Sticky Notes of Thoughts

…because some thoughts are worth remembering

On Defining White Privilege and Racism


This post is a continuation of my previous post, On Racism in the Land of White Privilege.

Through discussions surrounding the previous post and other events that followed in the U.S. (Confederate flag, the Charleston Church shooting, etc.) and in Denmark (a prominent political figure insisting on using the “N” word, etc.), I learned more. Though I am still digesting the conversations and the new references, I wanted to share the knowledge here.

A post on white privilege from Winter 1990 issue of Independent School, is still very much relevant today, and perhaps seems more objective in today’s context because the work is from 15 years ago without reacting to the specific events of the recent past.

Another post implies that the ability to be blind to race is (at least part of ) white privilege, entitled Maybe White People Really Don’t See Race—Maybe That’s The Problem.

I’m using the term white privilege because of the US/Danish context, but the concept can easily apply for any relatively homogeneous facing globalization, such as Japan. My view of privilege, therefore, is two-sided. I have enjoyed “white privilege” and then I lost it when I studied in North America. I regained it as an adult when I moved to Hawaii where inter-racial couples and people of Asian heritage shared privilege with everyone else, so race itself was not a deciding factor for if you belonged in a place.

I found it profoundly interesting that someone pointed out that I hadn’t defined racism. Perhaps because they hadn’t experienced it themselves. I can clump together words to give you a definition that might work, if I had to explain to an alien…: when one acts or makes judgement solely based on another’s ethnic background, when that factor is not relevant. Then you might question, what is judgement, how do you define ethnic background, or what constitutes relevancy?

Just like pornography, it is clumsy to define (how is it different from art that features a naked human being in sexual context?), but I know when I see it, I know it in my gut. Perhaps  white privilege means you don’t need to develop that gut. My blind spot was that there is a huge population who was spared this gut. It’s so foreign that they have to encounter a surrogate situation that mimic the effects, like the card game I described in my previous post (poorly). My friend tracked down the link with all the instructions needed to play the game. I look forward to playing it myself, if only so that I can approximate racism as people who never experienced it might.

Photo: Greenland’s flag at the Embassy of Greenland in Aarhus. An autonomous country within the Kingdom of Denmark with an Inuit population, its disparity with the rest of Denmark in economic, mental health and other figures have added to racial tension.


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This entry was posted on July 13, 2015 by in Culture, Denmark, Identity and tagged , , , , .
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