I’m outraged at the murders of George Floyd Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Sean Reed, Nina Pop, and Tony McDade. People using their power to kill others who they think are ‘less than’ is worse than atrocious.
I was absolutely devastated at Amy Coopers treatment of Christian Cooper. I can’t fathom a woman using her privilege as a murder weapon… but it happened.
Its disgraceful that this exists and that I’ve not made myself far more aware of it.
As a white person I’ve learnt about my privilege a lot over the last couple of years. This doesn’t mean I’ve not worked hard throughout my life. It means I’ve benefitted from a system designed to help me, without realising it, and that in itself is privilege.
PLEASE NOTE I’m going to talk a lot about my learning over the next part of this blog. I’m not the victim, I don’t even pretend to be. I’m sharing my wake up call in case anyone else feels the same and how I’m changing my behaviours to support people of colour and be an ally. I’m listening. I’m learning. I’m taking action and repeating. I can always do better.
I also should have spoken up about this when I first realised what was going on, not after everyone had woken up to it.
When I found out about white privilege it did not sit well with me. In fact I detested it, thought it was a term designed to divide as all I heard was anger towards white people, especially women. It hurt my belly to think about it, that I was racist because I didn’t understand my privilege.
Here’s the podcasts I found out about white privilege from back in 2018:
- Cultural Appropriation with Susanna Barkataki – https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/cultural-appropriation-with-susanna-barkataki/id1219728105?i=1000418851341
- How to Be a True Ally to Women of Color with Rachel Cargle – https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/how-to-be-a-true-ally-to-women-of-color-with-rachel-cargle/id1219728105?i=1000419284978
I thought I’d always seen everyone equal… until I was told I was ‘colourblind’ and that was also racist because I was minimising histories that weren’t as privileged as mine and suggests that I don’t believe that racism exists. Again I was mad because I was adamant I wasn’t a racist but being branded one.
I’d also done a lot of reading on the slave trade and the underground railroad but had never looked at recent history. Uncle Toms Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe was eye opening for me.
Until a game of Cards Against Humanity where cards like ‘Jim Crow’ and ‘three fifths clauses’ where I had no idea what it meant or why it would be funny or not and was told by my US friends to go research it.
What I’m trying to say here is that I had no freaking clue but was adamant I wasn’t a racist.
Thinking about it my biggest wakeup call was moving to America.
This isn’t to try to tell you that it doesn’t happen in the UK, it does, but that’s my home where I’ve been raised in a very comfortable environment and hadn’t really looked too far outside my bubble… and that’s not OK, I will continue to learn and do better.
I tried ignoring it at first, but the signs of my privilege were everywhere.
- When we got our visas, there was never any question of not getting it at the US embassy… although there were so many people of colour there who were being declined
- When I upgraded my visa from a B2 to L2 there was never really a fear that I wasn’t going to get it and was in and out of the embassy within 30 minutes, no questions asked… when the people of colour around me were begging to be let into the US to see relatives
- When I got my social security number, whist I haven’t got the right to work out here, there was never ever any question that I wouldn’t get it, again the people of colour around me were begging to be given a SSN
- When I went with Chris to get my name on the bank account, there was never ever a question of not getting it… we didn’t need a lot of documentation
- When I queued up at the DMV to get my license, no one batted an eyelid really as to my visa status, I just had to prove I had it (I know you don’t need a visa to get a driver’s license in NY now)
- We have good healthcare… again, we never even thought about what good or bad health care looks like, however we definitely don’t have to pay $1,000 to call an ambulance AND we get to go to the best hospital in NYC where we will get seen straight away.
- We get to pick the neighbourhoods we live in without fear of being called out for the colour of our skin… and yes we live in a gentrifying neighbourhood in a predominantly black community, and didn’t ever stop to think about the consequences to the community of paying such a high rent and not supporting local black businesses
- We’ve been considering moving in the Autumn, and we don’t have to think about where would be possible for us to move to because of the colour of our skin
It then became conversations I would have with my friends in the US and UK. Do you see this too? The difference between people of colour and white people? Where does this come from? How does it happen?
No one had answers, how could they, this runs so deep.
We (Chris and I) had to start learning. Here are some of the places where we’ve learnt the most:
- The Underground Rail Road Tour led by Damaras Obi – https://insideouttours.com/tours/nyc-slavery-underground-railroad-tour/ – This is where I learnt the most about how to learn about black history and that you shouldn’t trust the first source you read, you need to go deeper
- The National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Motel – https://www.civilrightsmuseum.org/ – Chris and I spent a whole day here and made sure to read everything. What was the biggest shock is that the day after we went to Graceland and again looked at everything. I had never realized that the history around Elvis Presley was at a similar time to Martin Luther King and the Civil Rights Movement and there wasn’t any mention of the Civil Rights Movement at Graceland, even though these events were playing out at similar times. It was also shocking that at the Civil Rights Museum it was predominantly people of colour visiting and at Graceland it was predominantly white people visiting. It really showed the different histories that have meaning to different people.
Social Media has provided a massive learning curve as well. I’m going to be honest and say I first started learning about racism through channels hosted by white people as I didn’t feel comfortable taking up space on person of colours channel. That viewpoint has changed and I now learn from multiple channels.
Here are some of the places I keep my eye on the most:
(This is where I tend to start research and then google around subjects)
Things that I do
- Firstly, if the black community ask for help I listen to the call to action and take action as asked, which is why it’s so important that I read about the subject so that I am in the loop
- I sign petitions and then donate if they need help with ad spend
- I make sure I go out of my way to support local black businesses
- If I’ve read free information that’s helped me, I track down a donation button and give money because someone has gone out of their way to put it out there for free and I’m using that to better myself.
- I keep reading all sides of a subject and information. Google it, try to understand it, and where I don’t, I go and do more research.
- I have been working on my thought process ‘will this help the black community’ if so I do more of it
- I share information that I’ve seen, pass it onto friends and family.
This list isn’t exhaustive, but it’s something that everyone can do.
The learning process will be a forever thing and I commit to doing that and then taking action. I’m not perfect, I’ve made mistakes, I’ll continue making mistakes which I’ll be incredibly embarrassed about and feel even more uncomfortable about. I’m also not afraid to be challenge on it and given pointers on how to improve.
Ultimately my feelings really don’t matter in this, at all, this isn’t about me. What matters is that systematic racism ends and my job is to speak and take action regardless of how uncomfortable it makes me.