Hi. I am Chiara, and you may know me as a journalist for Urban Kapital. I am white, (quite pale actually). As a white girl, during these last few weeks I have been asked by several friends what was my “white response” as a way to stand against racism that - only now - looks so important to everyone.
I have not joined any “black lives matter” protests, nor any online campaign. Yet, the protests that are taking place around the world for me are not just news that I simply report. I want to clarify that I am by no means an expert on racial studies, nor psychology, and I also recognize that the answer to questioning white privilege and taking an explicit position about this matter can be widely subjective. I believe that what is going on right now is more of a side effect of a deeply rooted and forgotten problem. Unfortunately, the only thing that has changed within the murders of black people by the police within so many years is only the name of the victim being brutally killed. But are protests the solution? Is forcing and encouraging white people to take a forceful stand the key to solve the issue? I will tell you what my efforts to advance a new approach to the problem has been and will continue to be.
My concrete journey to take a stand against what they call ‘white privilege’ started from questioning. Questioning what is going on around the world, why we have certain problematics, if I still want to live this way, if words such as ‘diversity’ and ‘multiculturalism’ have ever been put into action. From questioning, education is born. Studying, reading, researching, are some of the practical things to be able to give ‘ethnic diversity’ a shape. Educating myself, along with all the resources and opportunity the system offered me -that, yes, I and other white people have always taken for granted- the journey to become an ally for everyone, no matter what their skin colour is, no matter what their past has been like, just an ally to make a change. This journey is called Urban Kapital. When I started down this path, I didn’t know where to begin. I also wasn’t sure what role was even appropriate for me to play. It has been a path that has, at times, led to more questions than answers. But again, the realisation of having certain ‘white privileges’ and the power to do something about it have always started with questioning.
I recognize the word ‘privilege’ can make some people feel uncomfortable. However, as a white person studying in the UK, I only realised when I got in touch with what is diverse from me that I was benefitting from a certain level of privilege, such as not having to fear for my life when I interact with the police, or that my very cultural Italian name is less likely to influence whether I am given the opportunity to interview for certain jobs. I am privileged because assumptions and opinions about my skin colour are, absurdly, not based on the colour of my skin. I have never realised that my skin colour is regarded more highly than one’s educational background and prior work experience until I had someone who made me realise this. And this friend made me realise this because I chose to step outside the white comfort zone the elitist institutions want us to live in.
Interestingly, the term “White privilege” is explained by a Teaching Tolerance article this way: “White privilege is […] also the power to remain silent in the face of racial inequity. It’s the power to weigh the need for protest or confrontation against the discomfort or inconvenience of speaking up. It’s getting to choose when and where you want to take a stand. It’s knowing that you and your humanity are safe.”
I am challenging this because it is not true. You don’t choose to take a stand based on your skin colour. You choose to take a stand as a human being. Humans are the only animals that create weapons to destroy other humans. A dog will never conspire against another dog. And I am saying this because in this delicate moment, a white person should not be acting only because they are white. But because they are human. The colour of someone’s skin is simply an excuse to blame someone else for not acting. But should the white population be blamed for not acting, or should the elitist white authorities be blamed for having always “forgotten” that such problems remain unsolved? And again, are these seemingly chaotic protests the solution? Or perhaps as intelligent human beings we have the possibility to demand reforms, to change the institutions, to fill the diversity gap in the financial, media, educational, health care systems?
It is important to become aware of the fact that inequality is deeply entrenched throughout our systems, and these systems operate to make white people feel privileged against someone else. But for me, reporting, working, appreciating, and supporting ethnic diversity by “just” working for Urban Kapital - instead of walking the streets crashing my fellow citizens’ shops with panels saying ‘black lives matter’- does not mean being silent. Not joining a protest does not mean neglecting what is going on. I absolutely do care, and I show this every single morning that I wake up before people start working to prepare articles to show the world that there are stunning, empowering, inspirational stories that need to be heard. This is my contribution, but why am I questioned to be a white privileged daddy’s girl who chooses to remain silent in front of the murders of African Americans?
Perhaps the question is more: how do we want to see the change taking place? How do we want to approach racial discrimination? To me, it seems more important that we have a specific model in mind to take forward the change we want to achieve.
But I genuinely believe that to change the discriminatory systems we are in, we must consciously choose to take smart and effective action. Action doesn’t equal violence. Action sometimes only means living your day spreading awareness, kindness, inclusivity, equality with your neighbour, with the person who walks next to you on the sidewalk, with the cashier who gives you the change at the shop.
By proactively working to recognize the biases that the institutions choose to make us internalise, we can be more conscious about the decisions we make. And for this reason, I am writing this article totally open to learn and share views and ideas about this. But even when doing it, we have a choice to make. How to share our views after a controversial - perhaps completely different - point of view? Ripping down statues? Trying to erase our past pretending the colonisers have never existed? That’s not what I believe in. I am more leaning to talk more about those colonisers to understand history and to make sure history does not repeat itself. The only way not to make the same mistake is not acting as if it has never happened. But embracing it, with grief if it is the case, but to learn from it and to move forward to embrace change this time. Now I pass you the ball. What do you think?