THE BLOG

Why Is It Difficult to Talk About Race?

09/11/2015 12:46 GMT | Updated 05/11/2016 09:12 GMT

When it comes to race issues we have overcome some challenges in this world, but the truth is that we are not living in a colour-blind, post-racial era. Racial inequalities still exist today - in some cases, extreme ones. We live mainly in societies where race is seen as a non-issue.

I have spent years trying to educate some of my friends about racial matters in a world that is deeply divided by race. I have learnt a few interesting things after countless dialogues and conversations with them and it has become clear over time that those who I have interacted with usually have exceptionally low thresholds for tolerating any discomfort related with challenges to racial worldviews.

Facing institutional racism everyday and then having to debate its very existence can be exhausting. Nonetheless, if emotions are expressed by people of colour about racial issues, they are usually 'tone policed' and told that they are being 'too emotional/sensitive' or, even worse, 'playing the race card'. What's worse still, in situations such as these, some people even suggest the criticism derives from a racialised perspective and so they say, 'I've experienced racism too.'

How can one possibly imagine that a systematically oppressed group has the ability to oppress those in power?

Racial illiteracy is another reason why it's difficult to speak about racial issues with some white individuals. People of colour are not necessarily here to educate you about racial inequalities. The most common phrase we hear is, "How will I learn about racial issues without your help". This shouldn't be the case when you are told to educate yourself on this matter. In an age of technology, there are entire libraries accessible online and you can also access educators, speakers and writers to help you learn about the struggles people of colour face. Asking the oppressed to educate you while they are going through personal struggles is thoughtless and even worse, entitled. So, you are not owed an education.

It is no surprise that some people instinctively need the acceptance of at least those around them. What I have realised is that the further an individual departs from a pre-established practice or belief, the further he or she is removed (figuratively speaking) from their group. Of course, the education system is partly to blame for this segregationist practice, for instance educational establishments, textbooks and media sometimes do not offer different perspectives, which ultimately results in uninformed opinions and racially illiterate individuals.

Just because you're not racist doesn't mean that the society you live in or other people are not. Recognising that there is a problem is crucial as a first step. By simply saying that "I'm not racist, I don't see racism", this will not help the situation get any better because we live in societies that systematically oppress people of colour. The real problem is that some people simply don't realise their 'white privilege', which is quite unfortunate. White privilege is an institutional advantage given to people who, by race, dominate the powerful positions in our societies. One of the basic privileges is having greater access to power than people of colour, merely on the basis of skin colour. Doors that are open to you are not open to other people. On the other hand, not seeing privilege is also caused by denial, based on guilt.

If you're wondering what 'white privilege' is, then here are 10 examples;

1) Having your actions individualised to you and being taught to see yourself as an individual, instead of your actions being generalised to your group, is white privilege.

2) Arrogantly believing that reverse racism exists is white privilege.

3) Not having to deal with the appropriation of your culture and never having to explain why it is a bad thing is white privilege.

4) Moving into an area and being assured that those around you will respect and welcome you is white privilege.

5) Watching a film or reading a newspaper and seeing your race represented well is white privilege.

6) Being taught that your Eurocentric features are the standard of beauty in the world is white privilege.

7) Asking a victim of racism to provide 'hard evidence' of discrimination is white privilege.

8) Speaking eloquently without the astonishment of others is white privilege.

9) As a child, not being told by your parents to be conscious of institutional and systematic racism is white privilege.

10) Never being told to 'get over slavery' is white privilege.

I am aware and appreciative of the increasing number of 'white anti-racism' campaigners and organisations who are driving this dialogue forward within their communities. It is time to leave racial illiteracy behind and seek humility by working with people of colour on the issue of race. Avoid colour-blindness, see the disparity, address it, make it real and resolve it. Instead of pretending it's not there.