By Dominic Joy
In the wake of the Grand Jury’s refusal to indict Darren Wilson the officer that shot and killed the unarmed 18 year old Mike Brown in Ferguson Missouri, race relations is once again at the forefront of current affairs and the news agenda.
In recent days the internet and social media has been inundated with several opinions on the verdict, police brutality and the systematic racism that seems to be deeply ingrained in American culture. But one particular intriguing theme seemed to be reoccurring and reoccurring, and that was the theme of “white privilege”.
But what exactly is white privilege and how does it relate to the shooting down of Mike Brown in Ferguson?
Well in short, white privilege is “the ability for Whites to maintain an elevated status in society that masks racial inequality”.
This insidious theme of benign cultural inequality I believe is deeply rooted in world culture where almost universally you are pedestaled as more beautiful, intelligent and human the lighter you are in skin complexion.
However, privilege is something that is difficult for those who have been born with to often grasp. Empathy is often a very difficult skill to perfect, especially if you are trying to understand a reality that is a stark contrast to your everyday experiences. For much of white America (and white Britain for that matter) the police are literally just the law enforcement and are an integral and important part of the community identity. They have never had the misfortune of being systematically targeted or brutalised by the “boys in blue”.
For someone who has the privilege of “whiteness” understanding the poisonous systematic racism that is largely directed towards black people and other ethnic minorities by the police, education system and job market can be a significant mental hurdle. But it is a hurdle of understanding that we must be able to jump over if America and the rest of world is ever to adequately tackle the issues that have plagued America since its inception.
At every stage in US history thus far America has had to be held under duress to make positive changes in regards to race relations. The South fought a war to try and maintain slavery. And it took a decade of protests and the deaths of some pf the best and brightest leaders in the African-American community to fight for black civil rights and get the vote. Sadly, it seems not much has changed in the last 300 years, it seems America is intent on holding on to the structural racism that allows the police to murder a black man every 28 hours with near enough impunity. I believe this vacuum of racial inequality exists because we and generations before us have been unable to tear down the myth of white inherent superiority.
White is and has been for centuries the global standard of humanity. Wherever you go as a white person on planet earth you are almost ensured to be treated by the locals as their equals (if not their superiors). I believe if we are going to ever replace this idea of racial hierarchy for a system of universal equality then we need to firstly accept as black and whites that our experiences are very different and that structural racism is a problem that is decaying our communities. We need to stand together as blacks and whites when we see attempts to perpetuate the structural racism that has plagued us for so long. Secondly, we must demand for legislation and representatives that de-militarise our police forces and reform the system of inquests that has allowed police to get away with suspicious deaths in their custody for decades.
And lastly, it is important to educate ourselves and raise our children and loved ones in a way that part of their core values is to speak up in the face of injustice. We must teach ourselves and future generations to be able to reflect, empathise and care about the other strands of society that don’t directly concern us.
This is the only way that our progeny will ever truly live in a world where ” they will not be judged by the colour of their skin, but by the content of their character”