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White Privilege

How can we discuss white privilege with those not willing to see it?


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The Voice is the student newspaper run by internationals at KU Leuven. Between 2018 and 2022, The Voice published articles on the Veto website under the The Voice section, combined with translations of Dutch Veto articles. After 2022, the section was renamed to Veto English. Since then, the section has been operated by Veto English staff only.

By Marit Pepplinkhuizen

Opinion/Politics Section Editor

You say that you are being set apart when you are called white. I want to point out the analogy, but I do not want to lose you in the conversation already, so I wait. You say that if anyone is discriminated against these days, it is the white person. I say that white privilege is not about discrimination, but about never having been marginalized. I say it is impossible to really know what racism is like if you have not experienced it first-hand. You say that everyone makes their own life, that everyone has equal opportunities in a country like The Netherlands. I say that my black friend in high school was told that she did not master the language enough, and that she therefore had to go to the lowest level of education. I tell you that she was adopted since she was 4 weeks old. I tell you that when she said this to the head master, the head master told her that her “original language” was still inside of her. You say that a lot of immigrants do not speak Dutch well enough. I tell you that she was not an immigrant. You do not hear me. I tell you that my classmate from Suriname in primary school could not play at other kids houses, because the parents did not want “that black girl” over. I tell you the Netherlands colonized those places and that the family of “that black girl” had been slaves of white people. You say we are still benefiting from slavery. I face-palm in my head.

You say that all the prosperity we have now is due to the slavery of the past, and you infer from this that slavery is not inherently wrong in itself since it had good consequences. I want to explain how that is faulty logic, but you say “never mind”. You say people that come here have to abide to the enlightenment values. I ask you what that means, enlightenment values. You say it has to do with freedom of speech. I ask you if you have read Spinoza. You think I mispronounce spinach. You say that enlightenment values have to do with norms and values. I say that has been put on the agenda a decade ago by the Christian Democrats. You say you do not care who did it and continue that you were in complete agreement with prime minister Balkenende that we needed the VOC-mentality” back in the Netherlands. I ask you what that means, VOC-mentality. You say that it is about being a trades people and that we built this country ourselves. I ask you why you like commercialization so much. You say it is how we became rich. I ask you if you think our health care is affordable. You do not understand what that has to do with us being a rich country. You say it is only logical that a rich country asks high prices for its services.

I ask you what a government should do for its people. You say that it should be in the background and that it should let the market do its work on its own. I ask you why you like the free market. You say you like freedom. I ask you if freedom should only be for the few instead of the many. You say that freedom is for the ones who work hard. “For the ones who deserve it?” I ask. You nod. I ask you if that is not exactly what privilege is. Thinking you deserve certain things. You say you do not want to engage in this discussion anymore.

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