A Letter To My Sisters: That Is The Way Things Are

Part of this is cultural reflection, part of it is an honest call for open admission of white privilege which is, in my opinion, the only way forward towards change. xo

Dear Sisters,

It’s time to talk about the privilege of white women in Australia when dating or sleeping with men of colour.

There are few stories in the world as devastating as that of the utter chasm between Australian of European descent and the First Peoples who have lived here for likely hundreds of thousands of years. Each time that I think about First Contact and the sheer chaos and misery that descended on the world I am floored with the shame of it.

My family is of Caucasian appearance and relatively recent immigration to Australia (around 50 years ago), so none of my ancestors directly were involved in the atrocities, but the knowledge that I benefit from privilege gained in monstrous ways because of the colour of my skin is something I am not comfortable with.

The way that men of colour in Australia are treated when they are in relationships with white women is something that I would like to particularly identify as problematic. There is a cultural inhibition, a particular kind of judgement, that is often offered to such pairings. And while there is no doubt a misogynistic element to this vis a vis seeing women as the property of their race of men, there is a deeply held cultural taboo against mixed-race relationships based purely on racial grounds as well.

White people in Australia instinctively react negatively to white women dating men of colour, regardless of gender. This cultural taboo means that white women may not be as supported by their family, colleagues and friends when in a relationship or discouraged from entering into such a relationship. There can be distrust and hesitation on both sides as well due to the historical truth that men of colour have literally been murdered for sleeping with a white woman.

I think one of the most brutal truths I’ve come to realise through all the learnings and teaching I’ve had through all my years in university is that most people don’t think too much about their own privilege. As a white woman though, it is strange to me to see men who are physically much stronger and larger than me look at me with fear and be so cautious around me. I am often a little confused for a while, then I remember how many men of colour have been blamed and victimized and I realise it’s me. To have people scared of me, because of the colour of my skin, is frightening to me too.

When I identify this, a phrase I often hear is this: “That isn’t the way things are.” Which I think is just gaslighting on a cultural scale. It is the way things are. Caucasian people are privileged, and even though it may present in different ways for different people, I find the vagueness of saying that casual racism doesn’t happen very confronting. It feels to me like cowardice, to not acknowledge the truth of yourself and your experience. It’s important to identify that you have been more fortunate than someone else, because that is the only way to start changing the system.

Racism is alive and well in Australian society and I benefit from it as a white woman – that is the way things are. While misogyny overall is definitely also a large issue, white women are both benefitting from and being devalued by a system that thinks about the colour of a man’s skin – not the truth of his heart.


Marie Athena

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