White Privilege: The importance of educating yourself
Print Features editor Bethany Collins discusses how learning about white privilege has changed her perspective
I have white privilege. Learning how I benefit from racism is an uncomfortable truth to swallow but that isn’t and shouldn’t be the centre of the narrative. This conversation isn’t about me. In unlearning my bias and educating myself on the experiences of black people in the UK and abroad, I realise how beneficial my privilege has been. I read heart-breaking stories of systemic injustice, racial hatred, violence and murder but I have never experienced any of it. Why? I have white privilege.
My opportunities and life prospects are not impacted by the colour of my skin. For a while, I was ignorant of the experiences of many black people in the UK since my schooling covered only Black American history at A Level. This isn’t enough. Education is a powerful tool that challenges deeply held beliefs, expands knowledge and opens eyes to experiences of people different to us. The Black Curriculum, a social enterprise formed in 2019, aims to tackle the lack of Black British history education in the UK. Their most recent campaign called upon education secretary Gavin Williamson MP, to address the explicit omission of Black British history in the curriculum. However, the news report that this call was rejected by Williamson who argued that the curriculum is expansive enough and covers an extensive history of our country.
If we cannot rely on our schools to give Black British history justice how can we educate ourselves in a way that amplifies Black voices?
Learning how I benefit from racism and from the exploitation of Black people is uncomfortable but it’s an education I need. There have been many reading lists shared across social media platforms, and Netflix has a Black Lives Matter genre full of documentaries and dramas as a starting point. It has never been easier to educate ourselves.
However, racism isn’t just explicit. Racism is systemic entrenched in society and can be subtle. Overt education is important for challenging our ideals and bias, but we need to also diversify the media we consume beyond our white bubble. Growing up in East Devon, most people I knew were white. The people I followed on Instagram were white. My friends at school were white. It wasn’t a conscious decision and I only saw experiences of racism on the news exclusively happening in the US. I didn’t understand that it happens in the UK, and to people I would know and love.
Following hashtags such as #blacklivesmatter is a starting point. Resources are out there and it’s our job to find them. When I was searching for information, I came across author Layla F Saad who wrote a 28 day workbook titled ‘Me and White Supremacy’. It provides reflective journal prompts for us to reflect on our racial bias, even if we don’t realise we have it or believe we aren’t racist and is a great starting point if you don’t know where to begin. The Guardian report that Saad also recently wrote an article providing further resources as a next step.
However, whilst it is important to listen to Black experiences, we must not run to our Black friends as a first port of call when we want to educate ourselves. Black people don’t exist to be a go-to educational tool. It is up to us to seek information, reflect on our own bias and unlearn what we’ve been taught. Black voices matter and change only happens when we listen, amplify and use our privilege to lift people up instead of tearing them down.
Clarification: what is white privilege and what does it mean to me?
White privilege simply means that the white colour of your skin is not an obstacle in your daily life. It doesn’t impact your life opportunities. It doesn’t mean that white people never experience hardship, only that that hardship is not due to being white. For me it means I have inherent advantage in life because my whiteness is not an obstacle.