But then I read an article by Gina Crosley-Corcoran entitled “Explaining white privilege to a broke white person” and I realised how grossly and embarrassingly ignorant I had been. Sure, I didn’t have it all and I am thankful for what I have been blessed with, but that isn’t the point.

White privilege goes deeper than material items, because it also relies on actions. Crosley-Corcoran gives the examples of having your race widely represented in media and advertising, and the certainty that if a cop approaches you with suspicion, it’s not because of your race. White privilege is being assured that you are favoured, and not always consciously, because of its deep roots in institutions.

Perhaps we do get offended by the idea of racial privilege because the privilege in question can be privilege of another form. For instance, my parents would be denied property in Sandton because we are not in that financial bracket. Just in the same way, an intersexed person may be harassed in public not because of their race but for making use of a bathroom others may deem incorrect.

Privilege is still more complex than that. Crosley-Corcoran explains that the idea that you can be privileged in one area and not in another is called intersectionality. She also outlines other forms of privilege such as gender, class, sexual orientation, ability, citizenship and sex. I do have white privilege. A whole lot of it, in fact, but I’m also privileged because I am a cisgendered, middle class, straight, able-bodied South African citizen. This allows me the release from public and private ridicule, the worry that I might be overlooked because I’m deemed inferior, and the concern that my basic needs may go unmet.

The point is not to feel guilty about your privilege. After all, I had no control over the circumstances I was born in to and I know how hard my parents have worked to ensure the life I have had. However, it’s definitely not acceptable to be unaware of your privilege and, more importantly, the plight of others. I no longer feel uncomfortable when I hear the term “white privilege” and it’s a mind-broadening exercise to analyse your own forms of privilege.

The statue debates over the last few weeks have brought to light that there is indeed deep institutionalised racism across the country. The recent xenophobic attacks are also related to citizenship privilege played out in overt action. The only thing that can change it is a major change in outlook. Please, don’t let the term “white privilege” or any other charged term put you off from engaging in the affair. Engagement with each other over this matter is possibly the only way that viable options of resolution (that can work for everyone) will arise.

In other news, I never expected to publish another 24-pager after First-years edition. There was just too much news to ignore this week though, so here is our mega-edition before we’re back on 13 May. Check out our annual literature supplement and keep sending in your letters. If you enjoy poetry, take a trip to the 16th floor of the HSB. The English department started posting a “poem of the day” by the lifts, which is rather fun. If you’re hungry, Herman, our Head Copy editor, makes a pretty great slice of French toast (you bond in strange ways when you spend 12 hours in the office, producing such huge volumes of content).

 

Michal

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