Monday, March 5, 2012

White Privilege & Reverse Racism

Up until two months ago, I had no idea that through no fault of my own I was born into something that has been come to be called White Privilege. Yes that's right, I had no idea. What is white privilege? It is the theory that as a white male in our modern society that I receive unspoken advantages in life simply on account of my skin color and my sex. That I am labeled with benefiting from white privilege without even having the awareness of such a disgusting form of discrimination is both unfair and unjust. 

Now, perhaps you may be thinking how I could be ignorant to this up until this point in my life? I will tell you it's because even though in retrospect I can see times where this unspoken advantage has 'saved' me, I would like to state that overall, it has done nothing to further me in life; at least not that I am able to see. Being white did not stop me from becoming a drug addict; being white did not get me into school; being white did not make me wealthy; being white did not stop me from being homeless; being white did not stop me from being discriminated against (apparently it has made it worse). Being a male did not help in any of these things either.

My purpose here is not to downplay the obvious and greater suffering of any minority group; now or throughout history. I recognize the mistakes of a group of unenlightened and uneducated people (who happened to have been white) who circumnavigated the globe colonizing and enslaving the indigenous people of the world. I am fully aware of the continuous struggle of religious groups, minority groups, cultural groups and women's groups across the globe. I have stood up in defense of them all; most notably as a participant in the Occupy Nova Scotia movement. Yet despite this, I am discriminated against by SOME of these very same people because of the color of my skin and the particular reproductive organs I possess. 

There is a lot to be leery about for these groups of minorities, whatever they may be representing. They have, throughout history been lied to, manipulated, subjugated, used, killed, enslaved, jailed, brutalized, hated, discriminated against, etc., etc., etc. I would not willingly just give my trust away to what I see as my oppressors: white men. Though I understand the rationality and the logic, it is flawed; to an extent.

I am human. I am fallible. I make mistakes. I did not however make those mistakes. In my lifetime, whenever I have seen any form of discrimination of any sorts, I have done what I could to stand up to it and fight back against it. I have stood tall in many situations for others who have no connection to me as a person other than that they are a person too. I have fears and I have issues of trust, but they are with individual people and not with collectives. I do not fear Muslims; I do fear individual extremists who use violence and death to promote their ideals. I do not fear people whose skin color differs from my own; I do fear any individual who threatens my life.

Titles, labels, classifications: none makes the individual. The person is an individual. Their associations give rise to the opportunity to place labels upon them. Despite any labels we, as a society, may give to someone or some group of someones, it must always be remembered that the foundation to whatever we may become is always the same: you are a human being first and foremost and above all else.

Over the years, and not without the most difficult of struggles, society has begun to rectify, very slowly, some of its gravest mistakes. Do these make up for what was done? No. It never can. And this, this is where I see a problem with ever moving forward together, unified under one common goal of survival and existence. Reverse Racism grows which each passing day. What is reverse racism? It is the discrimination of white people (specifically white males) by themselves through the guilt of the atrocities committed by their ancestors.

I am not sorry for being born who I was. I am sorry if you can only see me as a white male who benefits from the advantages of white privilege. I am, fundamentally and at the core, a human being. Because of this I regard all human life as equal. I find any form of discrimination to be an abhor-ration of humanity. Yes I see the color of your skin; yes I understand the religion you practice; yes I am aware you are male or female; yes I realize you are more conservative than liberal but none of these things, nor any unmentioned, make you human. Your humanity exists outside of any and all labels we may create.

My concern is that no amends will ever be able to undo that which has been done. My concern is that those people who were wronged through the mistakes of a civilization in its infancy will ever be forgotten. It must come across as somewhat pretentious to read some of this I am sure; but no more pretentious than anyone who will pass judgement upon me for being born into a world that provides privilege to those who happen to share some of my human characteristics. I did not ask for white privilege and I fight against it (and have fought against it, I just didn't have that name for it) every day.

My plea is this: I can empathetic-ally relate to the seriousness and the gravity of the crimes of humanity committed against many different people throughout history and my hearts aches over it; bleeds for the atrocities that humanity has committed against itself. I do not know how to fix it other than to help create equality. I cannot create equality when I am met with an automatic resistance because of the color of my skin or because of my sex. To you whose ancestors have suffered I can offer only my acknowledgement of those horrors and my apologies for them. I cannot undo them. The only tool at my disposal is to help create a human consciousness that puts the labels and the mistakes of the past, in the past.

The past is important as it helps us to avoid mistakes we might make in the present or future. I am not asking to forget these things have happened; it is essential and crucial that the events of the past be learned and remembered. It is just as important that we move forward. It is not easy to say to the many minority groups who have suffered throughout history. I mean no offense.

There are hundreds and thousands of these people who benefit from white privilege who are at this very moment standing up against it. They fight for the equal and equitable treatment of all human beings regardless of whatever group label they may possess. Discrimination is not going to end tomorrow. There will always be (in context with the current time in history) discrimination by white people who are still holding on to the mistakes of the past as justified; that does not mean we cannot prepare a future where these ideas will be discarded.

We must fight to end discrimination together. White and Black; Man and Woman; Jew and Muslim; Christian and Pagan; American and Iraqi; it matters not anymore. This is happening as I write. Across the world more and more people are waking up. If we want to end racism, there is no question that the white male has to abandon and fight back against his white privilege; this is happening. It is time to discard the white privilege, the reverse racism, all of it. This cannot be done solely by the descendants of former aggressors; the descendants of the victims must be prepared to move forward without discrimination as well (and this will require much more of a leap of faith on their part as well as more strength). Trust was broken long ago; we have an opportunity to rebuild it.

So, when you see me walking down the street, white skinned and male, do not judge me. Do not label me with your racial and sexual discrimination. White skinned men may have been the original aggressors but they are now a large majority of those who are fighting for the rights and freedoms of the minorities. They made mistakes in the past; we are not those people; I am not those people. I love all humanity and my heart is burdened with the terrible way in which we treat one another regardless of who is responsible for the discrimination; now or in the past. How can I help to create positive change for all when the 'all' (which is made up of the minority) is already against me without ever knowing me? Ironic isn't it?