By: Dante Bazard
Dear white Canadian students of the University of Prince Edward Island,
As a new semester starts, everyone is getting ready to purchase their new school gear, having those end-of-summer parties and one last soak at the beach before winter comes. These activities may be on the mind for most Canadian and returning international students, however there are new international who will be attending the university who have other concerns. Specifically, new international students of colour, not to mention white new international students, do not share some of these struggles because of systematic racism and white privilege that is still prevalent in Canada today. With that being said, as current students of the University of Prince Edward Island, we have a responsibility to make newcomers feel as comfortable as possible. White Canadians, understand and come to grips of two things; White privilege and the difference between systematic racism and discrimination.
White privilege is defined as a set of advantages and/or immunities that white people benefit from on a daily basis beyond those common to all others. White privilege can exist without white people’s conscious knowledge of its presence which helps to maintain the racial hierarchy in this country. White privilege is the reason why there are many “black schools”, “black churches” in North America. White privilege is being able to date someone without having to worry that the rest of the family may not accept you because of the colour of your skin (“dark preferably”). White privilege is being given more attention and effort by police personnel if you ever went missing, unlike the ‘aboriginal girls’ in the news. White privilege is when you sit down in a lecture that has anything to do with history, the majority of it will be Eurocentric. White privilege is being able to scroll down your Facebook page without seeing someone of your colour being unarmed and gunned down by law enforcement like an animal.
Some may argue that white privilege does not exist while standing on land that they obtained through years of genocide of an entire race, in order to create a space that mainly benefits the oppressor. I’m not here to point fingers. However, the recognition of white privilege by white people creates an area where they can facilitate this knowledge to combat racism. White privilege does not mean that the minute you’re born, and the world realizes your white, you will be given one million dollars and never have to work a day in your life. Today there are minorities who have obtained such wealth, as well as white people who live in poverty.
Due to history, systematic racism has created a society that generally benefits white people above other races. For example, in a scenario where a poor white male wearing a hoodie and a upper-class black male wearing a hoodie, there is a higher chance that he would be either randomly searched or shot by police personal while being unarmed because of the colour of his skin. This is not to say that the poor white male should be profiled because of his economic status, rather to show the disparity of a judgement solely based on race. Around authoritative figures every black male knows any sudden movements can mean life or death where as a white male don’t have to worry about such things collectively.
Systematic racism occurs when the way a society is structured systematically ends up giving advantages to some and disadvantages to others. Discrimination is the unjust or prejudicial treatment of different categories of people or things, especially on the grounds of race, age, or sex. Systematic racism further reinforces the definition of white privilege. However having white privilege does not mean that you are immediately discriminating. Certain actions and decisions you make dealing with other races may not have racist intentions, but may have racial outcomes.
For example, if you go up to a black person and state that I love black music, referring to rap, may make your token black friend feel uncomfortable. Reason being, rap is not the only genre of music originating from black culture. Unless they in return go up to you and say we love white people music when you’re listening to Calvin Harris. This also applies to persons who for example tell some from Asian background that they “ taught themselves English well” or assuming that they will not know how to speak English even though that person may be Asian-Canadian. Discrimination does not only come in the form of calling a black person the “N” or word or any other minority a racial slur. Demeaning someone’s race or culture to a stereotype is also a form of discrimination.
This article does not translate into all white people are racist, because white people also face discrimination. However, it is not possible for a white person to experience systematic racism because society has been structured to give some advantages to whites and disadvantages toward minorities. Realizing your privilege this semester can create a space to promote equality and encourage the new international students to express their culture without fear of criticism and ridicule.