My first realisation in understanding privilege was reading an article written by Verashini Pillay, Six things white people have that black people don’t.
While reading the article for the first time I understood what this word “privilege” was all about. I’ve read dozens of articles on privilege to the point it annoyed me because as a white woman I did not feel privileged and if you are broke then you certainly don’t feel privileged. Why, because I did not know what it was.
After reading this particular article, I realised that I have a privilege I wasn’t consciously aware of because of the way I am treated vs. how black people are treated when it comes to say walking into a shop, I’d be treated differently, almost like a VIP and my black friend would be treated as more of a beggar or how if we were two people in a room being accused of theft, its more likely that everyone would automatically suspect my black friend. Even black people have “white privilege” indoctrination where they would see white people as superior to themselves.
White privilege is NOT an apartheid or South African thing, it is a worldwide indoctrination. The problem is that it’s so subtle that you can go through life whether white, black or Asian and not be aware that it exists. Most of the human population live by rules and beliefs that are passed down through family, the education system, religion and our peers.
Privilege has been around for centuries but I’d say that it was institutionalised more in the industrial age where a small group of elitist got together and worked out a way to control humans. How they did it was through social conditioning where they invested $50 million in the 1930’s on studies on how to control humans. The candy coated word for social conditioning is human resources.
I personally did not understand this “white privilege” all my life I’ve had to work really hard for everything. I was bullied at school, abused at work and I wasn’t treated equally because I am a woman.
As far back as I can remember I felt embarrassed to be a woman because of how I was made to feel being a woman. There is a subliminal message that men are superior to women. In church they tell you that man is the head of the house and women are not able to make decisions. At school they tell you that men are stronger and better than women, society in general encourage the same principles taught in religions like Christianity, Judaism and Islam. In media women are treated as sex objects. I constantly either felt embarrassed to be a woman or inferior being a woman. It was by no means pleasant to be whistled at or told by a strange man, white or black as I’ve had both “oh baby you so hot come cream all over me” in a public space. It was embarrassing as I remind myself of those days. If you work in restaurants or in a bar then it’s the touching on the ass or dirty talk to try get you in the sack!
Having lived in the apartheid years and being a woman, when you go into the work force you are told you cannot apply for certain jobs because of your gender. Back then and till today women earn less than men for the same responsibilities. Back then women could not earn more than their husbands because he is the bread winner and it would damage his ego. The day I got married I was taxed more and that was the reason they gave me. And whatever you do, do not fall pregnant because then it’s impossible to get a job and if you do fall pregnant while working it’s a very big deal because now you are a financial burden to the company. Women weren’t allowed to be in managerial positions and when women were allowed to be promoted, she normally was forced to sleep her way to the top if she wanted to get ahead. Your intelligence, skills and knowledge didn’t matter.
Observe the boardroom! Men are treated with a certain type of respect while a woman in the same position will be expected to make the tea or take notes! Men speak over women in meetings and often ignore the opinions of women. Even women themselves do this, we’ve been conditioned to take a man more seriously. Another typical example or pet hate of mine is when you are doing business in partnership and your male partner is treated differently to you. He gets all the eye contact, is asked the questions, given the nod and handshake and you on the other hand are expected to put up with hugs and be touched on the ass or treated like a “poppie!” and blatantly disregarded. I can’t even begin to imagine what it must be like for a black person in a boardroom full of white privileged men.
Coming back to Verashini Pillay’s article on “white privilege” I finally got it! This was taken from the article:
“Most white South Africans had parents educated enough to know to give you healthy food, develop your motor skills as a toddler, and help you read so that by age five you were already leagues ahead of your black peers from the township, an edge that would give you exponential returns as your education developed.”
This is not my fault, or the fault of black people, it’s about privilege, social conditioning and what we are given access to.
Like Verashini said as a white girl, I was taught to read and write. My mother gave me healthy food to eat. My mom prepared me with the limited knowledge she had how to dress in different social standings. How to eat properly at a table. Basically the do’s and dont’s of society. She taught me to read and she pushed me. My mom never taught me how to write a CV or how to prepare for an interview, in my day women were encouraged to be well groomed, refined, the goal is to find a man and have babies and yes you can work if your husband allows you to and that’s what many of us were groomed for. I had to teach myself how to write a CV. How to prepare for an interview and pretty much everything I know, I taught myself from what I’ve read and what I learnt along the way.
Having fought so much in wanting to be treated equally in a man’s world and having pushed myself extremely hard to exhaustion to achieve my goals and to be treated equally, I learnt that no matter how much I push myself or prepare myself, there is a privilege men will always have over women and white people will always have privilege over black people until we recognise and understand what it is. It will never change as long as we keep fighting with each other over who has it the best. It will never change if we don’t change our attitudes and our behaviour towards one another.
A last thought, just because someone has privilege doesn’t mean their lives are a bed of roses. I am privileged because of my skin colour but I’m not so privileged being a woman. Most white men will never understand privilege because they’ve had it their entire lives. I could say black men have more privilege than me in a man’s world and especially over black women because of how black men treat, think and behave towards women in general. It’s all about perception. I don’t have the power to change the world but I have power of what happens in my own personal life and its up to me to make it work for me and the people in my life.
I am blessed and privileged to be born white and I am also blessed and privileged to have friends, family, business associates who believe in me. I am blessed and privileged to have good health and good looks. I have experienced both sides like many of us have. I don’t know how to change things because I feel so powerless as I watch government tearing us apart. I feel so powerless because my black friends don’t believe that we too feel and understand far more than you realise but its not within our power or means to change things, we lost our power due to man’s greed and selfishness and the need for power and control. I feel powerless sometimes because I know it can be better for everyone and it is possible.
I may be a very small fish in a very big pond but I have the power to create a ripple effect by changing how things work in my immediate surroundings.
- Let go of old belief systems and openly explore all perspectives even if it goes completely against my belief structure, this way I can listen and understand and draw to my own conclusions.
- Don’t believe everything you see and hear in media. Rather aim to get the truth from people living on the ground. We have great history surrounding us. Listen to your grandparents, find out what life was like for them during the war, during a recession. Ask questions, find it what it was really like. Their version of history which is ultimately your history.
- Speak to people of different cultures be open to ask questions in an unoffensive way to help you understand why they do the things they do and visa versa.
- Government isn’t always on our side, the more I observe the more I see them as one big criminal syndicate who does to us what the Mob/Mafia did to people and so its up to me to make my life work. Government does what government does and there doesn’t seem to be a lot we can do about it. There are plenty conspiracy theories out there that has their version of truth. Thing is everyone is talking about the problems and not many of them are coming up with real solutions. Create your own solutions, make sure you and the people you care for are prepared for every outcome. I’m not saying go apocalyptic, I’m saying prepare like any sound business would do. Be aware of the current markets, political situations, what’s going on but don’t get swallowed up in it. Use the information you gain to strategically make decisions that will help yourself and by this I’m including your loved ones.
- The only way to heal and grow is to communicate and openly share experiences. Be consciously aware of what someone may feel like in any given situation.
- Start difficult dialogues no one wants to speak openly about. Open and honest communication is the start of healing.
- Don’t be quick to condemn, everyone has baggage, everyone has been hurt. We are all guilty of being jealous, of hating, of being destructive. Forgive and let go, for your own health and sanity.
- Use the past as a tool to learn from. We all feel done by, used, rejected. If we all feel the same should we not change this by taking the first step? Use the past to bring about healing and restoration, not destruction and hate.