Showing posts with label poverty. Show all posts
Showing posts with label poverty. Show all posts

Tuesday, 22 June 2021

White Privilege Is Real: A Perspective From the White Underclass

If I've read the news correctly today, the Tories are now saying the reason white, working class kids are left behind is not the government's crap leadership and total indifference to poverty; it's actually people talking about white privilege. Yes, if you've ever spoken about how black children are unfairly disadvantaged, then you are the cause of white poverty because you've made school teachers neglect white kids or something...

I know, it makes about as much sense to me as it does to you!

We are genuinely expected to believe the problem in society is school teachers and black people who dare to complain about inequality. But on the plus side, at least they're not accusing us white parents of being feckless layabouts who make bad lifestyle choices and neglect our kids to spend our Universal Credit on cigarettes and alcohol. That's not this week's narrative, but it will probably be their fall back next week when their latest BS falls flat. It's exhausting trying to keep up with all this.

Anyone else sick to death of the Tories' divide and conquer BS? Whenever we talk about tackling poverty, they tell us the poverty isn't real, yet the moment we talk about white privilege, they tell us white kids are impoverished, yet they refuse to apologise for leaving them behind.

Our government has slashed funding to youth services and closed SureStart Centres and created a punitive benefits system and lumbered working parents with low-paid jobs and won't even feed hungry school kids, unless a professional footballer publicly shames them into action. 

I can't believe those awful school teachers and woke people are letting this government neglect just happen! Won't somebody think of the white children? 

Well, the Tories certainly won't think of the white children. They don't give a crap about you, no matter what colour you are, but that doesn't change the fact, capitalism's underclass is composed of a disproportionately large number of black kids. I mean if black kids really were getting all this favouritism, they would be thriving, wouldn't they?

Now, I've seen both sides of this. I was part of the white underclass the Tories are suddenly pretending to care about and I was raised during the Thatcher/Major years when there was no imaginary woke culture. Today, I am a father of black children and I resent greatly the idea of pitting black against white to absolve the government of their crimes. Seriously, the Tories can go and fuck themselves.

My struggle was the result of Thatcherism. Plain and simple.

I still remember the embarrassment of collecting my free school meal token back in my high school days. I remember going into the school hall and laying my knock-off NUFC coat on the floor (because we didn't even have cloak rooms) and enviously looking at the kids who had the proper, official NUFC coat (not the fake which looked like it was made from a bin bag!) as I joined the back of the peasant queue. 

And I tell you what, it was a pretty worthless feeling. Even though many kids, probably a majority, were collecting their free school meals token, that feeling of having nothing, and having your poverty publicly highlighted, it affects you. It makes you feel like a lesser kind of person.

My crappy 95p token was not even enough to buy a proper meal. I used to get a cheese savoury sandwich, a tiny cup of diluted blackcurrant juice and a packet of pickled onion Space Raiders almost every day (thank God for 10p Space Raiders!) and I would still feel hungry after I'd eaten my meal. I'd spend the afternoon struggling to concentrate with lightheaded-ness, and I suspect this is one of the reasons I underperformed at school. I remember the teachers lecturing me, telling me I should do better, and as they were waving their finger in their office, one question would always come up: "Have you taken anything?"

"No, I'm just hungry and tired," I would say to myself. I didn't actually say anything to them. I just shut my mouth and stared at my shoes until they let me escape the office. And then I would return to daydreaming in the classroom and not having a clue what the teachers were saying, most of the time.

Thankfully, I was lucky. I would still find myself outperforming my peers whenever it came to test time so something was somehow sticking in, but one thing I was never able to be, was academic, and while part of that was unquestionably the way I was wired, another part was my teachers didn't understand how to relate to me, and another part was poverty.

They were other factors, of course. Things like if you always handed your homework in on time, you were called "swot" and I certainly didn't want to be the nerdy, quiet one. I wanted to be  cooler and more rebellious than I was naturally inclined to be, so yeah, peer pressure played its role too.

And, growing up in a rough council estate and attending school in an even rougher estate, just up the road from riots which made national news - the Meadow Well Riots - this certainly shapes you. 

It meant we eventually reached the point when teachers asked if we'd taken anything, we really had taken something, because we were sneaking off to our mate's house on our breaks to smoke cannabis that another mate stole from his drug dealer aunty while his uncle was in prison, and returning to class stoned to get us through the sheer monotony and the yelling from teachers. 

So, yeah, we never had any privilege, not in an obvious sense anyway, but at least we can say our skin colour was not one of the reasons we were left behind. We were judged for many things, but the colour of our skin wasn't one.

We used to walk down the old railway lines to the Silverlink retail park to check out the latest videogames on the display unit in Comet, but the moment a security guard spotted us, we'd be asked to leave because we obviously seemed like the wrong sort with our tracksuits and gelled fringes and broad accents. I remember one time we were sitting at Monument Metro Station in Newcastle and the ticket inspector arrived and marched straight past everyone else to inspect our tickets. When I asked why were singled out, the old fart called the police, and we were thrown off the Metro Station for no reason. The police were not even interested in how a bunch of 14 year olds were going to safely travel home. Later, when I was 18, I applied for a job, and when the interviewer saw my hometown on the application form, she immediately said: "Oh God, you're not from Meadow Well, are you?"

That's literally pre-judgement. Prejudice.

The point of all of this is that I know discrimination. I know what it's like to be part of the white underclass, to be trapped in poverty, to be treated unfairly, and I'm still able to appreciate that white privilege is a thing. 

Now I will confess that in my younger days, when I first heard the term "white privilege", my instinct was to say, "I'm white and I was never privileged!" It's a perfectly natural reaction when you're from a background like mine. But, of course, it's a reaction you leave behind, the moment you start listening to black people and absorbing what they have to say.

Many black kids suffered all the things I suffered, but they also suffered additional discrimination due to the colour of their skin, and they inherited an entire history of the most despicable racism which has knock-on effects to this day. Black children are much more likely to be part of my underclass than white children, and it seems weird to say that when you come from a background in which almost everyone was white, but it's unquestionably true. 

The government knows all this, of course, and they know their most logical step is to pit black against white, white against black, to stop us taking our most logical step of standing together in solidarity to conquer our real enemy: the British establishment.

Personally, I could not give less of a shit about the tribalism which so often gets attached to ethnicity because I have no interest in meaningless division. If you're from the underclass or working class or just a decent privileged person who wants to stand alongside us and fight the good fight, then you are my brother or sister. 

I have far more in common with the black person or the Muslim or the refugee or the woke middle-class leftie, then I ever will with a Tory politician. They want to divide and conquer. It's time for us to unite and conquer them.

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