Now that the endless humiliating monkey-dance is over, I thought it’d be instructive to examine the ways in which my white privilege made it easier than it would have been for a PoC.
We can start with my name: it’s a very white name, in all. Caitlin and Emily are my given names (taken names? I chose them, after all), and my last name is not among those which read as stereotypically belonging to a PoC. Many studies have shown the effect of applying for things with white names as opposed to names which read as belonging to a PoC: here is a link to one such, and another here from CBS that mentions Caitlin as one of the stereotypically white names.
While filling in the form, I benefit from my white privilege in easier access to post-secondary education, which shows as a tick-box (and this one will come back to make a bigger difference later!). My dialect of English (and as a native speaker) is close to the “standard” dialect hereabouts; I don’t need to code-switch or switch languages to be able to communicate in that “standard” dialect.
My education and dialect and skin colour helped me when I got to the appeals process too, because the other white people who helped me at the legal aid office will almost certainly have had their implicit biases in my favour – I’m less likely to be seen as a potential fraudster, because white supremacy teaches us that white people are more honest and trustworthy.
When I had my hearing, the day started off well when I was asked about my education history, and discovered that the person hearing the appeal had the same degree and alma mater that I did – so we bonded a little over the news, chatting about the difficulties of translation and what foreign languages we spoke. Once again my dialect’s closeness with the “standard” left me in a good place, speaking comfortably in a register that said “I’m your peer” to the tribune and the two counsels in the room – all white.
All these things have contributed to making what was a seriously unpleasant process much more pleasant than it could have been if I didn’t have that white privilege. And they’re all easily invisible to us as white people, unless we choose to see them.
Learn to recognize the ways in which white privilege makes your life easier if you’re white, and you can start to resist white supremacy. To be silent in the face of white supremacy is to uphold white supremacy.