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Confronting My White Privilege

Since the brutal, racist murder of George Floyd, I have been taking the time to listen, learn and reflect on the world in which we live, and more than that, look at the ways in which I can challenge my own privilege; both as an individual, and in my role as a business leader.

It has been empowering to see #BlackLivesMatter take on an even stronger voice, calling on people around the world to rise up from our collective dormancy to acknowledge and support America’s Black population and acknowledging issues locally and bringing the movement to their own countries.  There is no limit to the resources available to educate yourself on ways in which white privilege has become entrenched in all areas of our society, and the ways in which racism exists beyond the obvious. 

As a white, privileged woman, I’ve spent a significant part of my career bringing focus to – and trying to bridge the gap for –  women and mothers in business.  However, truthfully, I feel a deep sense of regret for not endeavouring to bridge the gap for our BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Colour) population in more concrete and tangible ways.

The easy explanation for this is, when you build a business and a team, you surround yourself with people who think like you; their skin-tone or ethnicity never comes into consideration.  On deeper reflection, I need to accept that saying, “I’m not a racist” but not taking a pro-active step and outspoken step is an example of my own complicity in the system that is being protested. 

This must change.  After all, I didn’t start out to become a feminist.  That happened after I realised that as a white female, my voice was going to be drowned and many times disrespected by older, white males.  The moment when my feminism fire was lit, was when I imagined my daughter being at the other end of the conversation in twenty year’s time.

This is to say that it was easier for me to identify with feminism.  As a white person, I am forced to acknowledge that I will never know what it is like to be a person of colour.  I will never need to give ‘the talk’ to my children about the right way to respond when they’re pulled over by the police. I won’t need to explain slavery or genocide as part of their family history.  

The talk I need to have with my children is entirely different.

The talk I’ll have with my children is that while we are all people of the world and see each other equally, the truth is that for many hundreds of years, the world has been designed to favour some people and punish others based on their skin colour.  The talk I’ll have with my children won’t be about how it’s “bad to be racist”, it will be about their responsibility to be “anti-racist” – to call out injustice and be part of making things right.

While I don’t want to stray far from the important topic of the Black experience in America.  I wanted to share a quick story which really sums up the different ways we see the world, that we each carry our own set of blinkers, and how important it is to recognise how racism manifests itself, so that we can come together and uplift the world’s minority populations.

One of my best friends in Sweden is Jewish, over dinner on our most recent trip to Sweden we were talking about how beautiful the old part of the city was where we were staying.  She replied, “Yes, it’s beautiful, but haven’t you seen all the swastikas in the area?”. The next day, as I strolled through the old town, I was shocked at what I saw.  There were swastikas everywhere, I simply hadn’t seen them.  My Jewish friend had seen them.

Ask yourself, what am I not seeing here?  

I am dedicated to continuing to learn and listen. To ensure we together support and bring focus to the fact that just as much as a woman’s voice matters in the boardroom, so do BIPOC voices. 

From here, I am not just going to imagine my daughter in the boardroom, but the daughters and sons of New Zealand who do not share in the same privilege that is awarded to my own children because they are white.  It is not enough to “check yourself” and pat yourself on the back for not thinking racist thoughts or using racist words – our collective and personal responsibility is far greater.

We need to say to hell with this, it must change, and we all must #BeTheChange. 

In terms of tangible action, as a family we have also donated to movements focusing on #BlackLivesMatter. I recommend canvassing the many different worthy causes and providing support where possible. We have focused on charities for young women, children as well as health for Black communities.

Books I have purchased are The Hate Race by Maxine Beneba Clarke, So You Want To Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo and This Book Is Anti-Racist by Tiffany Jewell and Aurelia Durand, to read with our almost 8-year-old. For those looking for a book suitable for younger children I recommend We Are All Equal by P. Crumble.

I’ve also been recommended a few books which will be next on my reading list including, White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo, White Privilege: Essential Readings on The Other Side of Racism by Paula Rothenberg, and How to Be Less Stupid About Race by Crystal Marie Fleming. 

I’d love to hear from you on what else I could do to help further support this cause.  

Finally, Tend Health is currently hiring for a range of roles and we are committed to ensuring we employ on a principle of diversity and inclusiveness. We’re currently looking for Doctors and Nurses around New Zealand so if you know of someone who wants to make a real difference when it comes to equity and access to healthcare in New Zealand, please get them to apply at www.tend.nz.