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!

Poverty and Opinions

I’ve been interested in health and wellness for as long as I can remember. My kids weren’t allowed lollies, I made them homemade fruit and nut thingies, my husband wasn’t allowed the skin on his chicken, those were that days of low fat and preferably the Pritikin diet. I studied both popular and natural health books and recipes long before the days of internet and so had a vast paper collection of many opinions, hints and guidelines. And, mostly, for the past 30-40 years I and my kids, and now my grand-kids have been fit and well. But, in the last year my body has taken it’s vengeance on all these ideas and gone off on it’s own path. I’ve been diagnosed with pericarditis, MS and melanoma all in a year. Now, with the aid of Google and books I’ve studied even harder and I’ve found that more ideas and opinions abound than I ever imagined! I am also a Chronic Disease nurse so it behoves me to know a thing or two.

I’ve learnt that the idea doing the current rounds (and it does have it’s basis in history as well) is the benefits of a low (very low) carbohydrate diet with healthy fats (the subject of what constitutes a healthy fat is a whole other sub-strata of opinions). The theory goes like this, carbohydrates, especially simple carbs, are broken down into sugars by the digestive system, insulin is released and turns a lot of that sugar into fat which is stored in the body’s fat cells. That’s the simple version, there are many books on the subject which give careful explanations of the process. What I’ve read so far, plus a phone consult (I’m still living and working in a remote part of Australia) with a dietitian in Tasmania and a naturopath in Queensland, makes sense to me and I’ve been eating like this for a month and have lost 5cms off my waist! Wonderful and I hope it continues.

But I also want to mention something in the book I’ve just finished reading (pictured), it explains the same theory of carbs=sugar=insulin=fat, but makes the observations that poor people the world over, according to his research, eat high carbohydrate diets because they’re cheap, easy and readily available. Foods made with white flour such as breads, pancakes, damper, scones, pasta etc. He then gives examples from American Indian tribes since the early 1900’s of overweight mothers and undernourished babies and children and bases the cause on high carb diets they’ve eaten since colonisation. I’ve seen this phenomena in many of Australia’s Indigenous, and people, in other low socio-economic situations,and  have wondered at the reasons for it.

He writes, “The coexistence of thin, stunted children, exhibiting the typical signs of chronic under-nutrition, with mothers who are themselves overweight…poses a challenge to our beliefs-our paradigm.If we believe that these mothers were overweight because they ate too much, and we know the children are thin and stunted because they’re not getting enough food, then we’re assuming that the mothers were consuming superfluous  calories that they could have given to their children to allow them to thrive. In other words, the mothers are willing to starve their children so they themselves can overeat. This goes against everything we know about maternal behaviour”.

Interesting theory and if it’s true, which it well might be, even though it turns accepted food theories, triangles and advice on their heads. Health professionals and most of us are going to have to think long and hard about our opinions and prejudices and the enormous inequities in our societies, not to mention whats best for our own, and our families health.

One last thing this writer incidentally mentions about the Sioux, one of the tribes studied, in South Dakota, is as follows…’These Sioux lived in shacks “unfit for occupancy, often 4-8 family members per room…15 families, with 32 children among them, lived chiefly on bread and coffee’. This was poverty almost beyond our imagination today.” The writer might be shocked to know that many of Australia’s Indigenous people still live in similar overcrowded accommodation and lived mainly on tea and damper.

An excellent resource is the film “That Sugar Film” and it’s accompanying book “That Sugar Book” by Australian actor, Damon Gameau, who gives carefully and humorously explained, health advice and an interesting story about his own 60 day experiment with “healthy” foods. And, who also continues to do positive work in Indigenous Australia.