Wednesday, 16 August 2017

White privilege is real, especially in the workplace

It creeps up in many forms - from the way people are spoken to, right to the lack of people of colour in leadership roles.

The other day a friend said something that left me gobsmacked. She said: "I don't believe white privilege exists." Really?
She is a socially aware, vocal person of colour, so for her to say this was totally unbelievable.
Her reasons were the usual: "I know so many black people who have more than me."
"White people also work hard."

"My white boyfriend had to go work for his dad because he couldn't get a job."
I let her continue. I realised that her perception of white privilege, like so many others, is warped by her own circumstances.
When you are not struggling to find a job it is easy to think white privilege is not real. Similarly, when you blame every little hurdle on white privilege the real issues get overshadowed.

 Not all black people are taking your job, and not all white people get things handed to them, but don't think for one second that this means white privilege is not real. I have experienced it in the little things.

Here are some of the things I have heard people saying over the years:

· There is often a tone of condescension and impatience when addressing people of colour in some office.

· I even once encountered an intern who spoke down to me, his manager, because I was Indian. When he spoke to the white people in the office his voice was all sugar and honey. 

· I spent months appealing to my boss to make changes to a project, bringing forth research and plans on how this would improve it. Nothing happened. A new, white employee (who didn't even work in my department) made the same suggestion, and it was implemented within in a week.

· I worked with two equally incompetent employees. For some strange reason the black employee was fired and the white employee was allowed to finish his contract. That made no sense to me.

And this is just surface level stuff.

We haven't even gotten to the issues of limited people of colours in Managerial roles, the degree of disrespect for BAME or how this all intensifies if you are a woman.

These little things are the tip of a very big, complicated iceberg, I do think that it's time we acknowledge them - it can be a catalyst to affect change on bigger issues. We have to recognise white privilege in every form so people can stop thinking it no longer exists.

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