White privilege or: How I learnt to love Intersectionality

The past year has seen me take a lot of steps in my understanding of the politics of power, privilege and intersectionality. I have to say though, the past few months of debate, argument and outright hostility and threats that have marked recent ‘conversations’ within especially the feminist movement have been difficult to follow.

I have always felt that whilst those of us that would like to see a world free of discrimination or privilege, should aim to work together as much as possible, people are entirely within their rights to publicly state that they are only interested in their patch. It’s not the most positive thing they could do, but I know full-well that because of my own experience and knowledge, I can only really talk with confidence on certain areas, so why spend brain time on areas where I’m not going to be useful. 

 

Well, that was until I read this excellent blog post (http://renieddolodge.wordpress.com/2013/04/28/this-is-white-privilege/) by Reni Eddo-Lodge on the recent events. Never before have I felt quite so much as if someone had taken every inner-monologue and thought I’ve had on this and systematically taken them all apart. 

Of course intersectionality is the key to this. Of course it is about power. The encounter she relates of speaking to someone who comes out with the line, ‘You don’t know if that was racism. How do you know it wasn’t something else?’ made me cringe like hell. How can I go around talking about inequality and discrimination when I’m more than willing to cop out entirely with such an argument?

How many people deciding on what candidate to offer the job to will think when choosing between a white person and a black person, or a man and a woman, or an able-bodied versus disabled person, “Well, I’m not racist/sexist/etc, so it isn’t racism to give it to  person A over person B. They’d just be a better fit.”?

I’ve never had such a stark awakening, and I’m pretty ashamed that my mind hadn’t made that connection before. More people on our side need to wake up and allow reality into their carefully constructed theories and assumptions. We can’t rail against bigotry and then enable it quite so effectively with those weak words. 

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About Jez Harvey

PhD student at Bangor University looking at student movements, legitimacy and democracy. Other interests include society, class, higher education, democracy, politics, food, blasphemy and football. Leftie, gay and grumpy; in short, a comfort seeking heathen

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  1. This is white privilege: the response | No comment - May 3, 2013

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