White privilege is not a theory, it is a praxis.

 

I came late to the party. Again. As I understand there was allot of commotion around antiracism activists this March in the Netherlands; I was busy quitting my job and helping in the campaign of woman of colour of my party at the municipal election, so the whole thing flew over my head. For what I can see, but I might be wrong, was an article of Miriyam Aouragh in socialisme.nu the trigger. Then there was apparently an social media uproar (I guess Twitter), and then Michell Esajas posted an article on his blog promoting his work and making reference to Aouraghs’ article, to which of course came a reaction this time by Jazie Veldhuyzen in Republiek Allochtonië website. 

Coincidentally at around the same time this apparent social media uproar was going on, people were experiencing within our own party, power structures that (un)consciously and (un)deliberately, excluded antiracism and decolonial discourses from the campaign mainstream output. What exactly happend is something for the party to solve internally, but the reactions that comrades got when exposing white privilege and white washing within the party, echoed in me with parts of the argumentation used in the above mentioned articles and consequent social media uproar. Maybe I didn’t came late, maybe I was just at another party… but the music was most certainly the same.

The conversation has since then moved on from white privilege argumentation, to identity politics of Black activists apparently (like as if this is really an issue). But I want to go back to the corner stone of some of argumentation’s made around white privilege. Some argue that white privilege is a theory, that it is divisive (where did I hear this before? oh yeah, from white people whenever they are confronted with their own privilege or with racism) and that it is theoretically unground. Okay so let me break it to you: white privilege is not a theory, it is a praxis. Unfortunately is western academia engulfed in (white) philosophical enlightened theory up to its chin; and I understand, that when you are trying not to academically drown, you probably still try to grasp some black activists and writers quotes on your way down; but in such a situation, you certainly do not have the time to ground your analogy into the origin of the system you apparently are trying to fight against. So bare with me, I’ll be quick.

The imperialistic system that Socialists refer to, has one single root: colonialism. Let me brake it to you: the first company in history to issue bonds and shares of the stock market was the Dutch East India Company colonial project in 1602. The first major global corporation, and influential to the rise of corporate-led globalisation in the early modern period, was that same colonial project called Dutch East India Company. As you probably are  most aware of, the whole colonial project was based in a basic praxis: maximal exploitation of resources elsewhere, including humans, and therefore the complete dehumanisation of every other ethnicity, society and culture than the white. This is the praxis upon which the colonial project develops and yes it is based on white supremacy.

Nothing new on the horizon, right? But what we often forget is that there is no such thing as a postcolonial praxis. There is allot of theory on post-colonialism and on postcolonial praxis, and even some experiments in some universities, but not in the real world. Not outside the white walls of a classroom in a colonial building that hosts the postcolonial studies department in the University of Amsterdam. The truth is that the colonial system remained intact until today the day, mainly in the so called “west”, but also in the exported epidemic corporate-led globalisation. In the Netherlands in particular, it is almost impossible to talk about race or identity; and this is exactly why this discussion is so problematic here: in this same country, race is systematically erased from any social-economic debate. Even when an attempt is made towards reanalysing the dutch colonial project, race is replaced by the “entrepreneur”  character of the dutch colonial endeavours (oh irony).

The truth is that the same racial construction and institutional racism resonates today (for this small piece I am going to focus on unemployment, but I could refer to education, poverty, healthcare, justice and so on). The fact is that while the unemployment rate for a white dutch male is 6%, the same rate is for someone with Moroccan roots 18,7% (that is more than 3 times more!), and for people with Antillean ancestors 17%, followed by people with Surinamese and Turkish ancestors 14,5% and 14,2% respectively – see CBS. Now, Houston we have a problem… not an immigration problem as some may be inclined to believe (these people have been here for decades now). This is also not a problem on the labour market that we can simply eradicate by demanding better education, demanding quotas or by fining corporations. No, I believe we have a deeper problem, namely: we live still inside a colonial system that is economically but also certainly racially constructed. Capitalism did not replace colonialism, capitalism is colonialism 2.0.

The project didn’t change, the institutions remained intact, the processes adapted to modern ages and technologies but the praxis remained precisely the same. In order to dismantle imperialism, I believe, that the task at hand is therefore to decolonize. Decolonize our society, our culture, our institutions and mainly decolonize our minds. And to begin with, we may as well begin by addressing the reality that is staring you in the eyes: white males are statistically in a richer social-economic position, have better chance to acquire education of excellence and other resources, and are statistically less vulnerable for unemployment or social exclusion. Therefore social-economically but also culturally, socially and politically white males enjoy the privilege that comes with their skin colour. That is not a theory, that is a praxis. And that praxis is called: white privilege.

Now, can we get on with our lives?

 

BS 1 No, this is not about your own silly white ass.

BS 2 If the truth is divisive, imagine the world of lies you live in.

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