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White privilege is...

Updated: Apr 6, 2019

Today, The Anti-Racist Educator had the honour of facilitating a workshop on Decolonising Education for the NUS Scotland Black Students’ Conference. It was lovely for Hashim and I to work more closely with students of colour in Scottish institutions of Higher and Further Education. The people we met gave us such a warm welcome and we’re excited for many of them to join our platform.

As educators of colour, we were reminded that there should not be a hierarchy of learning in anti-racist education. Whether it’s a child of colour, or a university student of colour – they will often know more about lived experiences of racism than a white teacher or professor with multiple education qualifications. That’s why we need to hear their voices and include them on our platform as invaluable counter-narratives and voices for change.

So during our workshop, we got the NUS (politically) Black students to engage in a small collaborative writing task on white privilege. Based on their personal experiences of racism in their lives and/or in education, we asked them to complete the sentence “White privilege is…” As I like to put it, white privilege is the flipside of the racism coin: racism harms people while simultaneously privileging others.

We gave them three examples to get them started:

  • “White privilege is… being innocent until proven guilty.”

  • “White privilege is… not having your citizenship revoked when you make a mistake.”

  • “White privilege is… not being asked ‘Where do you really come from?’”

And below are the incredible examples they came up with in just a couple of minutes (transcribed as well). It's clear that each example speaks volumes on its own, so I'll let each one speak for itself.

White privilege is…

…not being stopped and searched.

…not being asked “is that your real hair?”

…being allowed to stay young and naïve longer, because your experience is the norm and you are not faced with having to justify your cultural tradition and body from an early age. But you get to play!

…getting to grow your hair out because it’s easy to tame and comb/or is beautiful.

…not being followed around a shop by security, under the assumption you’ll shoplift because you’re black or brown. (Elena Semple)

…not having your rights revoked on suspicion, rather than proof!

…having people be unafraid to sit next to you on the bus (Elena Semple)

…not being stopped by counter-terror police officers.

…not being aware of your skin colour, “race,” tone of voice, hair when you walk into a public space.

…not being asked “Sorry, how do you spell your name?”

…when you are not qualified or suitable for a job role and you were selected over a BME person who is more qualified than you (Yetunde Beatrice)

…you can never be a terrorist, murderer, but instead you’ll be a troubled child, with mental health issues and a troubled childhood.

…xenophobia in South Africa against foreigners of colour rather than white foreigners.

…having freedom of speech.

…not having to prove that you belong in a room, a discussion, situation...

…not having to explain how you are in a current place, job, position, etc. based on your appearance.

…not being under-employed.

…going outside and not worrying about “looking like a terrorist” (Yusuf Ashraf).

…not seeing people get super surprised when you open my mouth and speak in perfect English (Franklin Jacob).

…not being made to feel you are foreign and don’t belong here.

…not having to work super hard compared to BME counter-parts to be recognised for your hard work (Franklin Jacob).

...being able to share your real name on social media without being scared.

…about expecting others to speak your language correctly (i.e. English) without bothering to learn other people’s languages.

…capitalist, patriarchal and sexist – it is an ideological tool of the bourgeoisie to divide the working-class.

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