A note to privilege

It’s been a rough couple of days (weeks). There’s a lot on my mind, and it’s culminated with me essentially losing my mind over why people who are white (if we’re going to use layman’s terms) don’t understand their own privilege.

This is a controversial post. If you don’t like it, or are going to get butthurt over the truth, please don’t read. And don’t inform me about it either. Please don’t pull that reverse racism bullshit on me. Racism as a definition is an act where a dominant culture systematically oppresses the minority culture. This post doesn’t state that people with caucasian skin are exempt from the experiences listed below. But it doesn’t mean that the prevalence of these issues to other races/cultures/communities isn’t justified.

Let’s clarify something.

White privilege is an immunity badge that people of Europid ancestry wear, so they can be exempt from the daily misfortunes and occurrences faced by people of colour.

So what does a white privilege immunity badge entail?

  1. White privilege means you’ll have a good relationship with the authorities. Random selection doesn’t exist for you does it? But for me? “Random” selection at the train station every time I travel. “Random” selection on my trains so guards can check my passes. “Random selection”at domestic and international airports so they can scan me further, take me to a screening zone and full body frisk me, and scan my carry-on baggage for potential bomb threats. Because yes, having olive toned skin immediately makes me a terrorist. My Australian passport, citizenship and drivers license will never be enough proof.
  2. White privilege means you’ll never have the burden of being labelled a terrorist or being pointed out as a terrorism sympathiser. But me? I will. As a young Australian girl with Indian heritage, there have been numerous occasions where I was asked whether I was an al-Qaeda sympathiser, a relation to a bomber or a support of ISIL. My most recent encounter was on a train back home after university. I was minding my own business (checking out my biases and dying over how precious Conrad Ricamora is) when a white man asked if I was an ISIL sympathiser. He took one look at me, to come up with the ridiculous conclusion that because I have olive skin, black hair and hazel eyes, I must be a terrorist sympathiser. When I kindly responded with “No sir, but are you a KKK sympathiser?”, I was told to “fuck off back to my third world hell”. Lovely.
  3. White privilege means you won’t have to ever deal with the burden of stereotypes that have been engrained into our society. But me? Because of popular television and a general insensitivity to understanding culture, I’ll always jokingly be asked whether my parents have found me a husband yet, or whether my dad is the proud owner of a 7-11 or  that horrified reaction when people see how open and controlled I am around alcohol because apparently Indian parents are drill sergeants in their houses and alcohol is so taboo, that when Indian teens go to house parties and uni parties, they go wild.
  4. White privilege means you’ll never feel ashamed of having a heritage that’s different to your nationality. But me? There have been so many occasions when I’ve hated my olive skin with a burning passion, wanting nothing more than to get surgery and try and whiten myself. The feeling of being uncomfortable in your skin because you aren’t Aussie enough because of your hair colour and skin tone is horrifying. Being bullied over the fact that you have hair on your skin is something no one should experience. Being mocked over your cultural dress and traditions or the food you eat should be someone no one should experience. Wanting nothing more than to alter your appearance so you’ll fit into society is the most heart wrenching feeling I’ve ever experienced.
  5. White privilege means no one will make assumptions of your intelligence/profession based on race. But me? I’ve developed a shell where I laugh off the comments about the fact that I’m not an engineering or med student. I’ve learnt to deal with the snide remarks about my decision to drop sciences and pursue humanities instead. I’ve learnt to drown out the bullshit about whether my parents are ok with me not doing medicine. I’ve learnt to not give a shit about the giggles and laughter that emerge when I ask questions in class, because apparently as someone with an Indian heritage, I’m meant to be a genius.
  6. White privilege means you’ll never be discriminated in a professional setting because of your name, skin colour, religion or food preference. I’ve never experienced this, but I know many who have. And hearing stories about young men and women, mainly from Sri Lanka, India and the Middle East who were pressured into changing their names to a more white name so they can get a job breaks my heart over and over again.
  7. White privilege means you’ll never understand the feeling of being told you can’t hang out with someone because they aren’t white. True story. Imagine yourself in primary/elementary school where a group of girls tell you that you can’t play hide and seek with them because you’re not the same as them and their mothers said they can’t play with you since you aren’t white. How does that make you feel?
  8. White privilege means you’ll never be casted as a representative of your entire race. This is self explanatory.
  9. White privilege means you’ll never know the feeling of not feeling accepted in your skin because it’s too dark
  10. White privilege means you’ll never understand the true horror, shame and irritation of having your culture appropriated, when society blatantly shuns P.O.C. for wearing their heritage with pride. But me? I’m not the most Indian kid out there. But I adore my heritage. I love the fact that I can step away from who I am everyday and immerse myself in the colour, beauty and tradition of our festivals. But it’s a point of irritation when I’m made fun of for wearing a kurti in public as I stop by a florist to pick up flowers for the celebration I’m attending. It angers me when people make ridiculous comments about how henna looks like my hands are cut open, or when I speak Hindi, I sound animalistic. What also isn’t ok is for white people to make fun of our cultures and traditions when we partake in them, and then parade little facets of them at music festivals because it’s chic and boho. There is nothing Boho about wearing a bindi. There is nothing boho about getting henna done. There is nothing boho about wearing our bangles and anklets. And there is especially nothing hipster about getting Om tattooed on your body.And while we’re on this last point, let me once again point out the idiocy of fashion brands globally, when they think it’s cool to pick out random hindi words so their jewellery titles look hipster and edgy:tumblr_o6ztx7V6kM1tarapzo1_500As the tweet says, the name of the jewellery translates to Elephant (haati) tea (chai) leaf (patha). What sort of bullshit is this?
  11. White privilege also means you’ll never see the injustice of not having the right person cast for a role in a movie or production. And by this, I mean all the times books with P.O.C. that were transformed into movies were cast with white actors and actresses.

 

This post isn’t a guilt trip scenario to make white people feel guilty about having the skin colour that they do. It isn’t a white people bashing post. It isn’t meant to make you feel like every P.O.C. is putting the blame on you. I’m not trying to shit on your community or pinpoint that every white person is so ungrateful and horrible. Because they’re not. And I know that every culture, race and religion has good people and bad people if we’re going to keep it simple here.

All I am trying to say is that there needs to be an awareness and an acceptance that such things do exist, and that maybe, that’s the first step to cultural inclusiveness in society. Because there is nothing worse than not feeling at home in the country you were born in, brought up in and have grown to love, cherish and wear it’s nationality with pride.

Open your eyes and see the reality maybe.

xx Simran

 

 

 

One comment

  1. Ariana · May 14, 2016

    Thank you for this. I really appreciate this post. As it turns out I am white. I was not guilt-tripped, in fact I was almost enlightened, and very appreciative of your bravery. Race is a difficult topic. All the time people are killed because of their race. And that all comes down to stereotyping. The world needs people like you to switch things around.

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