Welcome to 2019. We live in a world of hashtag trends and keyboard warriors ranting on social media about injustices and racism. And this is a blog post that is going to address exactly that. Unpick a term I consider racist and full of hate. A term that needs to be used very carefully, not thrown around in a slinging match on every political or social post that involves any white or black person.
I am a white woman who works in a bank. I own a blog and want to be a writer.
“White privilege” you shout at me.
You don’t know me nor my story. You haven’t lived my life nor walked in my footsteps. And neither have I yours and I, too, do not know your story and the hardships you have faced. I would love to learn and know you more. I will hold your hand and listen. But today, right now, I will offer you another perspective. My perspective. Sometimes taking the time to step into someone else’s shoes, however uncomfortable, gives us pause for thought and reflection.
I have worked since I was 13 years old.
I’ve had over 13 different jobs and once I worked 3 jobs at the same time to put food on the table and get by. I’ve had more rejections than job offers. I am exhausted most of the time and barely break even each month. And up to 3 years ago, most of my jobs were low skilled labour / retail ones.
I’ve known hunger and what it means to have an empty fridge.
I’ve known not being able to go to the dentist or doctor for fear of huge medical bills, I have battled illnesses and not having adequate medical insurance. And I have experienced life in the poorer villages of Ukraine that humbled and silenced me, making me feel incredibly lucky just to have running water and electricity if nothing else.
I’ve been bullied at school and at home, I failed my degree, have a load of student debt and I have struggled as an immigrant in Germany to get work.
I’ve been an outsider most of my life and still don’t feel I fit in anywhere. As an immigrant I have been looked down on and treated like shit, been given the crap duties that the other staff won’t do, been accused of stealing because I’m the foreigner, and now Germans are unleashing their frustration and anger on me regarding Brexit (honestly, I don’t give a hoot).
I never had holidays as a child
With 3 siblings and my diabetic grandma living with us, we were too poor. We have only had 3 family holidays in my 34 years on Earth and I haven’t been able to afford a holiday since 2009. That was my last vacation.
I couldn’t fly home for Christmas 6 years in a row.
And when I did finally make it home last year, I got sick and spent Christmas in bed throwing up with stomach flu, as well as fighting a chest infection, and I didn’t see anyone.
I don’t get my hair done or my nails. I don’t have an iPhone. I don’t own a TV or have a Netflix account. I don’t buy designer labels. I don’t splurge on clothes. I rarely eat out. I rarely go out.
I have hit rock bottom a few times and struggled living paycheck to paycheck but each time I got back up. I have gone down the victim mentality route asking God, why me? Why is this happening to me?
Are these things a result of white privilege? Or just privileges? Or were they hard times that I couldn’t control? Was it a privilege to experience the bad times and learn something from them or was it a privilege I could have those jobs? What are the privileges here? Do they have anything to do with me being white?
It is too easy to list the negatives in your life. To replay all the hard times with a victim mentality and chuck all your shit under one umbrella calling it something else.
It comes down to your mindset and your interpretation. It’s your choice. It’s the decisions you made that led you to where you are today. And that is all privilege and we all have it.
It comes down to being active and passive. Are you going to get yourself out of your situation and get a better life or are you going to moan about it and not change anything? Are you expecting someone to change your life for you and hand you a big bag of cash for doing nothing?
Being white never got me any of those things I listed above, except, possibly work.
Being white never made me successful.
Being white never stopped people from bullying me or accusing me of things I didn’t do.
“Privilege means to have an advantage or gain over someone or something.
It is a right or immunity granted as a benefit, advantage or favour.
It is an exemption or grant given to someone in authority or office under certain conditions to free them from obligations or liabilities.
It is the condition of enjoying special rights or immunities”
Put white in front of it and you’re saying white people have all these things over non-white people. This was definitely true in previous generations and to an extent is still the case today in some areas of the world. We could argue the same about womens’ rights and male privilege. It depends on the job, the country, the situation in question.
But in 2019, and I address mostly America and Europe here, generally western democratic countries where opportunities exist everywhere and people are more open and conscious of human rights, people are starting to use this phrase to just hate on white people.
It’s become an outlet for jealousy. It’s a scapegoat for people to avoid taking responsibility for their own actions or inactions. For making ill-informed decisions that led them down a rocky road. It’s about avoiding accountability and looking to pass blame onto someone or something else.
It’s rebranding racism. When white people make racist judgements against someone, be it black, Asian, Middle Eastern, Latin American etc., “white privilege” is thrown back in their faces. It isn’t a privilege. It’s just racism and that is illegal and shouldn’t be tolerated. Don’t call it privilege. Racism is not an advantage nor a special right. It will not get you anywhere. Likewise, when a white person succeeds at something, “white privilege” is thrown in their faces when really it is racism and jealousy against that white person.
On Twitter this morning someone put the hashtag “white privilege” under a news article regarding the El Paso Walmart shooting. How is that white privilege?! The shooter was white but what privilege did he have? Shooting people is not a privilege. He did not gain anything by it. He did not gain immunity. He has lost his freedom for his crime. It was capital murder fueled by hate. We don’t even know if everyone he killed was non-white. There might have been white victims, too.
Stop using this term incorrectly. You are fueling the hatred amongst both white people and non-white people.
There are certainly examples and situations where being white has advantages. It is unfair and unjust and for that we should continue to fight for equality. We don’t need to shout “white privilege” and insult all white people, though. Why do we need this label? What is wrong with just fighting for equal opportunity for everyone? Are you going to start ranting “straight privilege”, “illegal immigrant privilege” when you dislike something?
But what are we really talking about here? If we really put the issues on the table, white privilege comes down to two things: money and opportunity. And money gets everyone’s feathers ruffled.
Let’s look at those two words and reflect on what they present, and what you associate with them. Depending on your background, culture and experiences, you might have different things on your lists but these are mine in a quick 10 min brainstorm:
Power right to be heard
Respect ability to change your life and others’ lives
Peace of mind trust
Health growth and development
Time power and control
Most of the ideas around money and opportunity can fit into both categories. They overlap in places. Money and opportunity can change your life and it is what most of us strive for. We all want a better life, we want to buy things and experience things. We might not all be materialistic, but money is a good motivator and helps us to achieve our goals. It can bring us better health and more comfort.
When we don’t have money many of these things are not possible. We struggle. I’ve been there. We can choose to wallow, play the victim card and resent others doing well or we can get up and keep trying our best and let people inspire us regardless of skin colour. We can choose to surround ourselves with like-minded people who are good for us and want to help us succeed.
I’ve never stopped working. I have taken many a basic less-than-minimum-wage job just to earn money. With that brought connections and opportunities. It brought knowledge. That was a privilege. It wasn’t easy finding work at times. I had to create my own work. I looked at what I was good at and decided to make that a source of income.
I don’t have a degree.
I do freelance proofreading and editing. It started when I couldn’t get work. Now I do it alongside my day job. I learned most of what I know online, in books, on free YouTube videos and blog posts. Slowly, I saved money to do online courses to get qualifications to back up my skills. By looking at entrepreneurs, listening to podcasts and learning how they achieved success, I inched forward at a snail’s pace. I learned how to create a website and update that myself. I read and watched free tutorials and I am always striving to be better and to create the foundations for opportunities that will lead me to be a better writer whilst simultaneously keeping my head above water.
(A few good tips for you on how to create opportunities)
I cannot say the colour of my skin landed me my bank job. I work in a very multi-cultural company within the tourism industry with colleagues of various and beautiful shades of skin tones. We need a collection of language and cultural backgrounds for our work. Has the colour of my skin landed me jobs in the past? Well possibly. But I don’t know which other candidates applied for the jobs I did. All I know is I showed up, did my best and worked my arse off to prove I was worthy of that job.
I have my head down focused on my goals and my path. I am being active and working on making changes in my life and creating opportunities. I am not being passive. I know where I want to go and what I want to do and I know I have to put in the hard work.
While my white parents worked relentlessly (and they never went to university), they were able to provide for us. They worked different jobs and made contacts that led them to better jobs. They had a strong work ethic which they instilled into us, kids. We were lower-middle class. Not in the broke gutter but not on the rich ladder either. Just scraping by the best we could. Is that white privilege? No. But it is a privilege to be able to work.
There are plenty of white people who are poor, who do nothing all day and claim dole money that my taxes pay for. Some are disabled and cannot work. Others, choose not to work. I went to school in a town where everyone is related to everyone and you either left school at 16 pregnant or soon after got pregnant and never left that town, just claimed benefit money or you went on to actually do something with your life.
The latter was a small percentage.
I come from a small white community. Crime was also higher than in neighbouring towns and there was a drug problem. Is that white privilege? It is just a privilege. To be on dole money, drinking it down the pubs and getting pregnant so you can claim more social welfare money? Is it a white privilege to want to read more than watch TV? Is it a white privilege to choose to go to and stay at school? Is it a white privilege to want to learn and better myself? All of those things are privileges available to everyone whether white or black if you live in a democratic western country.
Did growing up in that town hinder me or did it help me? Did it make me turn to a life of crime? Did I get forced into doing or selling drugs? Did it make me want to shoot people?
It pushed me. Hard.
It pushed me to leave that town, to find a place where I could do something positive and live a big life full of many experiences (both good and bad) and be as far away from that reality as possible. It was my mindset and work ethic that led me to where I am today.
I didn’t let the bullies nor bad experiences stop me. I used their energy and turned it into motivation for changing my life and doing things differently.
But to you, I am just a white woman who works in a bank. You probably assume I have money as my customers frequently do. I tell you some of my personal experiences and you just say white privilege got me those jobs. We all have it tough. Some more than others. Sometimes we get dealt a shit hand and it’s truly unfair. But it’s how we play the hand and move on from there that makes us who we are.
I had no influence on being born into my family. I couldn’t decide the colour of my skin. I couldn’t choose to be a British baby in a middle-class family. But here I am. And now, I am being made to feel guilty about being white. I will not apologize for that. Nor would I ever make a black person apologize for their skin colour. I feel everyone has bottled up years of anger and resentment for things our ancestors did or suffered from and now it’s payback. People are not letting go. They are keeping the past alive. Holding onto it and making a point of keeping the hatred alive with it. They are not taking the next step. If you hold onto hate and anger how can you move past it? How can you love and be kind with hate and jealousy in your heart? How can we make a better future when we are still cemented in our past?
And honestly, after all these years why are we still fighting about the colour of our skin? You cut us both open and we both bleed red. We have the same anatomy inside. We are a rainbow of colours– why do people hate that? I am so sick and tired of this still being an issue in 2019.
Embrace your colour, love it and own it. I love all of you! I love your black ebony skin, I love your Latin caramel hues, I love your Middle Eastern olive tones. If you feel it is part of your identity, then celebrate that. Rock on and do your own thing with confidence and pride. That is what is going to open doors for you and inspire people, not ranting “white privilege.”
And while you are all manically typing away in your homes writing about “white privilege” and trying to start another civil war, just take a moment to think of our white and black brothers and sisters who are fighting miles away from home wearing your country’s flag on their arms. They are fighting side by side as a team for your privilege to have the freedom and right to speak your mind. They are giving up all their privileges, sacrificing their lives to protect your freedom, to protect you so you can squabble amongst yourselves. Then they return and are the ones without the privilege of a home, job and medical care. Sone lives are ruined. Some do not come home at all. While you are fighting within your borders, our soldiers are fighting to protect the outside ones. You don’t give them hope nor motivation by tearing each other apart. They look back on their country from abroad and think what the hell am I even fighting for?
We all have phones. We all have internet access. We all have the ability to change our lives and create opportunities and connect to new people. We can choose to learn about finance and budgeting. Whatever you need or want to learn about, there are always resources available. We all have those privileges but you have to want to seek them out and use them. Be creative. Be smart. Connect to good people who can help you. Be active and make those changes.
We all need to be accountable for our own actions and we need to hold others accountable for theirs if they cross the line. And if there is inequality or racism then speak up. Call people out on it but stop using the term “white privilege” to cover a whole barrel of issues that is pissing you off.
I have never stopped trying to work hard, love everyone fairly and equally and treat everyone with the same respect. I don’t even see skin colour. I see souls. I see the energy you radiate. I see your eyes and your smile. I see the person inside, the gifts you bring to the world and I look for your passion and what you have to offer. You are beautiful and I have big love for you all! What are you bringing to the table? What is your legacy? What message do you want to leave behind for your kids? What are you teaching them?
Because if it is just hate, then you are not welcome at my table.
I want to see you grow and shine and be the best version of yourself you can be. I want to see you succeed and I want to see you inspire others to be good people. I want to learn from you and also be inspired by you. I want to help you. Black or white or any colour of the rainbow and any religion or gender preference.
You decide your destiny and you make it happen. It’s not white privilege. It’s just the privilege of a democratic western society that you were born into or belong to. You also have that privilege, unlike people in other countries, due to the sacrifices of both our black and white heroes who died or who are still fighting on the front lines. So what are you waiting for?