post to share some of my thoughts and create a safe space for discussion and learning so that we can all better educate ourselves on the fight against racism.
Examining my own White Privilege
Firstly I should start off by saying that I am writing this from my own personal perspective and reflecting on what white privilege means to me in my life. I am well aware that having not experienced racism myself, I am by no means the best person to speak about the effects of racism in society. However, I think it is important for white people like myself to have those difficult and potentially uncomfortable conversations with friends or family and face up to the fact that white privilege exists and ignoring it isn’t going to change anything. It is a privilege that I am sitting here now writing this whilst learning about racism instead of experiencing it. It is a privilege that I have never felt afraid of the police because of my skin colour. It is a privilege that I have never faced abuse because of my race. And it is a privilege to be an ally in the fight against racism. I know that I will never understand the full amount of pain that racism causes, but I promise to learn and educate others around me to the best of my ability and never stay silent on a cause like this. The murder of George Floyd isn’t a ‘wake up call’. Racism is an alarm that has been going off for centuries and we desperately need to wake up and listen to it. With that being said, I also wanted to reflect on my own position as a white person and hopefully encourage others like me to do the same in order to use that position for good.
I can acknowledge myself at times I have not stopped to think about my privilege and how my life might have been different if I had experienced racism along the way. If you are in the same position as me, or have never even thought about white privilege before now, I urge you to examine your own position. My best piece of advice in this? Make yourself uncomfortable. Realising that you are privileged or that you may have been part of a system of oppression for years is a sobering conclusion to come to. It’s meant to be uncomfortable. When you feel this, it is important to remember that this is a much easier journey to take than someone who is dealing with racism itself day by day. Feel uncomfortable and then use it to change the world around you. Start to question things you took for granted, start to question what you see in the media, start to question your standing in society and start to question your white privilege.
White priviledge exists and if that makes you uncomfortable, then now is the time to change it.
In response to Criticism
I have seen some questions raised on the topic of ‘all lives matter’, the issue of destroying property during the protests and the coronavirus pandemic, all of which I am going to try to address as best as I can.
Firstly, I am well aware that all lives matter and I want to remind everyone that no one is saying other wise. However, we as a society, are not acting like all lives matter. We are discriminating against people based on the colour of their skin and so clearly all lives do not matter equally. This is what needs to change. There is a difference between saying you believe in equality and actually acting like it. If all lives really do matter (which they do) then this needs to apply in all cases. This needs to apply to immigrants, the LGBTQ+ community, people of all races and backgrounds and the list goes on. And so right now, in order to make this happen, we are focusing on the Black Lives Matter movement. We know all lives matter, so let’s make a change and start acting like it.
The media has been showing very mixed messages on the current protests and I hope that everyone takes what they see with a pinch of salt. I have seen the protestors portrayed in a particularly unflattering light and labelled ‘thugs’ simply for standing up for basic human rights. From what I can see, this argument is largely based on concerns of property damage during riots, for example in the UK, a statue of Edward Colston was knocked down during the protests. Yes this is property damage and no I do not have a problem with it. Edward Colston relied heavily on the slave trade to make his incredible profit and social standing and until today his statue remained in Bristol as a monument. What kind of a message does that send with regards to Black Lives Matter? That we don’t care? That we honour him? In my opinion, we should be more concerned with basic human rights than property damage built on colonialism. So yes I understand property is being destroyed in some places, yes I know that statues are being knocked down, but more importantly, I know that black people have faced centuries of racism and their voices are still yet to be fully heard.
In answer to the concerns about coronavirus, I personally do not feel comfortable to attend a protest as I would have normally done due to the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic and this is a personal decision that I have made to protect my family and those vulnerable within it. However, I completely respect those who have been out to protest and those who do not have the option to protect their families due to racism. Racism is a pandemic too and so whilst I can acknowledge the concerns about the spread of coronavirus, particularly in the UK where we are not fully out of lockdown, I can also acknowledge that in some cases, racism is a more dangerous enemy than the virus. The fact that the protests have been on this large scale during a pandemic shows that people are willing to risk their lives for this cause and the importance of what this means. If you are concerned about the spread of coronavirus, I hope you were equally concerned when people were going to beaches to lie in the sun or having gathering during the height of lockdown.
Enough about White People
Finally, I want to finish by saying that this isn’t about me in the slightest. I have cried. I have screamed in anger. I have had uncomfortable conversations. And I am white. So therefore the pain I am feeling is nothing compared to the pain that black people and people of colour have felt for centuries. I hear you and I will never stop listening to you. I hope that this movement raises awareness for racism of all kinds and that Black Lives Matter will become common place in our society and that it triggers a movement to address even more issues of racism from people of all different ethnicities.
I want to end by leaving some resources that are important to the cause. I have personally donated to Black Lives Matter and have added the link if you would like to as well. Also, for my white peers, I have put together a list of ideas on how we can better educate ourselves on this issue and raise awareness by being allies, it is not up to black people to educate us. Some ideas include:
- Calling out friends and family on any racist comments
- Drawing attention to black voices, for example supporting black owned businesses
- Educate yourself and those around you. I have linked a fantastic blog post with some valuable guidance on this. Marie Claire also have a great article on how to be a better white ally.
- Sign petitions
- Read books that amplify the cause and better educate yourself. Some great ones include How to be an Antiracist, by Ibram X. Kendi, Me and White Supremacy, by Layla F. Saad, Hood Feminism, by Mikki Kendall and Freedom is a Constant Struggle, by Angela Davis amongst many others.
- If reading isn’t your thing then use film and TV to educate yourself such as 13th, When They See Us and If Beale Street Could Talk.
Leave your ideas and suggestions in the comments so that we can continue this important discussion and amplify black voices.
If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressorDesmond Tutu
Thank you for reading. These are just my jumbled thoughts on white priviledge and racism from a perspective that is really not the priority of the cause. However I have a voice and I will continue to use it for what I believe in. I wanted to acknowledge white privilege for what it is and encourage others to do the same whilst also promoting resources to amplify Black Lives Matter. Quite frankly, saying that Black Lives ‘Matter’ really is the minimum. XOX