17 June 2020
You First is a Social Enterprise that not only welcomes and embraces difference, but celebrates it. We have a shared humanity - each of us are human beings, but at the same time each of us are uniquely different. This wonderful diversity means that each of us bring our creativity, life experience, ideas, insight and experiences to the table and as such we learn from each other, value each other and grow stronger together.
But there is something powerful going on across the world just now, captured by the Black Lives Matter movement, a movement that You First stands fully behind. You First stands shoulder to shoulder with our black brothers and sisters.
It is absolutely true that each and every minority group experiences discrimination but there is something running far, far deeper here. It's really hard for white people to comprehend, because of white privilege, just how psychologically, emotionally, spiritually and mentally devastating it must be for people of colour to have to walk by, sometimes on a daily basis, statues of people who enslaved their ancestors simply because of their colour. As white people we cannot even begin to understand how that must feel. And these are not just statues, they’re on massively elevated plinths as if given some kind of godly status.
Yet it's not about statues, it's about white privilege and until we grasp that, feel that deeply, we will not be able to even begin to empathise. This truly is the only way for our society to become equal and just.
This isn't a comfortable process on a number of levels. As white people we are not used to being defined by race and privilege is a word that doesn't sit comfortably because we don't feel privileged. Most of us have had to work hard for what we have, have sacrificed for family and so on. Of course white people have known struggle. This puts it well:
"White privilege is not the suggestion that white people have never struggled. Many white people do not enjoy the privileges that come with relative affluence, such as food security. Many do not experience the privileges that come with access, such as nearby hospitals.
And white privilege is not the assumption that everything a white person has accomplished is unearned; most white people who have reached a high level of success worked extremely hard to get there. Instead, white privilege should be viewed as a built-in advantage, separate from one’s level of income or effort."
(Cory Collins, 2018, What Is White Privilege, Really?, https://www.tolerance.org/magazine/fall-2018/what-is-white-privilege-really
So what is "White Privilege"?)
Francis E. Kendall, author of Diversity in the Classroom and Understanding White Privilege: Creating Pathways to Authentic Relationships Across Race, comes close to providing us with an encompassing definition:
“having greater access to power and resources than people of colour [in the same situation] do.”
White privilege exists because of historic, enduring racism and biases. It is endemic and each of us. As human beings, and You First as an organisation, each have a duty to challenge ourselves on a personal level and really be aware of how racism has touched us - because touch us it has. We can't go through the process of socialisation without it doing so.
The "All Lives Matter" reactions we have seen recently totally miss the point and actually act as a visual aid to the fact that white privilege and racism are very real and very much alive in our country. Of course all lives matter, nobody would deny that, but at the moment it is our black brothers and sisters who require our compassion and our support. "All Lives Matter" simply diminishes the very real suffering and horrific unequal treatment people of colour have experienced. It is true to say that no minority group, all deserving of equality though they are, have known such horrors as people of colour.
It is astounding to me that anyone remotely connected with social care could hold racist views - but some people do. Using the innate values that inform my way of life I try to meet these views with compassion, understanding that we all, each and every one of us, have layers and layers of conditioning and until we deal with that by looking deeply into our habit energy we will not change and consequently the world will not change. We have to challenge our inner reactions and ask why we think/act/think/feel in certain ways and then look again to see what changes we can make to think/act/feel differently.
The power lies with us and it starts with us.
Let's keep checking in with ourselves and challenging ourselves, this is the only way to ensuring equality.