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  • Writer's pictureJudy Ryde

Use of the term White Privilege

The UK Education Subcommittee of MPs agreed with the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities, that the term ‘’white privilege’’ can be "divisive’’, and that this term contributes to the "neglect" of white working-class pupils in the education system. This contention implies that this neglect is “caused” by pointing out the privilege that white people have when it comes to race.

It is well known that poor children suffer terribly in Britain today, including through the neglect of their education. It is good that this has been forcefully pointed out by the committee. However, this is hardly news, as the lack of privilege of poor white children is often acknowledged by their being called “underprivileged’’. Poor white children do not have the privilege of the comparative wealth of the majority. Poverty has knock on effects in their lives, including the effects on their general health, their access to nourishing food, their education, their job prospects, their access to cultural experience and sufficient resources to see and experience the world beyond their neighbourhoods.

The term ‘’white privilege’’ does not deny that white people can also lack privilege in other areas, just as the term ‘’black lives matter’’ does not mean that ‘’white lives’’ do not also matter. The term ‘’white privilege’’ only points out that in as far as someone is white, they are racially privileged. It does not deny that in other areas of life, such as in access to education and satisfying employment, they may not be privileged.

Of course, there are many black people who are financially or educationally privileged as well. However, in as far as they are black, they are not privileged and suffer from systemic racism. This often leads to inequalities of opportunities in many areas including their job prospects and assumptions made about them by white people, including those in authority such as the police. These can lead to material disadvantages which include small but significant microaggressions experienced in everyday life. These experiences are hard for white people to really understand or acknowledge.

Those in powerful positions who describe the term ‘’white privilege’’ as divisive, are themselves being divisive in suggesting that there is a hierarchy of privilege, with white working-class people at the bottom of the pile. There are many types of privilege and underprivilege, and all are shocking reflections on our society which tolerate and perpetuate them. In regard to the job of providing a good education for poor white children, the government should ensure that all children have the same opportunities and suggesting that the word ‘’white privilege’’ is a problem, distracts from this responsibility.

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