Living with White Privilige

Written by: Jorinde Berben
Image credit: Wikipedia

I struggle with whether I can speak intelligently enough about this issue. I don’t know as much as I’d want to, and I am sure to miss things (feel free to point them out). But there are some things I can say as a white, middle class woman. I can at least aknowledge what I am.

My skin is white, so white the blue veins underneath show. I was born in a small European country, to parents who were gentle, loving and never really struggled for money (even if they never had much saved either). We ate healthy food, I had plenty of clothes, we went on holiday every year in the Summer. It was a happy time.

I went to a school that was safe, was treated with an automatic respect on the street and never had my intelligence or abilities questioned based on my looks. When I read books, watched movies, I saw myself reflected in the characters. My friends in school looked like me, talked like me, and we shared the same lifestyle.

When I went to university, I was immediately accepted by the professors and other students around me. I belonged from the start.
I traveled the world freely as a young woman. When my ex-husband and I moved to China for two years, our whiteness first became visible to us among a majority of Chinese people. But we were not discrimitated against, on the contrary. Being white helped open doors and offered us experiences (modeling, being extra’s on a TV-show, fancy dinners) which foreigners with a darker skin wouldn’t be privy to.

My children grow up with these same priviliges. My daughter will hopefully have it even better than we did as sexism decreases. My son will hopefully grow up knowing that being a man also means embracing and showing your emotions and vulnerabilities instead of pushing them away.
Neither of my children will have to face violence, be it verbal or physical, based on the colour of their skin. Neither of them will have to feel afraid to be who they are. They won’t have to fight for job opportunities which are freely granted to ‘whiter’ peers.

I am lucky to have been born where I was born. I’m in no way ‘better’ than any other human being on this planet because of it, just luckier in many ways. I appreciate what life has given me, and I am glad my children won’t have to face the struggles so many others face.

At the same time I struggle with seeing the injustice of the world around me. I struggle knowing that I’m in a position that I have not earned, but that was granted to me upon my birth. Even if my life gets hard at times, there are others who deal with far more adversity than me.

What can I do to make life better for those who have not been so lucky? I can talk to them. I can ask them what makes their life harder and try to help. I can interfere when I see incidents of racism or discrimination (even if I’m afraid). I can raise my children to know what their white privilige entails (without making them feel guilty about it). And I can keep looking at myself, and informing myself and connecting to those around me.

What else can we do?

This video of Trevor Noah on the deeper meaning of the protests going on in the U.S. today is really insightful:

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