Protect our privilege

I’m part of a generation that basks in anarchy, whilst the society proudly regresses in a way that can sometimes feel like that the right side of history is yet to come.   

Especially when recent political voices have managed to relaunch the remaining racists in the world as ‘very fine people’ and blurred that line once again.

Institutionalised racism and the systematic oppression of minorities has always been either, glazed over or deeply underrepresented in mainstream media. Until Millennials and Gen Z decided to make the issue into a movement that actively works towards deciphering and uprooting the core principles of racism.

The premise of this movement uses education and social media as a missile, by explaining several social and political issues on Instagram through the use of a meme.

Despite this, the subject of race is still presented as a dichotomy between the powerful and oppressed. This is because the tyranny of a patriarchal bureaucracy has been normalised; we have accepted defeat and become complacent.

How are we expected to take a stance when the leaders of the free world are too busy challenging their peers to math tests and running through fields of wheat. As opposed to setting an example to impressionable minds?

It’s naive to devoid the fact that your professional success is measured and tightly woven into where you fall in an institutionalised hierarchy, that favours a particular narrative. You are at the mercy of how much privilege you were born with and how your ethnicity is perceived in mainstream Western media.

I am at the mercy of Apu, an Indian character, narrated by a white man.

Apu and his exacerbated accent were often used as a punchline in The Simpsons. The most striking thing about the character was that he was Indian and that alone was enough to define him.

Until many South Asians starting to call out The Simpsons narrative of Indian men. For example, a popular Indian comedian; Vir Das celebrated the Indian accent by saying something along the lines of ‘I could really easily pretend I have an American accent instead, but I actually want my audience to see the Indian accent as a perspective and not a punchline” 

Furthermore, I attended a literature conference a few months ago. When I arrived at the seminar room the tables were positioned into a horseshoe shape so everyone could see each other. The Seminar leader explained that the session will involve going around the class and we will take it in turns to talk about books we like, blogs we may run, creative pieces we write, among other things. 

When it was my turn to speak I mainly gushed over 20th Century European Literature and drew attention to writers like Kafka, Thomas Mann and Christa Wolf. I also mentioned some South Asian writers like Mindy Kaling and Twinkle Khanna who often rely on humour to explain contemporary and political issues within society.

As I was talking I held up a tablet to show my blog and I noticed the seminar leader taking a picture of me. I did wonder if the interface of my blog really was that impressive or whether she was just trying to make the conference come across as multi-cultural as possible when posting the event pictures on Facebook.

By the end of the seminar, it felt like my common sense was trying to hold on to my last brain cell so I could pay attention to my surroundings. But when the final person in the conference began to share their thoughts, alarm bells automatically started ringing in my head.

Initially, they spoke about writers of colour like Reni Eddo-Lodge, Rupi Kaur and Trevor Noah and shared how much she admired their work.

I have to admit, she lost me when she said that racism isn’t a real issue in mainstream media anymore and then I watched everyone in the room do a double-take.

As she continued it became apparent that she believes caucasian people don’t have an ethnicity but then implied that the colour of someone’s skin is the most interesting thing about them.

But when a white woman stands on a platform and claims she has an ‘authentic’ narrative on what it’s like to be a Person of Colour, I can’t help but think she’s setting the rest of us up for failure.

Obviously, everyone’s narrative is supposed to be different, but when you’re fighting for the same cause, are we supposed to be contradicting one another, if not, how do we weed out the frauds?

She may live in a society where some people are systematically oppressed in the educational, professional and domestic sphere but her argument makes it clear that she has never been on the receiving end of it. 

I wonder what her thoughts are on what happened in Charlottesville. Would she take it as a case study or a cautionary tale?

It’s obvious that her statement has derived from a rose-tinted view of life. But I wonder if she genuinely believes in this? But when another social issue arises, will she take off her current glasses and upgrade for a more ‘relevent one?’

If I had this option, I wonder if I would take it?


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