The extrajudicial murder of George Floyd caught the attention of the whole world, and sparked protests and campaigns, as people came together in outrage at the inhumane treatment of black people in the US and beyond, as part of what has become to be known as the black lives matter movement. But the issue of racism and in particular anti-blackness is not a new problem; this movement is just a new solution. Racism is systemic which means it permeates through our whole societal structure as human persons. It has always been a problem and has travelled down history through generation after generation. It will continue to be a problem unless something shakes in the system. It is not enough that a black man is murdered and the world shudders; the very core of our values and principles need to change. And specifically, it is white people who need to do something.
As Desiree Burch describes, a nice thing for normal white people to do is to not be racist themselves and to be good friends with black and brown people. But this is also just an easy way to react to racism. Being nice to black people does not solve institutional racism. Whilst there are so many white people who are not racists, as a collective, white people and the white powered societal structures that we all live in are not anti-racist. The system is not broken, it was built this way, because it was built by the White Man. Therefore, white privilege and internalised white supremacy must be self-investigated, and white people must enact change; change is your responsibility.
To have privilege is to lack challenges or disadvantages (John Amaechi, 2020). Such that if you have privilege, you don’t notice that you have it, but when you don’t, it affects everything you do. There are many different types of privilege. You could you have class/wealth privilege. People who lack this, struggle everyday with the challenge of finances, job opportunities, putting food on the table and having a roof over their heads. People with the privilege of being wealthy don’t notice that they have this privilege because they don’t face any challenges relating to their wealth. Of course they face other challenges, but not specifically relating to money. Whilst there is nothing wrong with accepting your privileges, if you ignore them, you are ignoring the struggles of those who lack the privileges you have.
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In the same vein, whilst white people face challenges every day of their lives, they do not face struggles because of the colour of their skin. White people need to accept this privilege rather than ignoring it, because by ignoring it, they are ignorant to the challenges people face when they lack white privilege. Not only this, but we as white people need to use our white privilege to help those who do suffer because of the colour of their skin. A rich person might use their privilege of wealth to help someone who is poor by donating to a homeless charity for example. Similarly, white people can use the power that they hold to help non-white people and therefore help to put a stop to institutional and systemic racism.
White silence is violence
It cannot be black people’s responsibility to make a change. White people caused this problem and so it is our duty to fix it.
If a group of persons are oppressed, by the very nature of their oppression, they do not have sufficient power to put a stop to their suffering. Only the oppressors can stop oppressing. The oppressed can shout, scream and kick all they want, but all it takes to end their struggles is for their oppressor to stop creating those struggles. Black people have been fighting, shouting and marching for decades to try to put a stop to their oppression. But there is no point if white people don’t wake up, listen, and put an end to this problem. Change is your responsibility.
In the US, the net worth of a typical white family is nearly ten times greater than that of a black family. White households in the UK have incomes 63% higher than black households. Black people in the UK are over 3 times more likely to be arrested than white people, and black Americans are arrested at 2.6 times the rate of all other Americans, and this ratio is even higher for murder (6.3 times) and robbery (8.1 times).*
Source: Survey of Consumer Finances 1989-2016
Note: Net worth refers to the difference between assets and dept for a household head. Race and ethnicity are those of the survey responsdent
In other words, white people are more likely to have more money than black people and are less likely to commit crime or at least less likely to be accused of committing a crime than black people. We have the money to donate and support black charities and causes. We have the ability to challenge and educate racist white people as they are more likely to listen to other whites than black people. We can go to protests with less fear than a black person that we will get arrested or hurt. We represent more people in governments and corporations, meaning we have the power to make large scale and international change that could truly undo systemic problems. This power that we as white persons hold can actually be used for good rather than evil. And no, we are not super heroes, or white saviours; we are just doing what we should’ve been doing all along. We are taking advantage of an unjust system.
|Original Income||Gross Income||Disposable Income||Post Tax Income||Final Income|
Source: Office for National Statistics – Effects of taxes and benefits on UK household income.
Remaining silent and watching racism happen from the sidelines is to be complicit in racist systems: white silence is violence. Acts of racism, from something seemingly as small as passive and micro aggressions, to something as inhumane as murder, happen all day and every day across the world. For this to change, white people need to be outraged. But they also have to go beyond the outrage and in to action.
Social media can be a damaging and lonely place. But it can also be used to make a difference. It is the means by which so many people today learn about what is going on in the world and how to help. Social media can be used by white people to enact real change for the black lives matter movement. It might have been overwhelming during the recent black lives matter movement, particularly given the fact that the whole human race is also sharing the struggle of the pandemic, to see the usual long list of resources and books on racism. Instead, following Black influencers, artists, writers, or even ordinary people on social media is so important as it allows you to digest information from real Black voices as well as support their following. You can read resources they have shared as it is deemed useful and appropriate by them. This is not to say that it is their responsibility to educate you; change is not the responsibility of black people but rather of white people.
Below is a selection of informative and educational social media accounts to follow. The list is by no means exhaustive and merely represents a handful of our favourites. The list is primarily UK based as are the creators of this website. For more accounts to follow, as well as more accounts to follow from outside of the UK, check out our resources list [link], which we will be regularly updating.
Radio 1 broadcaster, supporter of the Black Curriculum campaign which urges representation the history of black people and other ethnic minority groups in the UK curricula and beyond. Vocal on her experiences as a black woman.
Kingslee James McLean Daley, better known as British rapper Akala, has also used his fame for activism and education on matters of black history, race and life as a black man in the UK. His YouTube channel features lectures series on racism and related issues, and he is known for his writings and speeches.
Char is the Education Officer for UK Black Pride and her social media content explores life as a queer and disabled person of colour. Her posts shed light on the every day covert racism and that she and other black people experience every day.
Celebrated for her open and honest commentary on motherhood, but specifically for her insights in to being a black mother. Her content aims to diversify the representation of black people in the media, specifically black mothers.
Billy Porter achieved fame as a Broadway performer and has later gone on to have many other acting and singing roles. He had also gained widespread attention for his fashion and style. As a black gay man, his social media content celebrates black pride and identity.
Questlove, also know as Ahmir Khalib Thompson is the drummer of The Roots. As a black musician who gained noteriaty in the 90s, his post educate and inspire many muscians who are struggling in a white-dominated industry.
If you are white, you probably know a lot of other white people, in real life and on social media. It is important to break white silence by speaking to other white people about issues of race and share ideas on how to help. Chances are you know a white person who is either ignorant to these issues or is themselves racist. By educating them you are one step closer to really changing the minds of people who are at the root of the issues.
Listen to black voices. Make a change. It is your responsibility.
*Sources for stats:
In the US, the net worth of a typical white family is nearly ten times greater than that of a black family. https://www.brookings.edu/blog/up-front/2020/02/27/examining-the-black-white-wealth-gap/
Black people in the UK are over 3 times more likely to be arrested than white people, https://www.ethnicity-facts-figures.service.gov.uk/crime-justice-and-the-law/policing/number-of-arrests/latest
and black Americans are arrested at 2.6 times the rate of all other Americans, and this ratio is even higher for murder (6.3 times) and robbery (8.1 times).https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Race_and_crime_in_the_United_States https://ucr.fbi.gov/crime-in-the-u.s/2010/crime-in-the-u.s.-2010/tables/table-43/10tbl43a.xls
©Patrick Renehan 2020. All rights reserved.