I think we should call it privilege-ism instead of racism. Where did the concept of race come from? It’s a social construct.
White, Yellow, Black
When I was in elementary school, we learned about the three races in the world: white, yellow, and black. I remember looking at my hands and thinking that’s just weird because my skin is not yellow. My skin looks the same as Diane or Mary who sit on either side of me. But, I didn’t think of it as wrong because I was taught to follow the rules and not question authority. To speak up would be considered rude and disrespectful.
I also remember the other kids laughing. Maybe they were laughing because they thought the concept of yellow was ridiculous too, but it didn’t feel that way. It felt like I was in the minority, like I didn’t belong, like I was lesser than. And the only reason no one batted an eye on the mention of black is because there were no black kids in our classroom or in the entire school.
Just as I’m not yellow, I don’t know anyone whose skin is white, and I don’t know anyone whose skin is black. There’s different shades of brown, beige, tan, and cream.
Privilege vs race
Why do we refer to inequities based on our skin colour as racism. Why not call it privilege-ism? I know that’s a mouthful but isn’t it more accurate? People don’t belong to the white race but white privilege. People don’t belong to the black race but white non-privilege. And, yellow (now Asian) mostly falls under white privilege but also white non-privilege.
I recently listened to Brené Brown’s Unlocking Us podcast, the episode with Austin Channing Brown on I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness. It made me feel uncomfortable, ashamed, enlightened, human, and gave me a few ‘aha’ moments. I have listened to it twice.
Austin says in the podcast, “The work of anti-racism is the work of becoming a better human to other humans.” Just let that sink in for a moment. It’s an aha moment.
Black lives matter
Black lives matter. It’s not a time for all lives matter. White lives already matter and have always mattered.
It’s the same as the Me Too movement. Men complained they didn’t know how to act around women in the workplace anymore. They felt uncomfortable, on edge, like they might say the wrong thing. Uh-huh. Well, how about act like a decent human being towards other human beings. Would you say that to your mom, your sister, your daughter, or your male co-worker?
It’s not the job of the oppressed to make you feel comfortable. To make you feel like you haven’t done anything wrong. Or, to make you feel like you’re still a good person.
It’s not the job of the under-privileged to try and claw their way up the ladder to earn the right to be treated equally. And it’s not the job of the privileged to look down and try to pull them up closer. It’s the duty of those looking down from their position of power to get up and climb down the ladder and meet the non-privileged where they are. To walk with them side by side.
Where to go from here
In this movement of black lives matter, the burden is not on the people of colour to educate us, to be our friends, to allow us to join their groups, and to bring us into close proximity. Rather the burden is upon us white privilegers to do our own homework, to educate ourselves, and to speak up and act when needed, and that will bring us closer to walking together side by side.
I highly recommend listening to this podcast episode: Brené with Austin Channing Brown on I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness
And, I invite you to check out the very interesting and unique work of 5 black Canadian designers:
Until next time,
Colleen Kanna is a recovering Chartered Accountant and Breast Cancer Champion turned Fashion Designer.
She is the creator of COKANNA Canadian made bamboo clothing for women that’s all about comfort and style.
Colleen supports Rethink Breast Cancer’s metastatic breast cancer support, education, and advocacy work.
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Thank you Colleen – well written and enlightening. Good food for thought with my morning coffee 🙂 I will listen to the podcast.
Thank you for reading and thinking about it, Joan. The podcast is well worth a listen. There is so much we take for granted without even realizing it.