Could you use white privilege as a force for change?

Pardon the Interruption

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I am white, straight and I am male; and it can seem like right now that is a wrong thing to be. White men are to blame for this and we are to blame for that... But is now the time to be defensive? Or is it time to join the cause and not be the cause.

White privilege is…

Not needing to worry about moving into a new neighbourhood and if I will be accepted. Never having noticed someone putting away their phone when I enter the lift and move to another side. I haven’t had the police called on me because they saw someone loitering, even though I was stood on my street. Nor have I been beaten up for holding hands with my partner.  

These examples are all from my close friends and colleagues here in the UK. These simple rights we take for granted is what demonstrates white (heterosexual) privilege on a day to day basis. 

Admitting you are wrong

I have always been proudly colour blind, I went to international schools where my friends were from across the globe and were all faiths, ethnicities and backgrounds. We didn’t see each other as anything other than the person that they were. The funny kid, the sports star, the musician, the one who skipped class and the loud one.

But it wasn’t until I saw this video that I realised colour blind is not something to be proud of. It is actually one of the biggest problems.

It’s upon reflection that I now see that being blind to colour and LGBTQ, means you are blind to their issues. It becomes a default to read a piece on the Guardian about police violence on black people in America and feel okay with it because you know that it wasn’t you, and because you are not racist, you are not part of the problem.

Amy Cooper weaponised her white privilege in order to put fear into an innocent man who was merely asking for her to obey the rules. She knew that Black people fear the police and chose to attack him with it. This is the society which we all live within, which we are all responsible for.

Being ‘blind’ means you do not see the problems. It disables you from helping your community and, in a pension context, your members. 

It is important to unleash the potential forces of good that white privilege has, instead of ignoring it if you are blind, or using it for personal gain.

Here are my three tips for making a difference in your life which can have meaningful impact on others and yourself. Please use the comments below to add to these. 

Question your media sharing

The news you share to your networks has a huge potential to influence the narrative of the movement. The majority of protesters in the States and the UK have been peaceful, but there are a minority of those who have had scuffles with the police. These protests have been a unifying effort from people of all faiths, colours, sexual orientation and social and economic backgrounds. How media portrays it is very different. 

When we choose to focus on a small collective who may have caused issues rather than the whole, we are choosing to undermine the entire movement. “Yes, Black Lives Matter, but look at what these people did, look at the violence these people cause”.  

It creates a ‘yes, but’ conversation which negates the original preposition. We need now to avoid the but, and move our dialogue to a ‘yes and’ mindset if we are to work through the issues.

There will be bad examples of violence and vandalism that come out of these movements, and you do not need to turn a blind eye to these, but rather understand where it is coming from. 

Listen, don’t talk

I’m fortunate that I have friends of different faiths, colours and friends who are gay. It has been really uncomfortable over the last week or so having conversations with them about the issues that they face, the pain they have suffered, and all the while thinking, HOW did I not know this? 

But I have learnt so much from not giving an opinion, just by listening. So look to your board of trustees, and see how you can learn from your members. How diverse is your board, are you getting the right experiences in to really understand the needs of your members? How can you ask the uncomfortable questions that must be asked about?

Make positive changes to the future

My wife and I bought our daughter her first doll the other day, which is meant to be her mini-her for her first birthday. Research shows that children as young as three begin to develop racial biases, through the toys that they play with and the friendship circles they have. So we are going to make a conscious decision to buy diversely. By bringing in multi-coloured dolls, and educating our daughter early about equality and racism, we can help her to help others for the rest of her life. The following video just shows how crucial our role as parents are to the future of tomorrow. 

And how we need to educate early on race.

We are at a tipping point, where we can choose to ignore the pleas at the door, or we can open up and learn from each other.

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