“Except you’re a white straight man, you have a lot of hurdles and forces working against you.”

Martina Navratilova (source unknown)

Being a Straight White Middle-Class Able-Bodied Male can be like winning a lottery you didn't even know you were playing. Gina Crosley-Corcoran

I am well aware of what racism means and its damaging consequences. Lately, however, another phenomenon which unwittingly empowers racism and several social divides has come to mind and that is white privilege. Today as the Iraq inquiry report was reviewed and discussed on the media, the disastrous impact of white privilege clouding a leaders mind became obvious.  White privilege is an invisible package of unearned assets that are freely at the disposal of its beneficiary but about which he/she was "meant" to remain completely oblivious of. It is like an invisible weightless knapsack of special provisions, maps, passports, code books, visas, clothes, tools, and blank checks.(Peggy McIntosh)

McIntosh goes on to say that whites are carefully taught not to recognize white privilege, as males are taught not to recognize male privilege. To a given point the above assertion is right, educating citizens from a young age on their history whether through formal or informal is a major route of sustaining this privilege. This is not wrong, however using certain terms to describe people, events, misrepresenting certain events/people and over- emphasizing certain things more than others is a negative but not so obvious way of empowering this privilege.

White privilege refers to things that you can afford simply as a result of your birth and race, not things you earned, this includes opportunities that come your way that others may not have.

A classic example of how one event unwittingly empowers another is the current resurgence of racist comments and behavior throughout the United Kingdom. The Brexit campaign in trumping lower immigration rates as a reason to leave the EU widened the ethnic and cultural divide, bequeathing ownership privilege on one and indenture-ship on the other. In reality, the trump card should have been based on proper management and not ownership, as I believe the ancestry of the British heritage has never been in question. Most migrants are fully aware of where their roots lie and why their stems have to flourish away from it.

White privilege gives confidence to its benefactor, emboldens your choices, your opportunities and reinforces your principles as universal in themselves. It subtly blinds you to the privileges of the other party, their right to live and do as they please so long as they pose no threat to you or endanger others’ lives. White privilege in the wrong hands can be an absolute disaster as evidenced by history and more recently by the Iraq inquiry.

The absolute reasons behind the invasion of Iraq and subsequent removal of Saddam Hussein by the British and American army will perhaps remain a mystery to general society. One could argue that arrogance and blood-thirst on the part of Bush and a misguided sense of loyalty on the part of Blair lead the countries to war and you would be right. The above argument, however, takes on a different interpretation if their reactions and course of action would have changed in the face of a different enemy or country, one that shared similar privileges with the US and Great Britain.

There was something to be gained in destabilizing Iraq, there was a force to be stopped in dismissing Saddam Hussein, whatever it was had more to do with benefiting the west and less to do with saving the people of Iraq. Every country has a system that works for it; some are honestly shocking and largely dehumanizing in its execution. In order to set a new mandate, however, you must endeavor to understand the existing tenets, Saddam Hussein might have been a dictator, perhaps a thug even but he was a thug that understood how the wrangle and keep grassroots hotheads under control. In taking him out without a contingency plan an underground vault was opened and all sorts of nightmares crawled out to ravage the land. I wonder if the Iraq inquiry carried out by Sir John Chilcot would have been as extensive if so many white soldiers hadn’t died and terrorist attacks hadn’t sprung up across the globe.

Do not get me wrong this is not an article to shame or guilt-trip people who enjoy the largesse of white privilege, it is an article to increase awareness of how detrimental white privilege can be on a larger scale. People did not question Tony Blair’s decision hard enough, they did not demand answers from him, perhaps because in some way the ideology that the ‘west knows better’ did not give room for people to ask ‘better than what/whom?’ the citizens of Iraq, their leaders? Those outside the covering of white privilege are also to blame for the continued disparity; you cannot change or challenge what you have not mastered, grow confidence in your own ability, study your own society and work through it to change it, don’t just ask for help ask for specific help.

There are several divisions of privilege in society today, acknowledging their existence is very important. Should and can privileges be abolished? I do not think so and to a large extent, I would not encourage that option as it only leads to public political correctness and covert destruction. I would suggest they these various privileges should simply be constrained to ensure no one gets trampled on carelessly.

Recognizing Privilege simply means being aware that some people have to work much harder just to experience the things you take for granted (if they ever can experience them at all.) Gina Crosley-Corcoran. It also means recognizing that every other path in life (cultural, ethnic, social, political or religious path) is viable and all paths including yours are subject to improvement.

"The judgements about the severity of the threat posed by Iraq's weapons of a mass destruction - WMD - were presented with a certainty that was not justified," he said. "Despite explicit warnings, the consequences of the invasion were underestimated." Sir John Chilcot

Published by Chioma Nwafor