White Privilege?

This book was published in the UK in 2017. Its written by a London-based journalist about race relations in her country. It won quite a few awards for non-fiction work. The title is provocative and draws the reader in to explore eradicated black history, the link between class and race and what exactly “white privilege” is and why white people are often oblivious to it, or worse, become defensive or angry when it’s pointed out.

Reni Eddo-Lodge, the writer, asks how can it be defined and responds with, “It’s so difficult to describe an absence. And white privilege is an absence of the negative consequences of racism. An absence of structural discrimination, an absence of your race being viewed as a problem first and foremost, an absence of ‘less likely to succeed because of my race’. It is an absence of funny looks directed at you because you’re believed to be in the wrong place, an absence of cultural expectations, an absence of violence enacted against your ancestors because of the colour of their skin, an absence of a lifetime of subtle marginalisation and ‘othering’-exclusion from the narrative of being human”.

Although British, the book describes attitudes and structures in the dominant white culture that exist in all Euro-centric countries. Its valuable reading to make us stop and pause and ponder our privilege and what it means and what each of us can do about it.

The writer sums the book up by saying, ” I know that, at first, talking about race is uncomfortable, because too many white people are angry in denial. And I understand that after white people begin to get it, it’s even more uncomfortable for them to think about how their whiteness has silently aided them in life. A lifetime learning to empathise with white peoples stories means that I get it. But I dont want white guilt. Neither do I want to see white people wasting precious time profusely apologising rather than actively doing things. No useful movements for change have ever sprung out of fervent guilt…We cannot escape the legacies of the past, but we can use them to model our future. The late Terry Pratchett once wrote ‘there’s no justice. Just us.’ I can’t think of any other phrase that best sums up the task ahead.”

I recommend the book to any reader interested in racism, how it feels, it’s history in the UK (and hence its roots can be found for the countries that England colonised?), what it looks like and without providing what she describes as a “magic formula”, what can be done toward dismantling it.

Well worth a read!

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