It’s hard to write a post updating on the trivia of my life when such momentous things are happening in the world. The death of George Floyd has sparked protests in the USA and around the world and the images of ongoing police brutality in the USA against protesters is further confirmation of the death of democracy there with the UK seemingly not far behind. The commissioned report from a leading black doctor into why BAME people are more likely to die of Covid wasn’t published by our government last week. It highlighted things like inequality, disproportionate lack of access to PPE – institutional racism basically which they further confirmed by withholding the evidence. We have a known racist prime minister and the highest death rate from Covid in the world. Perhaps Covid has brought home to white people what the BAME communities have known for a long time – they don’t give a shit about us. Unfortunately not to everyone though. People still challenge the idea of Black Lives Matter stating all lives matter. Of course they do but in our current world system clearly some lives matter more than others and that is what has to change. When our culture and institutions were built on the appropriation of others property and lives, and the system depends on exploitation to maintain the God of profit this isn’t going to change without a struggle. Part of that struggle is for anyone with privilege to really try to understand what that means in reality.
I’ve been reading individual accounts and paying more attention to the news this week. I realised that switching off from the world to protect myself from the anxiety it provokes is part of my privilege too. Reading about the black college professor who was stopped by the police and his emotional reactions; the white woman who is fearful when she jogs with her black husband – he runs in front so no one thinks he’s chasing her and she watches the cars slow and eye him with suspicion; the parents who have to try to ensure their children don’t make mistakes because the consequences will be harder and longer lasting than they ever would for their white counterparts has given me a glimpse of something I won’t experience because of the colour of my skin. I worry about something bad happening to my daughters like any parent but I don’t expect it to. If they or myself were in trouble I would expect the police to help me, not harm me. I expect that I’ll be treated respectfully and left to go about my business – to not be seen as suspicious. I don’t anticipate abuse or mistreatment. I expect to be treated fairly at work, in public places, everywhere. I expect reasonable assumptions to be made about me by others, that are close to the reality of who I actually am. It’s hard to imagine living with perpetual identification as threatening, other, less worthy or deserving in everything you do. That is white privilege – we don’t have to imagine it and we can choose to ignore it. Our silence is complicit.
I’m encouraged that my apolitical daughter asked me what she should read this week as she wants to understand racism better. I’m encouraged by the protests but my hope is fragile. If we want a better world we are going to have to fight for it. I hope the human race is up to the challenge.