Why I Will Never Teach My Future Children About "White Privilege"
I wasn't going to write this. Even when I read Evie's post and thanked the Lord that I wasn't the only one whose heart was breaking for something they didn't understand. I wasn't going to write this. Didn't think it was worth the inevitable backlash and the emails that will subsequently drown my inbox. My voice has no place here, surely? I don't need to write this post. Why should I? I'm not American. I'm not black. Surely it isn't my issue? Surely this whole mess is nothing to do with an 18 year old girl from Scotland? Right?
See the problem with being told that something 'isn't your issue' is that eventually you begin to believe it. You give up. Leave. Decide to let them solve their own problems. Think: this has nothing to do with me. That's the moment. The exact moment, when human life might as well be irrelevant to you. And the problem is that we cannot possibly know what it feels like to have your neighbours die as a result of police brutality, or to see your community torn apart by racism, violence and riots. Even though I know that innocent people have suffered irrationally and that children are growing up in a war zone they might never escape from; I don't know what any of that feels like.
I wasn't born black in America 18 years ago, I was born white in Scotland.
18 years later and I watch the riots on TV, the faces blurring together. Angry faces. Angry people. I see the tweets. I listen to the news. I hear the stories. I see the hundreds of people broken, crying, pitted against one another. I don't understand it. I'm grieving and yet I cannot put it into words. I'm not grieving for friends. I'm not grieving for neighbours. I don't know anyone involved. I'm grieving because I'm 17 years old and I've just found out that a boy my age in Chicago has been killed. I'm grieving in the same way we all grieved for Paris. For Istanbul. For Afghanistan. For Brussels. I'm grieving because every day human life is ending and there is no justifiable reason for it.
Online I see the faces contorted with rage, eyebrows creased, and eyes low. I see the signs lifted in the air, hear the shouts, the angry voices. I see people fighting one another, blaming one another, seeing one another as enemies. It breaks my heart. But I don't know what any of that feels like. And yet, it is still my issue. It's my issue, and it matters to me because people are dying. Many of them are innocent people. And I'm sorry if you disagree with this and it is your right to do so, but when I see a girl crying on the news because her brother has been killed, I cry with her. Because in another life that could be my brother. It could be your brother. And the one thing this whole shambles is failing to acknowledge is that he is my brother. She is my sister. As long as that girl wakes up every morning with her heart pounding and blood flowing and skin reforming, she will be my sister. Whatever the colour of her skin is; that girl is alive and her life matters. All human life matters.
I will not use that hashtag. #AllLivesMatter, while on the surface seems to claim that every human life matters, I realise it has come to mean something entirely different. In the eyes of those fighting for equality, this hashtag claims that all races are equal and, therefore, brushes under the rug the discrimination and prejudice faced by minority groups. As a result more often than not it has been used more as a racist response to the positive message of equality #BlackLivesMatter tries to send out. I will not use any of these hashtags because I know what I believe and you do to. It is not something I feel the need to tweet about, especially just as the news breaks. While the nearing 600 deaths of black people by police in America this year have resulted in the deaths of innocent civilians, when news first breaks onto twitter, we do not know all the facts. Until I do, I will not tweet about it, and by then Twitter has moved on to something else. I will not use these hashtags because if I did I would be abused for it. I would be told I didn't understand my "white privilege" and that I was "inadvertently racist."
I have one response to this and it's shut up. I have serious problems with both of these terms. Firstly, it is insulting, extremely so, for anyone to think it is their place to inform another person of their 'white privilege'. I'm not saying this because I don't think I've had a privileged upbringing- on the contrary I thank God every day for the situation I was born into and the opportunities it has brought me. I also know that I'm lucky to live in an area that is very multicultural in a way that America isn't. A lot of the people I grew up with and who live in my community, my own family included, came to Scotland from elsewhere. From every corner of the globe. That's life as I've always known it & the reason why Scotland so often mocks the everyone has red-hair, pale skin and eats haggis and wears kilts stereotype. Because it simply doesn't ring true anymore.
America is often referred to as a salad bowl, and that's true, but there are clear cut differences. While in Britain you will find people of all ethnic backgrounds in every community and class, in America what often strikes me is that there is often a clear cut class/ethnic difference. While of course there are many exceptions to this, and I can see in America why the term may have been coined, in Britain telling someone everything they have is the result of white privilege is a ridiculous notion. Especially in this day and age.
Yet these two statements lie on the tip of the tongues of so many people right now, even here in Scotland, and so let me be clear on the fact that they are insulting. They are insulting because both these terms suggest that I am ignorant of the situation. They cast aside the countless hours I have spent reading, listening, watching and debating. It's insulting because every time you use those phrases another person is told it's not their issue. That human life shouldn't matter to them. Because every time I hear those phrases uttered, or see them written in response to an opinion piece, suddenly I don't want to get involved in this fight for equality.
I want to run as far as I can and say fine I will happily be "inadvertently racist" if it means I will continue to see every person equally, knowing that as much as our races might define us, might define our history and are a massive part of our identity, we are equals. All people are equal -the view that these riots and these hashtags apparently fight for - is an equal society. Where the colour of your skin doesn't determine the way you are treated by police or by anyone. Of course it is important to know and to be aware of our history, especially the history of our ancestors and culture, but this alone cannot define us because it in itself is a barrier to equality. We have to learn from the past, but we should never make a home in it. The term "white privilege" buts another barrier between races and prevents us from moving on from our shared history. It is the kind of term that breaks up movements that would otherwise be united, that causes people to give up and stop caring. Because if I didn't believe so strongly that every person is equal no matter the colour of their skin and should be seen and treated as such, I would have run for the hills the first time those statements were directed at me. I would have stopped caring and stopped reading the opinion articles and watching the news and debating gun control with my American friends.
As I see the riots, the protests, the hurt and pain across America and across the world, my heart aches. I can only hope and only pray for these people—all people—to see each other as one. One in our schools, in our work places, in our churches, our homes, our streets, and our hearts. And no, I will not be teaching my future children to recognise their 'white privilege.' I will be teaching my future children that they can do anything. Be anyone. That whatever they set their hearts to they can achieve. And I will teach them that they are equal to every other boy and girl they know, no matter what colour of skin that child has. I will teach them the family history, everything that led to them being born. I will teach them the value and importance of human life and I will teach them respect. I will teach them everything their hearts can hold. I will teach them to love. But I will never teach them about "white privilege."