I’ve been thinking about the kind of racism that personally benefits me.
I live in Canberra, Australia. Despite my various health issues (that’s a whole ‘nother story… or is it?) I live in a 4-bedroom house that is “mine” in the sense that the mortgage is mine. I have a car, and two kids, and I never go hungry for lack of money.
Compared to a lot of the world, I’m unimaginably rich. There are two reasons for that:
- My ancestors stole Australia from those who lived here. They are still paying for that, and we (white Australia) are still benefiting.
- I have chosen to accept my wealth and ignore the fact that other people are going without basic medical care, shelter, transport, and even food.
It’s high time to think carefully about whether I’m responsible for all the people I could help, if I chose to give up some or all that I have.
The thinking process is slow. It has to be, because I’m trying to be honest with myself. That’s not an easy thing to do, especially for a white person. As the most powerful group (by skin colour) in our society, it is both difficult and painful for me to acknowledge that although I think I’m a pretty good person and I think I work super hard, there are plenty of others who work harder than me and gain less from it.
There are a few ameliorating thoughts, which I’m holding on to fiercely: Although it’s been amply proven that trickle-down wealth isn’t a thing, neither is wealth a “zero sum” game. That is, if I lived on the street instead of in a house, that doesn’t mean someone else has gained a house (unless I gave it to them). Eating less here in Canberra is highly unlikely to benefit someone starving in Syria.
Also, I need to work and my partner needs to work. Us not working doesn’t benefit anyone. So we need to be able to shower, wear clean and non-faded clothes, and to get to and from work. There are plenty of other things that are a minimum requirement for living in Canberra, like having electricity and a fridge.
So I’m not sure where I’m heading (if anywhere), but it’s time to listen to my white guilt and see how much of it contains truth or should inspire action.