In this, a true story, a long enough sentence that disappear from view, and a click-bait title luring people who dispute White Privilege to click on and read the following. I'm not sorry.
I'll start this by saying I'm not black. And by British standards, and many ethnic minority questionnaires later I also know I'm not white. Whenever something tragic in the world happens, whether it's systematic racism in the UK, or the death of a human being in the US; or millions of other examples, I'm thrown into a riptide of an identity crisis.
I'm extremely privileged.
I've had a roof over my head, a meal on the table every day of my life. I've been; almost forced, in education my entire life and I've been extremely lucky in my
career. Everything I am, everything I have, and everything I strive for was drilled into my mind by my family, my parents. An image of success was painted for me, and it's a line in the sand I'll try to cross... probably for the rest of my life.
I grew up in Africa, North Sudan - Khartoum to be specific. And there, I'm as white as they come. My entire life in The Sudan was basked in the glory of privilege, I lived in a big home, my father travelled the world for work, and we had holidays constantly. I never feared while cycling the streets of Khartoum alone and whenever I saw the police I smiled and waved.
So what is it about coming to the UK that made me always conscious of a police car on the road? Two personal experiences, many "random" checks in airports and a multitude of research into institutional racism.
My first "encounter" was when I was fresh out of University. I'd gotten a new job, been given a company car... had money for the first time ever and I was out for the night. If you know me well enough you know I don't drink, so naturally I was driving home at 12:30 AM when I was pulled over.
Fine by me, it's late, I'm young and driving, makes sense.
"Have you been Drinking, Sir?"
"Just an orange juice."
"Care to prove that with a breathalyser?"
He didn't reach for one.
"Can I see your license please?"
"Definitely" I hand him my documents.
"...Hmm, Daddy been buying us new cars has he?"
In my frustration at the comment, with my wallet already open; as I had given him my license, I pulled out a business card and explained it's a Company Car. He then returned my license, and instructed me to go home. I said good night.
The second time I was coming back from holiday. The flight was late on arrival, again, saw me driving home later at night. I noticed a police car pulling up close behind me, and before the lights started flashing - I knew what was going to happen.
"Evening sir, you're out a bit late?"
"Sorry, just coming back from the airport!"
(can't actually remember where but)
"_______, can I ask why you've stopped me?"
"Yes sure, can I see your license? A car matching yours has been described in an altercation. Your license plate is registered near Oxford... what's the car doing here?"
*Pulled a business card out...
"I work with Oxford University Press, this is a company car."
"Okay then, no worries, as I mentioned a 1 series was involved in an altercation."
"This is a Golf?"
I was instructed to go home. I said good night.
In all of this there's safety in my privilege. The privilege in knowing the police in the UK don't carry guns. The Privilege in knowing I'll give them a business card and that'll end the conversation. The Privilege in that, once they get close to the car, they'll see my skin tone, and the African face they saw in the darkness of the night doesn't seem so bad to them. And it's humiliating to write that.
What you need to understand is Privilege doesn't make you racist. It doesn't make you a part of the problem. It highlights the problem we all need to be very aware of.
The problem? Black boys in London being 8 times more likely to be stopped and searched. The chances of you being charged with possession; as opposed to being warned, increases the darker your skin goes. The chances of you being pulled over for "random" checks.
We all have a lot to do, because understanding your privilege and not being racist isn't enough. In "A Letter from Birmingham Jail", Martin Luther King Wrote:
"I must make two honest confessions to you, my Christian and Jewish brothers. First, I must confess that over the last few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro's great stumbling block in the stride toward freedom is not the White Citizens Councillor or the Ku Klux Klanner but the white moderate who is more devoted to order than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says, "I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I can't agree with your methods of direct action"; who paternalistically feels that he can set the timetable for another man's freedom; who lives by the myth of time; and who constantly advises the Negro to wait until a "more convenient season." Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection."
Say Their Names. Let them be written in History. And let us work on the future.