Whiteness: Uncovering the layers of white privilege.

Written by ALMA CLAIRE / Toni Adejuyigbe / Odein Princewill / Eloïse Bond Art by Sarah Dahir

We are here to educate, not irritate — Campbell Addy



oh sweet cocoon of whiteness

you have but dimmed and brightened my world

all at once:

dimmer for the songs and colours and sisters I have lost,

brighter for the chains and shame and burning hatred I have never known.

oh sweet cocoon of whiteness

you are in every book that I read where the characters look like me

until a synonym of black;

dark or coffee perhaps…

or a thousand earthy shades that are not white.

you are the beiges and pinks of lipsticks and plasters and stockings and shoes when I think of nude

– how can naked have a colour?

you are the swimming cap at school which fits perfectly on my hair, my hair that is never touched or questioned or asked to be

straightened, more presentable in nature; tamer.

you are the shampoo aisle I know is for me.

oh sweet cocoon of whiteness

you are in my worst stereotypes being bland food or stiff dance moves or my latte being basic…

not the stereotypes of my sisters being

ugly or uneducated or lazy.

i would take mine any day – oh sweet cocoon of whiteness

you are cinderella and belle and princesses that looked like me, i felt beautiful at three

you are feeling seen and reflected on the TV screen

oh sweet cocoon of whiteness

you are my mother tongue, who demands to be heard no matter what country she finds herself in:

speak my language or –

you are in my fingers that dial the police when something goes wrong, in the faith that when they come along

i will be safe…

or at least that i will not be in danger because of my race

oh sweet cocoon of whiteness

you are the blood in my veins of a thousand colonisers before me – i am riddled with shame – fine.

then i will colonise my whiteness; strip it bare and rebuild it and unlike the lands and peoples my ancestors so cruelly destroyed

and erased,

you – my whiteness – have never deserved a place;

will not rise again.

oh sweet cocoon of whiteness

i see now how you have deceived me:

you have made me tall by standing on bleeding backs my voice is loud because your hand has covered mouths. rich from robbing

earth that was not mine; leeching. powerful by oppressing and lynching

– free because strange fruit hung from trees –


but i must acknowledge that i am

tall and loud and powerful

and i refuse to deny or abandon these things in vain;

to turn away from them, to disown them, would be to spit on graves


whiteness, bear witness now:

step off bleeding backs and bow down

it is your time to listen, so close your mouth

you are all privilege and liberty and power, and fast approaching is the reckoning hour:

oh whiteness you will cocoon me no more and if that means i fall then i must fall.

not until the last fight has been won and the final war song been sung

and every beating heart and breathing lung knows freedom

will i rest.

Graphic Art by Sarah Dahir




born without melanin, my first breath in this world was free – unshackled from the pain of grandmothers in chains; ancestors


the blood of the oppressor pulsing through my veins. 

sitting in preschool colouring in reaching for peach and calling it ‘skin’ these are the ways the privilege crept in 

everywhere i looked i found reflections of me:

in the babies and barbies and books and screens

in plasters and stockings and ballet shoes that matched feet 

it was santa claus on christmas eve

in the milky complexion of imagined fairies in trees

the face of christ staring back at me as i prayed on my knees 

born without melanin, i grew up free. 

but the world is waking, the cocoon breaking, the very ground beneath us is shaking; 

too long have our black brothers and sisters been aching picking white cotton under white whips – backs breaking disenfranchised

and incarcerated by white policy making 

the revolution has come and the times are changing 

yet even now, i see you whiteness… coming to colonise: 

you come to me in the darkness of night, disguise yourself as the desire to fight you tell me the ways that you hate being white

and all it has done to deny others their rights; 

but whiteness:
you do not get to make this privilege a burden now, acting as though it is weighing you down when all along it has been your

power, your crown 

but whiteness:

you are not a victim of your race,

you cannot pretend to be ashamed of the colour of your face for when you do so you spit on thousands of graves 

but whiteness:

you cannot disown your domination or divorce yourself from authority instead use your power it to dismantle the structures



you must be ripped from the root, dug out from the soil of every system and institute weeded from the minds of each one of us

you pollute; 

let your fall be final and your destruction absolute. 

born without melanin, my first breath in this world was free – unshackled from the pain of grandmothers in chains; ancestors enslaved 

the blood of the oppressor pulsing through my veins. 

my ancestors conquered and colonised –

brutalised, ostracised, paralysed, sanitised, terrorised, traumatised 

let me harness them now:

let me conquer the racism and prejudice and ignorance within me so that at long last 

melanin can breathe free 

Graphic Art by Sarah Dahir



White. Privileged. To many, these words are almost synonymous. In a world dominated by Western values and institutions, the greatest beneficiaries are those who perpetrated its global growth. Of course these individuals have long left the Earth, but their descendants – in the most general sense, their ethnic folk – have continued to reap the fruits (however poisonous they may be) of such labour.

To understand why white privilege is such a divisive issue, a basic understanding is imperative – the caucasian race is not the most populous race globally, yet it is the most advantaged. So pervasive is the nature of such privilege that it exists even in countries where the indigenous people of that state (who make up the majority) are generally referred to as “ethnic minorities”. The effect of this is to underscore the idea of whiteness as being dominant, with other races being designated “other” status.

The best explanation of white privilege I ever saw came from no other place than Twitter, where Kaylee Clements said “white privilege does not mean you had an easy life, it means your life was not harder because of the colour of your skin”. Privilege wears different faces and cuts across all races, religions, socio-economic backgrounds and sexual orientations. Yet the defining feature of white privilege is that a white person will almost never be discriminated against because they are white. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for other races.

As with all forms of privilege, the first step to using it for good is acknowledging that it exists in the first place. White privilege is not the Lochness Monster: its existence is real and its effects are tangible. You should never feel guilty for your privilege, but you should always acknowledge it and use it to lift others higher on the ladder of success.

Graphic Art by Sarah Dahir


When the topic of colonialism and slavery is brought up, white people tend to claim, “slavery ended 154 years ago, why should I be responsible for what my ancestors did?” The answer to that is clear: until people of colour no longer have to deal with the consequences of what happened to their ancestors, white people are still accountable because we continue to benefit from a hierarchy that was put in place through: white privilege. White privilege is an issue that white people need to understand and face, it is a white person’s problem. Although it is imperative and integral that we listen to people of colour’s experiences, we should also not ask of them to repeatedly explain to us their experience or to educate us. That is a task that we must take on ourselves. You need to hold yourself responsible and ask yourself, how are you practising inclusivity?

Racism is a structure not an event, when a group’s collective prejudice is backed by institutional control. It is a system of advantage based on race, those advantages are known as white privilege. Advantages taken by whites and not enjoyed in the same context as people of colour.” – Adrienne Banfield-Jones 

I think a big part of accepting your privilege is acknowledging that it cannot stay. We cannot keep this racial divide, we cannot keep living in a world where white people have it easier because of their skin colour. White people love and adore their privilege and will do anything to keep it, even by failing to recognise that they have privilege, is a privilege in and of itself. I have heard so many excuses to ‘remain oblivious’. Some of my friends and family are so ignorant about their privilege and racist tendencies that igniting this conversation would bring up so much backlash. All the backlash I have ever heard has come from a lack of distinction between classism and racism. So many white people will confuse the term “white privilege” for economic prosperity. 

The word white privilege for some is confused to be conceptualised by class hierarchy, due to their misplacement of the word privilege. Privilege although owing to the financial betterment of one group above another should not only be restricted to this application. Instead privilege in conjunction with race, should be understood as the ability of one race to achieve certain heights without the constraints another race might meet when striving to reach the same height. White privilege can then be defined as the preferential treatment white individuals receive for the mere fact of being white which then eases the socio-economic heights these individuals can reach.


It should be noted that privilege and affluence cannot and should not be used interchangeably in this case. A common mistake of such a misuse of privilege and affluence arises in the incorrect term of black privilege. Proponents of black privilege claim that affluent black individuals are privileged on the basis of class above poorer white individuals. This claim is untrue, black privilege does not exist and given our current world order it is unlikely that it will ever exist. Instead what perhaps is to be understood and rightfully celebrated is the rise of rich and upper-middle class black individuals worldwide, with the majority of these individuals receiving this economic status by working twice as hard as their white counterparts whom for generations had been privileged on an economic basis based on their race and their exploitations of other races. This newly found group of rich and upper middle-class black individuals had neither their race to boost them nor the advantage from the exploitation of other races. As such we can agree that black individuals are affluent, but we must disagree that black individuals benefit from any form of racial privilege, there is not a single black individual that is privileged simply because privilege upon race has been firmly reserved throughout history for the white man.

Graphic Art by Sarah Dahir


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