The Third Something

075 / White Supremacy Interlude

Some quiet thoughts in the wake of George Floyd’s murder and all that has followed.

A black square

The murder of George Floyd and the protests that have followed is the only thing worth writing about today.

A lot of white people are asking now what they can do. There are lots of things (here’s a good list) but many of the black voices I’ve listened to this week have said it begins with introspection and education.

As a white man who has benefited from systemic racism his entire life, it is time to be honest about the role I play in supporting white supremacy.

I grew up in a country rich from the profits of slavery and the sugar trade, growing richer still from the exploitation of people and minerals in sub-saharan Africa. The high-quality education I enjoyed, the well-made roads, the grand Victorian town houses I can see when I look out of my window: where do I think the money for all that came from, farming sheep?

I tell myself a fine old story about how, a decade ago, I quit my job and took a leap of faith to follow my dreams (#39). But in reality I had a middle-class family to cushion my fall, plus the self-efficacy and confidence that an upbringing of feeling like you belong can provide.

Take this privilege away and then add a society suspicious of my success and would I have been able to make it this far? Simply: no.

This is one of the reasons the arts and the media are dominated by white ideas and perspectives and why racism continues to be a blind spot for us.

The way poverty - which affects people of colour overwhelmingly more than white people - denies so many the opportunity for creative self-expression is a tragedy, made more painful by the fact it is so solvable. And it’s a tragedy I’ve done nothing to solve.

White supremacy isn’t just a policeman kneeling on a neck; it’s the other officers standing by and doing nothing: it’s the silence, the inaction, the apathy.

What percentage of the human race do you think are white? It’s about 11.5%.

To be sad about racism but not angry enough to change it, to benefit from white privilege and not do anything to upend it, is to be satisfied deep down that all the world’s problems: the climate change, the inequality, the Alzheimer’s, the cancers will be cured; that all of the great art will be made by that one-tenth of humans…why? Because we’re better?

That sounds white supremacist to me.

Maybe you think I’m being harsh - and I understand that there are plenty of white people living without privilege. But if we can’t all be brutally honest about the ways we tolerate, embody and benefit from this disgusting attitude, where do we even begin?

Until another Sunday soon,

Adam's signature