I recently attended a lecture on ‘White Privilege’ given by the distinguished academic Dr Nicola Rollock. Part of the lecture involved showing a video entitled ‘The Race of Life’, where a mixture of black and white contestants take part in a race to win 100 dollars.
The race is supposed to be symbolic of life. In other words, it aims to highlight the unequal playing field in life in which white people are given a head start over black people. This head start is otherwise referred to as ‘white privilege’. After the lecture, I tried to think about my own experience of ‘white privilege, and in talking about this I suspect that a lot of black girls reading this will be able to relate. At times, my hairstyles have been met with constant fascination in which people have been obsessed with its complexity and the duration of completing it. Rollock argues that these incidents are examples of racism in its most subtle terms, which seek to remind people of colour that they are judged to be different. According to Rollock, they act as a key marker of the continuing power and prevalence of white privilege by continuing to wound, constrain and denigrate the validity of the presence of persons of colour.
Being the only black girl in most of my seminars and lectures intensifies the alienation I feel when people (mostly white) make comments about my hairstyles. I sometimes question whether I belong here or ask the questions: do I come from a different world? Why can’t I be like everybody else? Why me all the time? I just feel that I am weird because people are only commenting about my hair and not anybody else’s. Although it may be the case that those making comments about my hair (some of whom are my friends) do not intend to offend me, but unfortunately their comments do make me seem as an outlier. Having this experience has made me understand that ‘white privilege’ is far from being abstract. It really is an everyday experience confronting black people in almost every aspect of their lives, even in the most trivial as demonstrated in my hair example.
To see ‘The Race of Life’ video, please click on the following link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FBQx8FmOT_0