Two editions ago, the “Let’s talk about race” article sparked huge controversy as to whether white people can truly understand race. The article used ‘white privilege’ to try and explain why white people will always be in a better off position and therefore have nothing to complain about. But crucially the article achieves to be unashamedly hypocritical in its purpose: by stating that white people cannot possibly understand race, is the piece not itself inherently racist?
To group together the entire population of white people on the planet and label them as ignorant is just as discriminatory as marginalising people of other ethnicities which the author claims they have all experienced or felt. Whilst the bloodied history of the past cannot be ignored or forgotten, it is no longer representative of many viewpoints towards race, white or not. Moreover, to define yourself as a separate race in the first place is to marginalise one’s self.
Morgan Freeman astutely claimed that in order to stop racism, we should stop talking about it altogether. Race and culture should be embraced in all societies; not used as a barrier or weapon. And this is what this article fails to understand. If it is to be understood that a white person cannot understand race, then this discourages any attempts to do so.
My studies of nineteenth century Iran this term would be in the author’s eyes a waste of time. For as a generic middle-class white person I couldn’t possibly understand or empathise with anyone of a different race. According to the author, race for the white person is merely a concept. This seems to suggest that white people don’t have the ability to even acknowledge its existence. I’m pretty sure that any white person who has ever checked the box ‘White Caucasian’ is pretty well aware of the existence of race. But many people of all races choose to not let this box define their entire identities. Race should be thought as part of what defines us, not the sole determinant. We shouldn’t be solely proud of our race but alternatively, just not ashamed to be of that race.
To put it simply, we should have pride in the person that we are without it instantly becoming a barrier against other people. The article argues that people of other ethnicities are still fighting for equality today but that their fate is in the hands of the ruling white majority. One of the most powerful nations of today has a black president. Worldwide decisions on an everyday basis are being made by people of all different races. People of other ethnicities therefore are indeed in positions of power and have been for quite some time. I’m not seeking to say inequality doesn’t exist but merely to show that past limitations are increasingly falling away. Reverse racism doesn’t exist but marginalisation across all races does. To stereotype a race, much like the article accomplishes, is to discriminate.
Fundamentally, we can’t always fully understand the cultures and backgrounds of other people. Naturally, our own perceptions bring a certain amount of hesitant ignorance to the table. This doesn’t mean that we are either unwilling to or cannot try to understand.