I know if you’re not white and reading this you instantly thought “OH, here we go. Another white boy talking about white privilege!” But every argument has a few sides so mine is as valid as any. I was watching someone talk on White Privilege. Essentially sweeping us into the same bucket as if me and David Cameron were 30 years apart from being roommates at Eton. It wound me up slightly so I’m going to explain my view on White Privilege as I see it.
The average “white person” seems to be the suburbanite in a middle management or higher job, with a mortgage and a wife that doesn’t appreciate it enough. However, in my experience this is only true for around 40% of white people who reside in the lower/upper middle class. As a working class white man, I am the 60%, I have witnessed white privilege although I have never received it. I would say white privilege should be pegged as more of a class issue and not a race one, while race does have something to do with it, even in a small way. White privilege is piled in with racism, I consider them to be two separate issues. I’ll tell you a story of mine and explain after.
Class and racism walk hand in hand.
When I was at university studying for my Fine Art degree (Drawing is my biggest and probably only skill) I witnessed a case of what is known as white privilege. I had been trying to get exhibitions for my work, I’d applied for shows for months and got nowhere. I spoke to someone on my course who’d told me she had 2 shows already and one coming up. I asked her how and she told me that she looks out for galleries that allow people to pay for space, then she sets up a show. I asked her how much, she said that one show was £150, her current show was £350 and one coming up at £400. Speaking as someone whose theme for a book come from being a broke student who starved for 3 months, I asked where she found £900? She said that her father paid for most of it.
Once I really broke this down with some of her background, coupled that with the knowledge I have of other rich white kid’s stories of “daddy” paying for everything. I realised that this was class privilege. My white privilege extends to having never been stopped and searched, having lived in Tower Hamlets all my life. As for opportunities, income, likelihood of home ownership and education, I’m not stereotypically white. But that stereotype, much like all stereotypes, is grossly disproportionate to the amount of white people it actually applies to. Opportunities for me are few and far between, my income is lower than Joey Essex’s IQ and the only chance I’ll probably have of owning a house is if I build one out of Lego. I once had to get my mum to mail me £10 for a train home because I spent the last of my money on my phone bill.
White privilege and institutional racism are separate issues. From a working-class perspective, there should be no reason for racism in a working-class background. We are all lumped in with each other. One would assume we should then all have something in common and would be working towards a similar cause – to bring ourselves out of the gutter. However, you can see racism on a regular basis. Something I like to think of as “birds of a feather” racism. This is a non-offensive racism. Where people of the same race flock to one area as a group. This is instinctive, coming from early human’s tribal days, where different people were real threats (Eg. Vikings in Scotland). Primitive behaviour. This creates sects in communities, these then become the building blocks for actual racism. White privilege in this setting is non-existent. We are all the same as we have no attributes like wealth that separate us. It is only when people of one race want to appear better than other people that they revert to racism. To feel like there is someone lower than you is the same feeling that built the British empire and the slave trade, and also serves as having someone to blame for what they believe is wrong with the country. These feelings create racism. The only way to beat this is to be higher beings and truly become multicultural.
London has many cultures, but it isn’t multicultural. Right now, is the first time in the history of Britain that this many races have lived in such proximity. Time will make us truly multicultural. We have come so far though, it is a beautiful thing.
When you consider white privilege from a working white man’s perspective, you realise it is more about education, and teaching our young who the real enemy is. White privilege only applies to the privileged. The CEO’s, the top 1%, the politicians. Cultural studies need to be taught from an unbiased stand point, instead of an imperialist British stand point. We teach our young to hate slavery and love the history of the British Empire, which is essentially an oxymoron because the British Empire was built on slavery and exploitation. Our political elites are throwbacks to this time, the David Camerons and Boris Johnsons of our time are all related to the Imperialist Etonites that helped to destroy the world and in turn, build up that white privilege that they rely on now. They are taught politics at private school, when we’re are taught Pythagoras. They know how to work out the running of a country when they leave school, and we can’t even work out our taxes. They create loopholes in law that they manipulate until we do the same, then they change the law and create a new loophole that we don’t know about. They shift the goalposts every time we learn how to score then if we get good at learning, they change the game entirely. That is white privilege. Politics should be taught at school, everybody should be taught the importance of voting. But, if politicians did that, it’d be that much harder to exploit us. They rely on our ignorance to mislead us. How else would they get votes?
I honestly believe that when we break down the class barriers, institutional racism will break down with it. It won’t solve racism, as it is a complex problem. Some people are just hateful. To be prejudiced is human, everybody pre-judges someone before meeting them. Nevertheless, to be a truly higher species, we need to see past that. Stop pointing fingers and accept our fellow humans as just that. White privilege is really a Class Privilege, that a very small minority receive, with the rest of us struggling like everyone else. I want to see a time when someone gets a job based on their merits, and not based on whether they are the right skin colour or not. That goes for positive discrimination as well. I never want to be called privileged again, my mum was on the breadline growing up (breadline means one level above poverty).
Why can’t we be friends, why can’t we be friends…