My skin is white. This means I have white privilege.
I face a bit of crap in my day-to-day life, because I’m not the nice kind of English white that people prefer. My name comes from my father–he is Greek Cypriot. Poor Cyprus, it only managed a decade and a half of independence after being passed between various empires, before the chunk of the island my family happens to be from got itself invaded again.
My surname is not English. Stavri. It’s six letters long, and if you were to guess at how it were pronounced by shoving together each sound phonetically, chances are, you’d get it right. Despite this, I am perpetually asked how one would say it, or finding my name mashed into something that English tongues find more recognisable.
I get asked where I’m “really from” more often than I care to count. The answer to this is London. I was born in London, raised in London and have lived in London for almost all of my life. But where am I “really from”? What flavour of foreign am I?
This is all profoundly irksome to me, but do you know what? I still have white privilege. I have it in spades, because my skin is white.
It means that when people look at me, there isn’t a whirling mass of stereotypes activated. I am not judged for the colour of my skin, I am not considered a representative of white people. People do not look down on me with disgust or patronising pity because of the colour of my skin. There is a whole world which can be invisible to me if I choose, because I have white skin. I benefit from white supremacy.
There’s no turning away from it. Despite these things that annoy and needle, I will never experience discrimination because of the colour of my skin.
I have white privilege. I cannot pretend it away. I cannot point to the microaggressions I experience for not being some sort of English rose and pretend that this treatment is in any way on a par with what is experienced by people of colour, because it isn’t.
And perhaps conversations about British colonial history and a general nagging xenophobia are necessary, but they cannot be had over discussions of white privilege, because it is something completely different. To suggest otherwise is a derailing tactic.
As a white woman, I own and acknowledge my white privilege. I attempt to mitigate it as best I can, and I try to learn what I can about something I can never personally experience. I try to advocate for women of colour, and I’m open to criticism when I fuck up, because I know my white privilege makes me ignorant as all fuck about these things.
The feminism produced by women like me–white feminism–has failed far too many women by its repeated negligence in analysing structural racism and this must change. I don’t want to be part of the problem. I don’t want to be complicit. And yet, because of the colour of my skin, I can be both of these things.