The Conundrum of Privilege


I’m writing this at 6am having just come home from J’ouvert, the opening ceremony for Carnival where the route is walked widdershins very early in the morning before the main part of Carnival begins. Paint and flour are thrown at people and buildings, there’s a real sense of anarchy and misrule.  My husband and I were amongst about 5 or so White people there, and he and I were observers rather than participants. In a group of around 300 hardly anyone made eye contact with us and a few people gave off an air of restrained hostility.

It’s easy to call some of this behaviour racist. I don’t particularly enjoy Carnival, for me it’s a massive imposition on an area that has long been under-privileged – in reality it has never been Notting Hill Carnival, Notting Hill wouldn’t stand for it, this is North Kensington Carnival. North Ken was Rachman territory, and the area still has large pockets of terrible deprivation. I find the sound systems loathsome and to those people who say that it only lasts two days a year I reply that in that case I’ll invite dozens of people round to use their garden or doorstep as a toilet and play very loud music into their elderly parent’s house, but only for two days a year.

All that said, I grudgingly recognise the value of Carnival. North Ken has some of the very best community integration in the UK. We have communities from the Caribbean, the Horn of Africa and North Africa, Ireland, Spain and Portugal as well as generations of white working class families who still call Portobello ‘The Lane.’ Daddy V the owner of the iconic People’s Sounds sums the situation up well, “In our own homes we all say how we don’t like other people, but outside we all get along.’ (Peoples Sounds has been on All Saints forever, but has been omitted from shopping websites more interested in the bespoke upholstery businesses and ‘design boutiques’ that are gentrifying the entire area.)

Privilege is a convoluted and dense concept. Here’s the latest Wikipedia discussion on White Privilege:

White Privilege refers to the set of societal privileges that white people are argued to benefit from beyond those commonly experienced by people of color in the same social, political, or economic spaces (nation, community, workplace, income, etc.).[note 1] The term denotes both obvious and less obvious unspoken advantages that white individuals may not recognize they have, which distinguishes it from overt bias or prejudice.[1] These include cultural affirmations of one’s own worth; greater presumed social status; and freedom to move, buy, work, play, and speak freely.[2] The concept of white privilege also implies the right to assume the universality of one’s own experiences, marking others as different or exceptional while perceiving oneself as normal.

And here’s a link that describes Privilege as I understand it.

Counselling is profoundly White and profoundly middle and upper class. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with being the wife of a rich man and there seem to be a huge number of counsellors who fit that description. If that statement makes you feel uncomfortable or defensive I’d propose that your privilege is being tweaked. What did you just lose?


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