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White Boy Privilege

by PeakCare Qld on 21st July 2016

Home -> Articles -> 2016 -> July -> White Boy Privilege
Do yourself a favour! Watch White Boy Privilege for the best and most powerful description of ‘white privilege’ that PeakCare has ever come across. ‘White Boy Privilege’ is a poem written by a 14 year old boy. His recital of the poem has now gone viral on YouTube.

It’s very clear to PeakCare that in whatever planning is undertaken to address the disproportionate representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and families in the child protection system, our goals will not be achieved if the notion (and reality!) of ‘white privilege’ is not fully enmeshed within the strategies that are developed. A failure to do so will result in the perpetuation of a confused ‘problematising’ of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and their cultures in place of properly recognising and addressing the social disadvantages and discriminatory treatment they experience as the artefacts of a dominant white culture including the residual impact of colonisation. It’s very clear that in the development of these plans, we cannot simply (and often very offensively!) shine a spotlight on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples without also directing that spotlight on the culture, values, attitudes and behaviours of non-Indigenous Australians and, within this context, that means the culture, values, attitudes and behaviours of all non-Indigenous policy-makers, service providers and decision-makers involved at all points of the child protection system.

Representatives of non-indigenous government and non-government organisations cannot – MUST NOT – presume that they are qualified or able to speak to the hopes and aspirations held by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and families in respect of their children – that is for them to decide. There are however both professional and moral obligations held by non-Indigenous organisations – government and non-government – to openly and honestly reflect on and own our responsibility for the impact we have had and continue to have as members of a dominant white culture on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, families and communities. It is a furphy to think that any non-Indigenous organisation or persons working for that organisation can ever claim to be culturally aware if each one of those persons is not ‘self-aware’ – aware of our own ‘white culture’, what our membership of that culture has meant to the shaping of our values and beliefs and how these play out in our relationships and encounters with others, how others who are not members of the dominant white culture experience their dealings with us. Without that self-awareness we will be unable to approach anything that looks remotely like cultural ‘competence’.

Without wishing to diminish in any way the legacy of past government policies that actively pursued the eradication of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander races, this young man’s poem also highlights the suffering too often experienced by other groups – those who have culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, women, all others who are not the beneficiaries of ‘white boy privilege’.

If you happen to find some of the language used within the poem a little shocking, try reading the comments entered in response to the video – the words you will read there are the ones that are truly disgusting! Is there any reason to think that the views reflected within many of these comments differ markedly from those held by far too many Australians? Hopefully ‘Yes’, but probably, and very sadly, ‘No’. In a perverse way however, these comments confirm the messages conveyed by the poem. The irony is that as bad as these comments are, they can also serve to motivate us in as powerful a way as this young man’s poem can be drawn on as a source of inspiration.
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