You may have heard this term recently in the media but not quite understand what it is. Being white in North America means you probably don't have to think abut being white. For you it is the norm, the status quo, the average, and it can feel uncomfortable to realize that your world is set up in a way that is actually unfair to others who are not like you. Learning about such things is hard and it is uncomfortable, but it is also absolutely necessary. Please continue to learn and grow despite the discomfort 🙏🏽
White privilege does not mean you are racist. It also doesn't even mean there are lots of racists in the system....
It means that the society we live in has been built in such a way that it is structurally racist. It means there could literally be ZERO racist people in positions of power, yet the system would still disproportionately put BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and other people of colour) at a disadvantage when placed in a similar situation to that of a white person.
I hope that this post helps lift the veil or shed some light in this phenomenon and enables you to see what white privilege really is. What white privilege looks like in day-to-day life for BIPOC, and what you can do to change this imbalance once you realize why this is indeed a problem!
If you are white, white privilege may be invisible at first, but once you see it, you cannot un-see it. It reminds me of those Magic Eye images that just appear at first as repeating patterns but when you relax your eye the right way an image pops out of the paper at you! What you see before your very eyes changes based on your past experience (if you have learned the trick previously) and your mind (the ability to relax your eyes and see something from a different perspective). Once you learn and understand the concept of white privilege, your understanding of society will be forever changed. You will look at the world with a deeper understanding and hopefully compassion than you did before.
What is White Privilege?
White Privilege is not Racism. It is not your fault. It is society’s fault. It is the system’s fault.
But it is your responsibility to acknowledge it. Because as long as it exists, so will racism. It also means that the people who it benefits (white people) are the very people who hold the most power to change it.
It is something you are born with or born without simply based on the colour of your skin. It means you will be treated differently and have certain advantages (greater access to power and resources) throughout your life compared to a person of colour in the same situation (social, economical, standing) do.
It exists because of the long standing historical racism, prejudices and biases. It is because our society was build on the belief that POC were less than human. It is how they justified stealing the land that our countries are built on. It is how they justified enslaving people to build those countries. It is how segregation, Reserves, and Residential schools, and cultural genocide were justified. It was not right. And we know this now, but we have a lot of work to do when it comes to changing the belief system that built our world as we know it today. We have a lot of un-learning to do before we can build a new society and a new set of beliefs that holds all humans to an equal standard.
Day-to-day examples of what White Privilege looks like:
You are learning about racism from others instead of experiencing it your whole life
Baindaids match your skin tone (It wasn't until this year that Johnson and Johnson launched bandaids of different skin tones)
You can easily find pantyhose that match your skin tone
“Flesh tone” coloured crayons match your skin tone (It wasn't until this year that Crayola launched crayons of different skin tones)
When you turn on the TV you see people of your race widely represented
You see people of your race in positions of power
You have never had to act differently as to not draw attention to yourself for fear of your safety
You have never had to change your address on a job resume to be considered for a job
You have never had to change your name, the spelling of your name, or the pronunciation of your name to make other people feel more comfortable
People have never crossed the street ahead of you to avoid walking close to you
People have never clutched their purses closer to their bodies when you are with them in an elevator
You have never feared for your life when being pulled over by the police
Your hair products are just labelled “hair products” not “ethnic hair products”
You had the opportunity to learn about your race and its history in school (not through an elective course and actually taught by someone of your own race)
Your race is widely represented in children’s books, toys, and TV shows
You have never been denied a rental unit based on the colour of your skin
You can go shopping without being followed or harassed
You have never been asked to speak for all the people of your racial group
You have never been told to “go back where you came from”
You can easily trace your genealogy past a few generations (records about your ancestors were kept and respected)
You see many people from your race on the news celebrating accomplishments, inventions, positive community work, etc
You have never been called a racial slur
How to learn to accept your white privilege and then use it to help others:
Don’t take it personally (as I said before it is not your fault)
Don’t use the awkwardness or uncomfortable feeling you experience acknowledging it as an excuse to disengage or ignore its existence (growth is uncomfortable but also necessary)
Learn to listen and truly try to place yourself in someone’s shoes if they are trying to explain to you a situation where they have experienced racism or prejudice (this is how you will finally be able to “see it for the first time”)
Think about how being in that situation would make you feel?
Learn how to amplify other’s voices that are not heard (share other’s messages or work)
Speak up if you are witnessing an injustice or even just an expression of ignorance or stereotype
Be an advocate! Stand up for BIPOC even when they are not present
Educate yourself and fellow white people. Try offering a racial education seminar at your work. Ask questions. Ask how you can help. Learn the history, and not just what they teach you about in school.
Talk to your children honestly and openly. Make sure they are not ignorant to other races, that they learn more than just the stereotypes that are portrayed in social media and movies.
If you have taken the time to read this post, to educate yourself, and to share what you have learned with others, then I want to thank you! Learning to look at the world through a different lens is hard. It is hard to unlearn everything that society teaches us to be true. It is uncomfortable, exhausting, and a lot of work to re-train our brain!
BUT it is necessary. As an Indigenous mother to Black children I hold a great deal of fear in my heart. I worry about what struggles, discrimination, pain, or even danger the future may hold for my kids. I am going to keep spreading the word and trying to educate. Because I want them to be safe, to live a good life where they are treated as the amazing humans that they are. I want them to have every opportunity to become whatever they want to be. I want them to be treated fairly and justly and with empathy.
Let's make a change so that our kids can grow up in a different society than we have 💕
Wela'lin (Thank you!)