What is White Privilege?

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As part of Black History Month celebrations, BAME Student Officer, Max Kafula with the help of Senior Lecturer, Richard Budd, put together an informative and interesting talk on ‘What is White Privilege?’ and how we can tackle it.

After introductions, Max opened with questioning the attendees on what is the definition of ‘White Privilege’. According to Kehinde Andrews, a Professor of Black Studies at Birmingham City University, ‘white privilege’ is described as “the benefits that you get from being white. If you are an ethnic minority there are certain disadvantages you have.”

Following the initial opener, what followed was a discussion of the history of white privilege, how it is active in Britain and at Lancaster University. We discussed how we can make ourselves aware of the harming effects ignorance to white privilege can have and how we can challenge it on an academic and social level.

The workshop included a series of shocking and yet necessary statistics that everyone should be aware of. For example, statistics around white privilege existing in the UK are as follows:

  • Black people are 9 times more likely to be stopped and searched by police.
  • Black, Pakistani and Bangladeshi Britons are more than twice as likely to be unemployed than white people.
  • White people are more likely to own their own home, compared with BAME people. 21% of Black Africans are homeowners along with 24% of Arab Britons compared to 68% of White Britons.
  • Pupils from a Roma background are more than three times as likely to be excluded from school, compared with White British children. Black Caribbean pupils are also almost twice as likely to be excluded.
  • Fewer than 60% of black students achieve A*-C grades in English and Maths by the time they finish their GCSEs. White Gypsy and Roma students have the lowest attainment in this respect with only 10% achieving A*-C grades.

Whilst these statistics are shocking in of themselves, what followed was more so. Professor Richard Budd, Lecturer in Higher Education then stepped in to use himself as an example of how his white privilege has affected him and the opportunities he may be afforded compared to his black counterparts. In total he described 11 instances of how white privilege worked to his advantage, including ‘not being excluded from school’ to ‘applying and getting into a top university’ and ‘getting PhD funding’ to ‘getting promoted.’

Amongst discussions and when questioned by Max, Richard admitted that his white privilege had made him feel guilty – “you do not feel as clever as you think you are.”                                                        

Aptly, Max had also included a section in his workshop on common misconceptions surrounding white privilege, with feeling guilty being one of them. Max discussed the concept of white privilege and that there was no need to feel guilty for benefitting from that, instead he encouraged actively using this feeling to demand change or to make adjustments in your own life to ensure you are doing the anti-racist work.

Towards the end of the workshop, Max then opened up the possibility of questions to the attendees, starting with Bee Morgan, VP Education. She asked how the curriculum could be adapted and what Max and Richard made of de-colonising the curriculum to include more black authors and anti-racist work.

The workshop followed on to discuss understanding white privilege, how it can be used for good and academically, how making the curriculum more inclusive should see more embedding of diverse authors rather than being tokenistic.

Then I posed a question – how can this anti-racist work be applied to societies to work alongside the academic work of de-colonising the curriculum?

The answer was a simple one and one that can apply to everyone, Max suggested a number of different actions to be employed in our daily lives – collaborating more with BAME societies like the African Society, calling out racism in other organisations as well as in everyday discussions. Professor Richard Budd stepped in to suggest donating to anti-racist organisations as well as continuing discussions on these difficult topics.

Overall, this workshop was informative, interesting and useful. These conversations are so important and if you would like to be involved in the Decolonising Lancaster Initiative you can contact Professor Richard Budd – r.budd@lancaster.ac.uk

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