White Privilege: What does it mean?

A regular pass-time of my generation is the use of social media. Everyone knows about it, everyone uses it, and if you don’t, there’s usually a pretentious reason why. In my case, I just didn’t quite get it (for ages I thought ‘Instagram’ was called ‘Instantgram’). But whether it’s Twitter, Facebook or Instagram, young people are harnessing Internet tools for their own advantages. From indulging in and exploring deep-rooted issues of narcissism and self-validation (sometimes I get shivers when I get over fifty ‘likes’) to helping spread the word on good causes or keeping in touch with family members abroad, social media has become the pinnacle of modern communication.

As I regularly scroll through my Facebook newsfeed, constantly refreshing the page in the hopes that a hilarious vine or heart-warming Buzzfeed article will release me from my self-inflicted shackles of apathy, I recently came across a status that really hit a nerve. Someone had posted recalling an experience wherein they felt that they had been a victim of racial discrimination, but had been told that they could not experience racism because they were white. I found this interesting and confusing, so I went on to read the comments, all written by white people who claimed they too had experienced racial discrimination or felt that they were lacking rights or privileges that others had due to their white skin. As I attempted to choke down a combination of laughter and alarm, I realized that these people were being serious. They then began discussing the phrase ‘stupid white people’ and came to the conclusion that the words ‘white’ and ‘privileged’ are often interchangeable.

This made me think of the concept of ‘white privilege’ and whether or not this term is still relevant for use today. The term is derived from the reality that white people experience advantages or better treatment than those who are not white under the same social, political and environmental circumstances. You can argue that being born with white skin does not make you immune to poverty, abuse, or any other kind of hardship. But what people forget, particularly white people who claim they are hard done by, is that being born with white skin means that your entire life will float happily on the surface of society’s intrinsic racist values and you will constantly benefit from these values, while those who are not white will tread water beneath you or drown completely in a wave of Nigel Farage’s bodily fluids.

I find it unfathomable that a young white male could confuse general abuse for racial abuse. Despite the fact that he claimed he had been called a ‘white honkey bastard’ the reason why he was being abused was likely not because he was white, but for another reason altogether. I’m not denying that the abuse he experienced was wholly unjust. I’m also not saying that being called a ‘white honkey bastard’ is acceptable, but claiming that it was solely a racial issue is absurd and offensive to those who endure racial abuse or discrimination on a daily basis. I think if I were a white male like him (the most respected kind of human on the planet) I would not complain about that one time I was called a ‘white honkey bastard’ when I will never have a problem getting a job, will be deemed ‘mentally unwell’ as opposed to ‘terrorist’ if I gun down a group of school children or will never be murdered by policemen because of the colour of my skin.

Whatever race you happen to be, we should all openly discuss our struggles, or in some cases, a lack there of. I think the most important thing we can do as a society is educate. If you are white, learn to recognize the benefits you reap from being white, and do everything you can to help emancipate those who experience oppression because of society’s institutionalized racism and discrimination.

So next time you’re taking a selfie or tweeting to Taylor Swift, remember that your social media presence has value and that it gives you a voice. By using it to stand up to racial injustice we can help in the fight for real change. And who knows, maybe one day the term ‘white privilege’ will become redundant, or maybe it won’t. Or maybe it will.

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