By Dylan Shimmon
Dear White People,
This is going to hurt. So, I’m just going to dive right in and say it.
I have privilege. And you do too.
I have privilege in being able-bodied.
I have privilege in being White.
I have privilege in being university-educated.
I have privilege in being native English-speaking.
I have privilege in being a citizen.
And the list goes on.
This privilege I have access to, does not shame me into silence. It does not guilt me into wilful ignorance or inaction. And your privilege shouldn’t either.
Instead, I choose to repurpose my privilege, to share it, to work towards ensuring an uneven playing field is levelled. Make no mistake though, this is no game.
We exist in a cruel world with its foundations entrenched in exclusion, trauma, incarceration, oppression, colonization and extraction. It is a binary world classified by us and them, the haves and have-nots. It was built this way; built for Whiteness, upheld by racist power, with White people in mind.
I acknowledge this, but I do not accept it. I choose to challenge, disrupt, and dismantle it.
Does this make me anti-White?
Am I anti-White for asking that as White people we give away our power to redistribute it and share it? Am I anti-White because I critique Whiteness and continue to ask uncomfortable questions, strive for self-awareness, and persist in self-examination?
No. I don’t believe so. Such binary thinking of “it’s us or them” is unhelpful and pointless. My family are White. I have White friends. I exist in White spaces.
And yes, I am being intentional with my language here. I will not police my language to sanitise it for your comfort-sake. If I did, it would avoid righting the injustices and upend my demand for accountability.
In committing to a project of knowing and being intentional with my language, I am saying I refuse. I refuse to further perpetuate a status quo that is anti-Black, anti-queer, anti-feminist, and the list goes on. I have no interest in minoritizing communities and wounding them with -isms.
Now as White people, we like to complain about how all of this makes us feel uncomfortable, how we feel targeted and claim to be victims of reverse racism. But why?
Is it because as Cathy Park Hong suggests in her book entitled Minor Feelings, when White people “feel self-conscious of their white identity [it] misleads them into thinking their identity is under threat. In feeling wrong, they feel wronged. In being asked to be made aware of racial oppression, they feel oppressed.”
Let me break this down for you, from one White person to another (if that makes it more palatable).
We are not under threat. We are not oppressed. We are not being shamed for the colour of our skin. We are not being asked to apologise for our ancestors.
But we are being asked to acknowledge and recognise the harm we’ve done in upholding systems of exclusion (knowingly or not) and commit to undoing, to self-examining, and at the very least be willing to unlearn.
As Ijeoma Oluo puts it, the “beauty of anti-racism is that you don’t have to pretend to be free of racism to be an anti-racist. Anti-racism is the commitment to fight racism wherever you find it, including in yourself. And it’s the only way forward.”
So let me cut to the chase. What am I asking you to do? I’m asking you to begin doing the self-work today.
· Instead of offering an opinion, be curious & ask questions to better understand another person’s perspective.
· Accept your voice does not belong in every conversation.
· Ask yourself questions that make you feel uncomfortable and grow your self-awareness.
· Lay down your defensiveness and come to terms with your fragility.
· Be intentional in exposing yourself to difference.
But more importantly, accept you have privilege and put it to good use by taking action and creating more equity.
Oh and one last thing, while we’re here together; never forget that there is privilege in educating oneself about racism and not having to experience it.
Yours in privilege