In case you missed it, you have to check out Verashni Pillay’s list of six things white people have that black people don’t.
She sums up white privilege and hits the nail on the head. She found the words we’ve all been looking for to explain why one can’t just ‘move on’ from apartheid. She says it like it is, pulls no punches and exposes the danger of denialism.
Of course no one person can write an exhaustive list of the ways in which privilege manifests itself. Privilege is a complex and often hidden set of rules about who benefits and who gets left out. Even the most conscious of people can miss the little ways that privilege is able to creep in and favour a certain group of people over others.
One other thing that white people have that black people don’t is Whatsapp emoticons.
You can’t tell me you haven’t noticed?
When I’m chatting to my white friend and I ask, ‘Where are you?’, if she’s at her grandparents place, she doesn’t have to use words or break a sweat because lo and behold you have the elderly man and woman with grey hair emoticon. But guess what? They’re both white! When I’m at ugogolokhulu’s house I don’t have the privilege of being able to tap twice, once again, I’m black so I have to write a long and involved essay to explain myself.
Sometimes when you’re chatting to someone on Whatsapp you reach that point where you have nothing more to say to them. You know those people that you don’t want to talk to in the first place but you replied because you thought it would be mean not to. In that situation you want to be able to end the conversation with one final emoticon.
I envy my white friends who can do the white thumbs up sign because their hands actually look like that in real life. The conversation ends on a positive note, but doesn’t invite the other person to respond.
As a black person however, I’m limited to the use of ‘K.’
The thing with ‘k’, unlike the thumbs up sign, is that you can never be sure what it means.
Maybe it means ‘K, I’m mad now but I’m not going to tell you why unless you buy me flowers and beg me to.’
Or maybe it means, ‘K, I can’t really talk right now my boss just walked in and I’m about to get fired.’
Worse, it could mean ‘K, I didn’t bother to even type ‘OK’ because you’re not even worth that extra second.’
No one really knows! And there’s always that chance that if you say ‘K.’ that person could reply and say, ‘K, what?’ or ‘What does ‘K’ mean?’ And that’s a whole other can of Whatsapp worms that you don’t really want to open.
You’re at the salon getting your nails did and you want to let your Whatsapp group of girlfriends know that you’re running late for drinks. Have no fear, the Whatsapp developers thought of everything! On the eighth row to the extreme right are pretty pink fingernails getting done, on white hands.
If there was any justice in the world we know that that hand would be black because everyone knows that black women don’t just get a basic manicure and polish. We need to get those extensions did too.
By the time I get done trying to manoevre my acrylic extensions across my screen, I’ve smudged my nail polish beyond recognition.
White women have options – they can say they’re cutting their hair, getting a massage, waving their hand like they just don’t care and all other weird things that the woman in the pink shirt is doing.
It’s just not fair.
Black people can’t even be in relationships on Whatsapp. The smiling couple is white. The boy and girl holding hands are white. The kissing couple is white. The family IS WHITE!
Look a little lower, do you see a black bride in a white veil and dress?
Somewhere out there is a woman who wants to change her status so her contacts know that she’s getting married next weekend. Instead of posting one simple emoticon, she’ll have to resort to a combination of the diamond ring on the bottom row and go through the trouble of moving to a whole new section and choosing the church building with the heart above it.
There’s so much more that I could point out like the fact that the only brown person on whatsapp is wearing a turban. Apparently the only thing non-white people can be is ‘ethnic’. So the black woman emoticon would have to be wearing Ndebele beading and the black man would be dressed like a rapper.
Why confront every day white privilege?
It’s good not to take ourselves too seriously. But after we laugh we need to take a serious look at the ways in which white privilege manifests itself in everyday situations and conversations. The language we use speaks of white privilege. Even the food sold in supermarkets and the clothes in stores.
We could write a thousand posts about what white people have that black people don’t, but unless we’re reaching white people, this is an exercise in futility. White people will feel guilty and have no idea what to do with their guilt. White people will send you emails about how much of a racist you are because there are more important issues in the world like people dying in the Middle East.
White privilege is an undeserved advantage that you have simply because of the colour of your skin and as a white person you probably won’t see it. You won’t realise that you were served first at the bakery even though there were many other people who got to the counter before you. They happen to be black. You won’t notice that the Elastoplast matches the colour of your skin but not that of your black friends.
Every day white privilege marginalises black people. You are constantly reminded that you live in a white world where you will never truly belong. You need to conform or die because being white is put to you as the only good, admirable and right way to live.
Every day white privilege is oppressive to black people. It dictates to us what it means to be somebody. We’re taught to speak a certain way, say your words just so. We’re grilled in etiquette, table manners, how to be respectful and polite – the white way. Because the only way to truly ‘be’ is to be white.
Every day white privilege marginalizes and oppresses white people too. Because white people are so sheltered from the reality of what life is really like for other people that they can’t connect with anyone who is not like them. Everyone else becomes an alien, a threat, an ‘ethnic’ and exotic object of fascination.
We need to confront every day white privilege and a good place to start that conversation is on Whatsapp.
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