It’s not often that I write about this subject and examine it because I wasn’t sure whether or not I had the authority to write about it as a British Asian woman.
With the offset of British society becoming steeped in ethnic diversity comes a fierce backlash from the right as the fight for equality begins to feel like oppression for the majority.
White privilege. It’s one of those phrases which makes people’s blood boil and become incredibly defensive given the current social climate we are living in. And this defensiveness is understandable, yet, not something which I’m fully sympathetic of.
On one hand, we are experiencing the rise of the right in many Westernised countries, while being confronted with refugees, immigrants and asylum seekers fleeing persecution and poverty for a better life in the West.
At the same time, many individuals of ethnic descent, who were brought up in the West are now finding their voices to express disdain at the glorification of the British Empire, the lack of public knowledge about the UK benefiting from slavery and how much of British history doesn’t include its less finer moments.
Previously, this was something that older generations couldn’t discuss or didn’t want to as they sought to find their feet in a new country.
For many of Caucasian descent, it feels like an assault on all fronts, but this shouldn’t come as a surprise. There’s only so much that people (regardless of ethnic background) can tolerate when they have been subject to open social discrimination for generations.
I don’t know what life is like for the average Caucasian person in the UK, in the same way that they don’t know what modern life is like for people of ethnic descent following the events of 9/11 and a world living with terrorism. But what I do know is that white privilege plays a huge role in upholding institutionalised racism and maintaing social hierachy.
So what is white privilege?
It is a term for a set of societel advantages, immunities or privileges, that white people benefit from on a daily basis. The part that gets everyone angry is that many individuals are not aware of having white privilege and are often in denial about the advantages that it has given to them.
An example of white privilege is the impact that racial profiling has on wider communities, without them realising that they are part of the problem (as well as the solution).
There are countless Caucasian men who can walk in public with a full beard and won’t be subject to suspicious looks, get stopped and searched, have people moving away from them on public transport or be the victim of violent attacks. That is something that many men (of Asian and Middle Eastern descent) unfortunately experience on a daily basis – such as Waris Ahluwalia.
I believe that the anger that comes after a white person is told that they have white privilege (that they weren’t even aware of) largely stems from their general understanding of racism and what racial discrimination looks like to them.
Racism, as a concept and how it plays out in the world, is about power and maintaining that power. It puts distance between the oppressor and those who are often at the mercy of experiencing this discrimination.
They didn’t choose to be born white
When the psychology of racism is framed like this, or framed in a way that the oppressor begins to feel some of that pressure, it’s no wonder that millions of Caucasian people are firmly in denial about white privilege and still stick with the admission that people of ethnic descent are ‘playing the race card.’
They will continually say that they didn’t choose to be born white. That’s nice: I didn’t choose to be born a South Asian woman, but never mind these things happen.
They don’t see race and that they aren’t responsible for the actions of their ancestors or their nation’s history. All of the above are naive, ignorant and dangerous statements to make. To say that you don’t see colour is one of the stupidest excuses I’ve heard in my life so far.
You cannot say that you are colour-blind, when it comes to race, because for millions of people around the world, their life experiences are radically shaped by the colour of their skin.
This way of thinking means that you are discrediting the experiences that people of colour face on a daily basis. This statement is only part of the wider problem, even if it is said without malice.
To call someone a racist, today, is a loaded term and can often have devastating consequences on their livelihood. So much so, that people fear being called racist without having a fuller understanding of the logic behind it or call out racism when they see it happening.
In the same way that we silenced open racism with political correctness, we have now stigmatised racist attitudes, without fully realising the impact of sweeping volatile behaviours under the carpet.
Which would you pick? The blatant, open racism that previous generations faced? Or the increasingly psychological racist behaviour that you feel but cannot prove?