i just had a brief conversation with a Facebook friend that began with him writing the words, “Knowing what white privilege is…” and then asking a question.

Having learnt from some people who are really good at Questions over the last few years, i responded with one of my own:

Well i would need to know what you understand when you say that you get what it means to have white privilege – how would you define that?

He shared some of what he thought ‘white privilege’ was about and i saw what i thought was a bit of a gap in his understanding [despite him having a pretty decent rough understanding of a big part of white privilege] and so i shared some thoughts…

His response blew me away:

okay. this starts to make sense to me now.

It said to me three things:

[1] i listened and have heard what you just said

[2] i have learnt something new and have added to my existing knowledge

[3] i still am on the journey to understanding what this is all about

That is so super powerful. It may seem simple, and in some ways is… but i am used to people pushing back defensively when conversation about ‘white privilege’ happens.

One of the areas of white privilege that i see in South Africa is that we are used to setting the pace, to being the voice of leadership or direction or authority or instruction and so it will likely feel strange and uncomfortable to allow someone else to be in that place. To move to a place of listening [and the research that goes with it – it is the height of laziness to expect my black friends to educate me on how to stop being racist to them – they can help fill in the gaps once i’ve done the necessary legwork, but it requires me to invest some decent time] and hearing and hopefully understanding and also seeing things from a perspective different to my own and that i was grown up being indoctrinated by, will perhaps require a bit of intention from us.

i was very encouraged by my Facebook conversation though. If one person is thinking/responding like that, then it means more people are. There is hope for us perhaps.

i resonate completely with the “this starts to make sense to me now” although i still think i [and maybe we] are still quite far away from really getting it all AND also knowing how best to respond. Practically i mean. But i’ll take ‘getting it a little more’ today…

And in a totally unrelated piece, this profund comment from Malcolm X which is yet another helpful metaphor in terms of understanding the work to be done.

Malcolm X quote

What about you? Have you had any positive conversations like the one i described above that gave you hope? What is the first thing YOU suggest to someone who is wanting to understand their privilege more?