It is uncomfortable to come to terms with the privileges I have inherited from being white. The natural thing is for me to say something like “But Apartheid ended years ago”, because I want to believe that I’m on level pegging with people of colour. The reality is, I continue to benefit from a legacy that was built by tyrants, and people of colour continue to not. I haven’t had to learn any languages except my mother tongue, I haven’t felt pressured to change my name & surname because it’s difficult for future employers to pronounce, I have had an education that has been almost exclusively in English. The list goes on.
Whether I should feel bad about this privilege is not important, but I simply can’t ignore the racial inequality that we face as a country. The least I can do is respect that there is a lot of pain in the people who have been oppressed & it is important to not only understand that pain, but to feel it. I see & feel things through my lens of a white privileged male, and so when I see people protesting about things that don’t necessarily affect me, my natural reaction is to say that it is a waste of time. Not only that, but I feel the urge to offer my white idealistic solution, which would make me feel all smug because I clearly have the right answers. But before I comment from my place of privilege, I try to put myself in the shoes of someone who isn’t; I really try to understand the pain & frustration. The reality is I will never know what it’s truly like to feel oppressed. I certainly don’t have the answers, but I know that change starts with understanding and having compassion. I think that only once I begin to understand the pain of the oppressed, I can start to see things from a new lens. Only once I have gained the perspective of the oppressed will I be able to do or say things that might be helpful.
Special thanks to my band mate Clem Carr, for our long (sometimes uncomfortable) discussions on the balcony between studio sessions & band practices. Your personal insight concerning racial issues in our country have helped me to open my mind to things that matter.