I was recently asked to fill out a survey for my friend’s dissertation. It was on the topic of ‘White Supremacy and Privilege’. According to Wikipedia, white supremacy or white supremacism is the racist belief that white people are superior to people of other races and therefore should be dominant over them and the ‘privilege’ that white people benefit from stems from this.
This survey got me thinking. To what extent are coloured people still affected and/or limited by white supremacy and privilege? Sounds like a typical essay question for a Philosophy class or something. I’m sure everyone would have their own differing opinions and experiences of this. As these are unbeknown to myself, I will reflect on my own understandings and experiences of white supremacy and privilege as a young black male.
I suppose it’s easy to say; yeahh white supremacy still exists as they get more privileges than us (us being those of the BAME backgrounds). Our white counterparts will always be given the upper hand. My “aff name” quote on quote puts me at a disadvantage to someone with “white name” – as it is often called.
Without trying to dismiss cases of where this might be true, from my perspective this is not something I’ve experienced. Be it due to my own naivety or lack of exposure to it in my 21 years. I don’t think it’s justifiable to think yourself into such a disadvantage based on the idea that white counterparts would be favoured to yourself.
How I see it, white supremacy and privilege in today’s climate would stem not from an underlying tone of racism – but one of personal biases intrinsic to human nature. As humans we’re always going to be more willing to do more for our own. We like what we know and what are used to. Eager to find out if anyone disagrees with this notion. Hence, someone who looks like you, likes what you like, can have more of the same interests and experiences as you will be naturally favoured to someone else that does none of these.
In that instance, it’s fair to say that the UK is a white country. The majority of the lawmakers (MPs), top executives and significant figures are and will be white. So based on the innate personal preferences we all have, I guess for someone of colour to make it out here it will be just that bit harder. Blaming the gradient of the ladder to success or general inequality in certain industries to white supremacy and privilege might just be an outdated excuse. Again these are just the opinions of myself.
Let’s take a look at it in reverse, in a hypothetical sense. Say a white guy – we’ll call him Jack – was to start of his path to success in a predominantly black country, Ghana for example. Jack like us having left his own country of origin to pursue a path to prosperity elsewhere. It may just as well be difficult for Jack to make it to the top. He might experience conscious and subconscious biases by black nationals in the higher tiers; and might even allude to calling this ‘Black Superiority and Privilege’.
I appreciate that the presence (or idea) of white privilege in itself is not helpful to us to say the least. But this should only encourage us to do better than our peers. Easier said than done of course and probably not always as straightforward. If there are any other alternatives I would love to hear it.
I was at an event the other day, aimed at accelerating the number of BAME applicants to big financial firms. I’m sure some of you would have been to one of these. Anyway, a question that was asked to one of the panellists was something along the lines of addressing why someone of a black background would be discouraged from applying due to having an African name. This one was bold, but a real question nonetheless. I’ve felt this in the past.
The response from one of the panellists was a thoughtful answer that addressed the question plain and simply. You should not allow yourself to think that your name, colour or heritage would disadvantage your application. I would like to say this applies to all industries. If you have the qualifications, talents and skills to make a successful candidate for a role – apply. The only thing that should provide a source of doubt would be you not having the desired capacities. Either that or you’re just not putting in a good effort into the application process.
I thought this answer was top notch. One of the main things I took away from the event. To stress, all this is said from my perspective of not seeing explicitly the impacts of white supremacy or privilege disadvantaging me. For those that would claim they have been, can the situation be wholeheartedly alluded to white supremacy? Or where there other factors that you could have influenced to put yourself in a better place?
All in all, this post was just a quick one on a subject that recently caught my eye and got me thinking. Would love to hear what you think about the topic of white supremacy and privilege, and maybe of explicit situations experienced.
Looking forward to hearing what you think.
Much love & Happy Black History Month,
The RealTalk Team