Transgender model Munroe Bergdorf was dropped by L’Oréal after her comments about race. Photo Credit: Teri Pengilley for the Guardian

My fellow white people: if you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem

Article in The Guardian
7 September, 2017

A principled and challenging position indeed. Social integration in general needs such an acknowledgement, as too many people are excluded from the mainstream when they are not able or middle-class or male or white or a citizen, or all of the above. The increasing social diversity in our societies will make durable situations of privilege more and more unsustainable. Passively accepting positions of privilege is insufficient if the principle of equality for all is to translate into concrete social change. Edmund Burke said it all: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing”.

“We live in a society that is built on the spoils of racism, and that continues to benefit from inequality in all its forms. Or, as Bergdorf put it: “Slavery and colonialism, at the hands of white supremacy, played a huge part in shaping the United Kingdom and much of the west, into the superpower that it is today…”

Our society has structural inequalities that benefit white people over people of colour (in the same way that structural inequalities around class, gender, sexuality, age and disability benefit certain groups over others). I benefit from that white privilege, and if you’re white, so do you. It’s not a choice we made, but it is a fact. And, significantly, we benefit from that at the cost of people of colour…

Any white person who is serious about racial equality has to be anti-racist. This requires us to actively acknowledge our privilege, because that privilege – even though we never asked for it – is the very cause of the inequity suffered by others. Only then can we be part of a meaningful solution to institutional racism. We have a choice: be offended, or be part of the solution. But we can’t be both. I’ve learned not to bristle at the statement “all white people are racist”. Instead, I learned to listen to the pain, injustice and – yes – the accuracy in that statement. Just like I learned to recognise those subtle situations where my race made my life easier, and someone else’s life harder. Every day, I am still unlearning subconscious prejudices, and checking my thoughts, actions and language for hidden bias. Because I would rather acknowledge those faults now than look back in years to come and know that I could have done more to be on the right side of history.”

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