Why is it so hard for white people (like myself, and maybe you) to understand our privilege and what our privilege means for the world?
This post is a follow up to this post; part 2 so to speak.
We see all around us that white people are trying to avoid feeling the ‘white pain’ – the pain of having to admit that you do contribute to racism, even though seeing yourself as a good person that probably even hates racism is part of your survival strategy in life. It’s part of your identity. So understanding/admitting that in one way or another YOU harmed black people (even without wanting it and without being aware that you did it) is scary and painful.
If you are white or a white passing person, probably you feel resistance against that last sentence. I invite you to not switch off now, but to continue reading.
The resistance that you felt against my sentence about ‘you harmed black people’ is a manifestation of white fragility. What is white fragility? White fragility is a result of white privilege. When you live a privileged life, it is hard to see your own privilege. As a white person, chances are 99,99% that never in your life you have experienced negative discrimination because of your skin color. This makes it very challenging for you to recognise when others are being discriminated negatively because of their skin color. And it makes it impossible for you to understand what it means to be discriminated against.
As a white person or white passing person, you were never treated badly because of being white. Maybe you were treated badly. But not because of being white.
As a result, we see things in a different context. If I call a black person ‘lazy’, that person will probably see it in a racist context, “Klaas is calling me lazy because white people have this racist idea that black people are lazy.” However if someone calls me ‘lazy’, I take it personal. I take it personal because I have no experience with people expressing negative connotations with me because of my skin color.
Taking things personal creates fragility.
These days there is an impressive amount of posts from white people trying to prove somehow that the Black Lives Matter movement is not relevant and/or dangerous and/or create division and/or neglects the suffering of others and/or paid for by Soros, freemasons or aliens. All these posts are manifestations of white fragility: avoiding the pain of deeply looking in the mirror, and acknowledging that prejudice and racism are present in you and in the society that you are part of.
It’s a scary trip, but are you with me? Will you engage, together with me or in any other way, in facilitating unity and eliminating division? It’s a frustrating trip at times. Because we will make mistakes, despite our good intentions. And we will take it personal when people point us out to our mistakes.
Let’s do it. Let’s make this journey of introspection. A world without racism is a better world.
Read the next episode of this series here: What about ‘All Lives Matter’?