When we indulge in feelings of guilt, pretend to agree while denying our complicity and claim that we just don’t know what to do, we are using our white privilege to enable inaction.
We’ve been told our whole lives that our privileges were earned, either from hard graft or natural “merit”. These are lies, albeit lies we hold onto tightly and perhaps don’t believe we can survive without.
Many people told me that they loved the idea of my retreat and that they supported what I was doing. This was a very nice way to say that it obviously didn’t apply to them and that they weren’t coming.
If those of us who benefit from oppressive power structures are serious about dismantling them—instead of posing as antiracists to absolve ourselves of responsibility—we need to use our power to lead change.
Being Jewish gives me a particular perspective on racism and white supremacy. I know first hand what it is to benefit from racial privilege. But the fact that my privilege is contingent—in a way that doesn’t apply to white Anglo-Saxon Protestants—makes it easier for me to resist white denial.
Fifty years after the Race Relations Act, systemic racism is alive and well. We’re still trying to eliminate workplace racial inequality by rooting out individual prejudice while ignoring the power structures which sustain racism.