Open Letter to White Edmonton About White Privilege
I am dismayed and disappointed by the overwhelmingly negative response to the Racisim Free Edmonton Campaign, most of which seems to be coming from white Edmontonians. That’s the first indication we have a problem.
Just to be clear, I’m talking to white folk in Edmonton in this post, as a white person who has in recent years started to come to terms with her own internalized racism and white privilege. I’m not an expert in any of this: I am at best an advanced beginner.
So I have some things to say, as a fellow white Edmontonian:
- You have white privilege. Not knowing you have it is part of how it works.
- It’s not your fault. Chance determined the colour of your skin which is a thing you can’t change just like someone of colour can’t change theirs.
- Because having white privilege is not your fault doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.
- Learning all this for this first time sucks. But so does racism and a world that privileges one group of people over another. Deal with it.
I also have a couple of things to say about the campaign:
- It’s not perfect. There are some legitimate complaints about the writing positioning “us” and “we” against “them”. This argument is not wrong.
- The campaign is over simplified in places. Probably in more places than I realize.
- In regards to items 1 and 2 above, the campaign has to be oversimplified in some respects because it’s targeted at a general overwhelmingly white public that probably has never heard of white privilege before and so it needs to be simple and short while still getting the main point across. Which I think it does fairly well.
Now that you’re all gnashing your teeth at me, before you wade knee deep into a conversation about race and whether or not the campaign is racist please educate yourself first. Google “white privilege”. Learn how racism works.
Here are some resources to get you started. Some of these links I found on my own, some of them have been pointed out to me as “Important, Read This” by various people in a position to know way more about this topic than me, and some of them are well-known resources for anyone who has dared to wade into racism on the internet.
- Here’s a fantastic and fairly comprehensive beginner primer on privilege, what it is and how to deal with having it with literally dozens of links. Many of these primers deal with all different kinds of privilege including white privilege, male privilege, straight privilege and cis privilege.
- Here’s a required reading list for beginners trying to understand racism and privilege, including how prejudice and bias works, how discussions of racism are suppressed, a guide for white people on how not to be insane when accused of racism, and several other excellent resources.
- Watch this talk by Tim Wise, a prominent anti-racist writer and activist. Don’t like videos? Read This is Your Nation on White Privilege.
- Read White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack by Peggy McIntosh. This article deals somewhat in intersections between white privilege and male privilege which is a bit of an advanced topic, but you should read it anyway.
- Claiming to be “colour blind” doesn’t get you cookies: aversive racism isn’t beat by pretending not to see something your subconscious brain has been trained by white privilege not to notice. Learn the linguistics of Colour Blind Racism before you get too attached to the warm-fuzzies you get from being “colour blind”.
- Here’s another resource for the “colour blind”: The Problem with “I Don’t See Color”.
- And definitely read Derailing for Dummies so you can wade into the conversation knowing how to avoid classic derailing maneuvers made by privileged people in conversations where they’re confronting their own privilege.
- Check out the research site for Project Implicit and measure your own implicit bias, which is the bias you don’t know you have. This isn’t a game, it’s an actual study, and a way to start helping yourself acknowledge your own biases. You can’t change what you don’t know.
Comment Policy: If things get out of control I will have to freeze comments on this post because I just don’t have time to moderate the type of conversation this post might generate in the way it needs to be moderated. I almost didn’t publish it for that reason.