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  • Judy Ryde

What is a Racist?

Recently the British Royal Family have been accused of being a racist institution as evidenced by an alleged racist remark made by one of them (unnamed), concerning the potential colour of Meghan and Prince Harry’s baby. I do not want to go into whether or not the Royal Family are or are not racist. Whatever the case, the rest of us cannot claim the moral high ground in regard to racism. White society at large carries a racist underbelly, and it is easy to accuse others of racism, rather than face it in ourselves.

Racism is something endemic to the whole of white western society. It is systemically woven into our culture, based on centuries of the history of how white people have treated those with different colour skins all around the world. We have treated those we regard as having a different ‘race; in the way as we have treated animals, there to be exploited for the use of the self-declared ‘superior white person’. Although we have come a long way since these views were explicit, they caste a long shadow over white people wherever they are in the world.

In more recent years, we have thought that clearing up our racist language and espousing non-racist views, will lead to a non-racist world. Although these measures do help society, they do not by themselves make us more equal or overcome racism. We ‘white people’ are still living with the spoils of our racist past, and maybe that is why the issue does not go away. It is not easy to give up your privileges. Maybe the first step is to acknowledge that we ‘white people’ are privileged.

Here is just one example. A ‘dominantly white British’ company has advertised a new position. They get many applications and look through them. Some of the applicants have ‘foreign-sounding names’. They know they are not supposed to be prejudiced in this process, but there is a collusion amongst the staff to give precedence to those names that sound familiar to them, while they cite other reasons for rejecting the non-familiar applications. We must face that if we have a more traditional British or European sounding name, we are more likely to get work in ‘white western’ dominated organisations.

Although some people may be more racist in their explicit views, most white people of European extraction are brough up and marinaded in cultures, built on privilege, superiority, and racist assumptions. This applies as much to the British Royal Family as any other ‘white ‘family.

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