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What is white privilege?

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written by: 2017-2018 IAC member and LBPSB Parents' Committee rep, Natasha Drysdale


White privilege is not having to worry about your résumé finding its way to the bottom of the pile for no other reason than your name is too ‘foreign.’

White privilege is not having to give up your customs, cultural or religious, for fear of being declared ungrateful, or worse: the enemy.

White privilege is not having to defend your every accomplishment or prove that it wasn’t handed to you.

White privilege is not having to take special precautions to ensure you aren’t perceived as a threat (lest you be treated as one).

White privilege is not having been told “You are not Canadian” or “Go back to where you came from,” regardless of if you were born here.

White privilege is not having your entire culture/religion/race stereotyped, condemned, or vilified based on the actions of a regrettable few.

White privilege is not having to prepare your children for a society where they may still be judged primarily by the darkness of their skin rather than the content of their character.

White privilege is hearing others’ experiences with those things and being able to think I can’t relate.

It’s the singular phenomena of having your race greatly influence and inform your life, and yet not [have to] consider it a defining part of your identity.

Solicited or not, consciously or not, descendants of European settlers continue to benefit from the persistent notion of white supremacy.  We are less likely to be targeted, more likely to be accommodated, and we’re fairly well guaranteed to have every product, service, and legislature tailored to our wants and comforts.  It’s in the xenophobic sentiments and anti-immigrant policies and systemic oppression of minorities that are ostensibly meant to prevent the erosion of our own culture and authority.  Based not in logic or fairness, but a sense of [unearned] entitlement granted by the victories of our forebears.  But the way our ancestors won their control and primacy was for the most part not ethical or admirable, and it should not be a status that we wish to revel in or perpetuate.  It is fruit of the poisonous tree.

When you’re accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression; it is important to recognize that it’s not, and that if the positions were reversed we would not only want equality but rightfully expect it. That’s why it is not enough for us to be anti-racism and anti-bigotry and anti-Islamophobia while passively reaping the rewards of those very things.  In order to be good global citizens – and teach our children the same – we have to interrupt the cycle of white privilege by helping to dismantle it from within.  Those of us in hiring positions should check our subconscious prejudices and not give priority to people solely based on the fairness of their complexion or their lack of an accent.  We should speak up when we see blatant discrimination or injustice, even if it disadvantages ourselves.  We should support everyone’s right to dress and worship as they will, even if it’s not the way we ourselves would dress or worship.  We should have conversations, even painful ones, to help our family and friends recognize and correct their own biases and prejudgments.  We should share with and learn from other cultures as we would want them to share with and learn from us.  We should work to ensure all children see themselves reflected in our history, in our art, in our media, not only for their own sense of self but because to not do so would be to continue to devalue their existence.  They are human, just as we are, and we are no more deserving than they.  Together we can (must) work to turn that ideal into reality.  For all of our children.

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