White Skin Privilege
Although there is a recent increase in the number of non-white students that attend university in the UK, white students are more likely to attend elite universities and to continue with their postgraduate studies. This stems from the policy-driven restrictions that affect every aspect of a person of colour’s life from the moment they are born. In 2016, white men made up 70 per cent of UK university professors. Eddo-Lodge says this is ‘an indication of what universities think education looks like.’ If a white advantage and white preference is normalised throughout a person of colour’s life – even when they enter higher education – this is going to have a significant impact on how they perform in their adult lives; the qualifications a student receives during their postgraduate study will influence how they are received within the labour market.
Therefore, because minority groups are less likely to attend postgraduate studies, they are in turn less likely to succeed as well as white people in the workforce. A decrease in the probability of their success is directly influenced by the existence of white privilege and the way it impacts the dynamic of the workforce. England and Wales have an employment rate of 72.8 per cent; of those people, 74.3 per cent are white, 61 per cent are of black groups, 51 per cent are of Asian groups, and less than half are Pakistani, Bangladeshi or Arab individuals. Unemployment for all minority groups is more than double that of white groups. People of colour are more likely to be unemployed, while white people are represented in the workplace the most out of any race.
A study conducted in 2009 job applications to varying workplaces, all with common qualifications. There is evidence that individuals with white British names ‘were called to interview far more often than those with African- or Asian-sounding names.’ If the hiring process was based off of merit, there would be no room for statistics such as these. However, meritocracy has been abandoned because the people in charge do not care if a person of colour is more qualified than a white person. There is an unfair advantage that buries its roots in the structural racism that has permeated the workforce; the people who are in high-paying and high-status jobs use their privilege only to ensure their position remains. If the people in these positions – mostly white, middle-aged, educated men – are always the ones in charge, then they have the power to decide the work atmosphere and transfer their set of ideals.
A post-racial society poses an idealistic blueprint for humanity, one free of the bias and hatred that can form from the existence of race. Our current society is not post-racial. Acting as if racism doesn't exist anymore is ignorant and a way to remove people of colour from the conversation; it is a way to avoid talking about racism and continue living in a world powered by white privilege. Race may bring with it the ability to separate us as humans; however, there is importance in its existence as well. Race can be a source of identity and a way people can relate to each other. If we remove race, we are asking someone to abandon their race-identity. It is unfair to ask anyone to forget about what makes them who they are – it isn’t that simple.
Therefore, I do not think an entirely post-racial society is possible; we must try to separate what is beneficial about race and pair it with the helpful aspects of post-racial thought. Even then, it may be impossible to eliminate racism entirely, since it is so ingrained within humanity. However, that does not mean that we should stop acknowledging the issues that causes widespread racism to persist. White privilege is the root of modern-day systemic racism; it is an easy way for white people to stay in power. In order to dismantle racist institutions, one must be consistently anti-racist to avoid perpetuating the wrongful advantages of white privilege. Ignoring its existence won’t make racism magically disappear; it is through conversation that humanity will encourage anti-racist ideals. As Eddo-Lodge says, ‘it doesn’t matter what it is, as long as you’re doing something.’
Race still impacts the way humanity thinks and acts. Race should not be a deciding factor in anything that may limit the individual. Because reverse-racism does not exist, racism can sometimes be an uncomfortable conversation for white people because they do not directly experience it. The only way society can progress is to have the conversation and acknowledge the impact that racism has on humanity. Speaking about white privilege and its contribution to modern-day racism can be difficult when some white people do not acknowledge their privilege. In order to work towards an anti-racist future, white people must strive to understand their privilege and learn to use it to help minority ethnic groups. White privilege has its effect on many areas of our society, but the way it affects people of colour is through power. The people in power are overwhelmingly white and overwhelmingly men; they have the power to decide the future and wellbeing of a person of colour, whether it be their location, their education, or where they work.
White privilege directly equates to white power: a world in which white people are at the top because the majority doesn’t acknowledge it as privilege. White privilege is one of the main reasons for the perpetuation of systemic racism; acknowledging and condemning this racism will be one step towards a world more closely related to a post-racial society. If we do not acknowledge racism there will be no possibility for change. A post-racial society may not be the most realistic scenario for humanity; however, this does not mean we can’t use it as a guideline for a society that strives to better understand race and to live with equal opportunities for everyone.
Bhopal, Kalwant, White Privilege: The Myth of a Post-Racial Society (Bristol: Policy Press, 2018)
Eddo-Lodge, Reni, Why I'm No Longer Talking to White People about Race (London: Bloomsbury, 2017)
Jargowsky, Paul, The Architecture of Segregation (New York: The Century Foundation, 2015), pp. 1-16