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Steve Kneale
+ Your AuthorsArchive @steve_kneale Pastor @oldhambethel. Blogger & podcaster at Building Jerusalem. Columnist & writer. If you prefer different views, other opinion spouters are available. Jun. 08, 2020 2 min read

This is an old video but it does help to explain the concept of privilege, which is most certainly a thing that exists

But I am increasingly convinced the term 'white privilege' is extremely unhelpful.

There are without doubt issues that black people face because of the colour of their skin that white people do not have to contend with. There are also issues of systemic racism and implicit bias that exist too. Those things are very real.

But 'white privilege' sounds tone deaf when stated by middle class black people from otherwise privileged backgrounds to white people from deprived places, with abusive parents, who have also been failed by the system in various ways and (rightly) do not feel very privileged

It is also hard when stated to white travellers, who still often see 'no gypsies' on the door of establishments, or to white Romanians who face some pretty repellent and overt racism despite their ostensible whiteness because one can often tell they are Romanian just by looking

Again, it is not that there aren't specific issues that black and Asian people will face that (most) white people will not. Nor that there are no specific issues of systemic racism and bias black and Asian people will face that (most) white people will never even need to think of

But 'white privilege' sounds hollow to many who have suffered far greater inequalities than many of the black people who are using the term 'white privilege'. That doesn't mean the inequality those black people face is invalid but we need to know how that term will be heard.

If I get flu and go to a friend telling them how ill I am and how they can't understand my situation even though I know they have terminal cancer, most would consider that insensitive and unhelpful. It doesn't mean I'm not suffering or my illness isn't real, but that tone is poor

'white privilege' is heard by many white people in highly deprived places, who have also faced systemic injustice, in a similar way.

However, when we talk about privilege in the round, it is much more helpful.
There are issues that will mean black people lack certain privilege that many white people have. But it also allows us to recognise other systemic issues too that mean others may also lack privileged

More people will be won to the cause of righting the evident inequality faced by black people when we recognise others may be similarly, or even more, lacking privilege. Rather than pitting your suffering against theirs, speak as though they get inequality

That way, as ones who have suffered inequality together (albeit potentially in different ways), they will not feel as though they too are being dismissed as privileged by those who fail to recognise their inequalities

Privilege without doubt exists. Systemic racism also exists. We will achieve far more when we welcome others to our cause by recognising the inequalities they too face, without diminishing our own, rather than using language that pits our suffering against theirs


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