by: Eth Lloyd, Advisory Council Chairman
The first six months of 2020 have been hugely challenging for everyone. First, we have had Covid-19 to manage, a pandemic which has reached most countries in the world, affecting a huge number of people, potentially their life, their health, and/or their economic situation. None of those effects is positive and the loss of life is truly sobering; heart breaking for so many families.
Secondly, we have the “Black Lives Matter” movement from the tragic and unnecessary loss of so many black lives. This movement is particularly important, it is way past when this understanding should have already become a part of our everyday lives, and is steadily gathering momentum around the world.
One of the most enlightening articles I have read in the past few days, has clarified for me the meaning of “white privilege”, something I have been aware of for some time but, being white, have found so very hard to understand, define, or explain. This article is from “Yes” magazine, written by Lori Lakin Hutcherson and her words have much more impact than mine ever would.
I suspect the inability for many white people to honestly express our views in conversation or writing about colour (our own or others) may sometimes be partly due to the risk of offending others or of being offended. This inability for many white people to be honest, has been put into perspective by the honesty of the writer of this article.
I feel that this article is an important and valuable read for every person but particularly those who are struggling to understand, are potentially feeling challenged or even resentful of the term “white privilege”. I thank Peggy Vasquez, author of “Not Just an Admin” for sharing this on Facebook.
I also listened to an amazing and authentic posting by Ayanna Castro on Facebook. In this posting she described how she was feeling right now and that her “soul was tired”. She described her difficulties in explaining what was happening to her teenage daughters. This brought into clear perspective for me the ongoing and long-lived effects of racial prejudice, racial profiling, racial targeting, racial expectation that occurs for people of colour.
A further brief article from Nicky Christmas, Practically Perfect PA with a list of suggested reading will help each and every person to better understand what is happening. One of the suggestions in Nicky’s list, from “Fortune”, starts with a video discussion and listed a further enormous range of; articles, books to read and discuss, organisations to consider supporting, films and TV shows, resources for parents, podcasts, and more.
There is something in this list that will be of value to everyone. These articles will assist those who are unsure, a little confused, struggling to grasp how they can understand or contribute positively to the “Black Lives Matter” movement.
I am not saying these resources will suit all of you, or that they will give you “the” answers. However, the wider read we are the better educated and informed we are, therefore the better decisions we make and actions we undertake.
It is sobering for me to understand that while I come from a large multicultural whanau (family), that does not mean that I learnt anything about “white privilege”. My immediate family was pakeha (white) and therefore I was brought up with white privilege, I quite simply had no awareness of what that was. I was not brought up in a wealthy or entitled family, but it was pakeha so had the privilege that comes with white skin colour.
I am so comfortable with my extended whanau who are all a cherished part of my life. I just quite simply had no understanding of how living was or could be for those who were Maori – my sisters-in-law, my nieces and nephews, and now great-nieces and nephews. I had no understanding of whether they were comfortable with me or whether I was comfortable quite simply because they made things comfortable for me. I am proud of all my whanau for their achievements, but I had no idea what gaining those achievements was like for some of them. Was their path more challenging than mine due to roadblocks I didn’t face, was day to day living with unthinking comments from others something they experienced or expected? I was comfortable within my life and I assumed everyone within my whanau was comfortable too – now that is white privilege.
I am humbled and somewhat shamed by what I am now learning, I am sorrowful for what I did not understand and took for granted. I am OK being white, and I will continue to work to enhance my understanding of others.