In this Wednesday, June 24, 2020, photograph, books are displayed, including “The Tuskegee Airmen,” and “White Fragility,” at the Black-owned Frugal Bookstore in the Roxbury neighborhood of Boston. Many from outside Boston have recently shopped and supported the store amid nationwide protests against racism. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

EDITORIAL: It has always been ‘okay to be white,’ it’s a racist way of legitimizing white privilege

It’s time to do more than just take inventory of your advantages, it’s time to use them to make change

A Black Press Media editorial was published Aug. 20, titled ‘It’s Okay to be White,’ and I’m here to tell you that it was a punch to my biracial gut.

The editorial, which has since been deleted, legitimized white guilt, giving inappropriate praise to “good” white people who are gladly riding the wave that is the genetic lottery instead of calling for actual change to Western culture, which is founded on the disadvantage of non-white folks.

The catalyst for the editorial was a Keremeos pub that has been called out for using ‘It’s okay to be white’ stickers in their establishment with a not-so-subtle white supremacy hand gesture attached. (I get this gesture was created by trolls on 4-Chan, but it is still intended to hurt people, and that is not OK and not the point… read the room.)

It is laughable that, amid protests to stop American police from gunning down Black people, whiteness is so status-quo white guilt is now also becoming as mainstream as a sticker.

The editorial has since been removed from our websites, an action swiftly called for by Black Press Media’s senior management early Friday morning. My colleague who wrote the editorial is kind, hilarious and a good journalist.

Her intentions were good.

But as I write that, I can’t help but feel the need to scream that publishing “good intentions” is the definition of white privilege.

Unsurprisingly, the editorial was called out loudest by white allies – or at least that’s what it feels like on social media – undoubtedly because they are newest to the world of racism (welcome, by the way). Meanwhile, myself and a few of my fellow non-white colleagues took a deep breath, felt a familiar pain and spent the evening trying to not internalize.

The truth is, it is OK to be white – in fact, by all standards it is great. How could it not be when from birth your dreams are rarely met with obstacles you cannot control and you don’t have the responsibility of constantly reminding the rest of the world that your voice and talents and goodness exist, that your hurt – again, which is for no fault of your own – matters.

Being white means you make a dollar for every 59 cents to 78 cents a non-white person makes, according to Statistics Canada data.

It means you are less likely to be stopped by police for a “random” street check, or shot by police, according to data obtained from two separate freedom of information requests

It means you have never been called the N-word, squ**, or other derogatory words – all which make “white trash” and “hick” feel like playground speak.

It means you have never randomly been told to go back to your country, even though you were born here.

It means you have likely never been berated in public spaces for simply speaking with your friends.

It means you are likelier to see a street on Google Maps bearing your last name (according to Statistics Canada Road Network Files) than have a highway named after the ongoing kidnapping and murdering of your women and girls.

It means that being able to speak multiple languages will bring you accolades instead of rejections by prospected employers.

It means you’ll have health conditions diagnosed sooner by doctors because their years of training only in how to spot symptoms on pale and pink skin.

It means no medical professionals have made a game out of your pre-disposition to alcoholism and substance use because of intergenerational trauma due to residential schools.

It means you don’t have a TV channel dedicated to your skin colour and culture because every channel includes your representation and “culture.”

It means when you show your proudness of being white it’s defended as patriotic and harmless, while Black people demanding basic respect and recognition of their existence is a dangerous protest.

It means you are likelier, in Canada, to live 12.5 years longer than Indigenous people, according to 2016 Statistics Canada data.

It isn’t just OK to be white – white people have ensured it is fantastic, a privilege, to be white before anyone else had the chance to decide otherwise.

I can hear the frantic typing of shook-up white people right now. How dare you try to tell me what it is like to be white?

Listen. This doesn’t mean you haven’t faced hardship. White people still live in poverty, suffer from mental or physical illnesses and disabilities, and are targeted with sexism and sexual harassment.

I’m not saying white people have every “advance to Go and collect $200” or “get out of jail free” card in this life – intersectionalism, a social theory coined by Black sociologist Kimberlé Crenshaw, accounts for all of that.

In simple terms, intersectionalism explains why white, straight, able-bodied men typically have the most opportunity, wealth and social power while Black women represent the other side or the spectrum and hold the least – if any – of all those advantages.

In between those two polarizing life situations include queer white men, men with disabilities, white women, queer women, others who are LGBTQ2+, who are biracial – like me with my half-white, half-east-Indian olive skintone – Black men, and Indigenous folks.

But if you are white, relatively healthy and grew up in a middle-class functioning family, you hold most of the life chips and your lack of success is not because of lack of opportunity.

To quote Robin DiAngelo, author of White Fragility, it takes “major effort” to get whites to simply acknowledge that being white gives them advantages.

What I’m learning is it clearly takes even more work to get whites to take inventory of their world and use those advantages to get rid of toxic and deadly systemic oppression from which they directly benefit.

You may not be that first group of settlers who colonized and assimilated this country, but those moments in history sure made life a hell of a lot easier for you.

So with all that extra time to live compared to whose were dealt the short end of the melanin stick, what are you going to do?

“Stopping our racist patterns must be more important than working to convince others that we don’t have them,” says DiAngelo. “We do have them, and people of colour already know we have them; our efforts to prove otherwise are not convincing. An honest accounting of these patterns is no small task given the power of white fragility and white solidarity, but it is necessary.”

Here’s a pro-tip: To continue living how you have and not use your naturally gifted power to make change is not enough. And if I have anything to say about it, that’s going to start right here at Black Press Media.

Ashley Wadhwani is the digital content editor for Black Press Media.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Boot launches campaign with Facebook Live event

NDP candidate for riding of Penticton joined by John Horgan, Richard Cannings and others

Summerland Senior Men play all net golf event

Summerland Ladies Club On Sept. 22, the Summerland Golf and Country Ladies… Continue reading

Unisus students in Summerland participate in Terry Fox Run

More than 120 students from private school take part in 40th anniversary of run

Column: $200,000 donation to Penticton Regional Hospital more than ‘a little something’

The donation brings us closer to our goal of a second CT scanner at hospital

Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen seeks input about proposed composting facility

Organics composting facility proposed for Campbell Mountain Landfill

105 new COVID-19 cases, 1 death as health officials urge B.C. to remember safety protocols

There are currently 1268 active cases, with 3,337 people under public health monitoring

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

U.S. Presidential Debate Takeaways: An acrid tone from the opening minute

Here are key takeaways from the first of three scheduled presidential debates before Election Day on Nov. 3

Peachland resident finds severed bear paw on driveway

Tracie Gordon thought it was a Halloween prank, but it turned out to be a real bear paw

B.C. nurses report rise in depression, anxiety, exhaustion due to pandemic

A new UBC study looks into how the COVID-19 response has impacted frontline nurses

National child-care plan could help Canada rebound from COVID-induced economic crisis: prof

A $2 billion investment this year could help parents during second wave of pandemic

Search suspended for Indigenous elder last seen mushroom picking in northwest B.C.

Mushroom picker Thomas (Tommy) Dennis has been missing since Sept. 16

16 MLAs retiring from B.C. politics add up to $20M in pensions: Taxpayers Federation

Taxpayers pay $4 for every dollar MLAs contribute to their pensions

‘Bonnie’ and ‘Henry’ among latest litter of service dog puppies

B.C. Alberta Guide Dogs names two pups after provincial health officer

Most Read