‘We need to act against white privilege and the systems that keep white people racist’

In a press statement, Dean Hutton addresses their recent #FuckWhitePeople court victory and reminds white South Africans that belonging is earned, not stolen.

I’d like to congratulate the workers and leadership of the Iziko National Gallery, and their attorneys for their landmark court victory against the Cake Party this week.

And to chief magistrate D.M. Thulare for this positive ruling and for the thought that went into the judgment. My work is one amplification of the words and intellectual labour of black people who have been critiquing white people’s actions for hundreds of years.

I’d like to thank everyone who has helped near and far, to those who have expressed support. I’m grateful to the critics of this project. I will continue to unlearn. I’m trying to do the work of understanding my relationship to power.

I’d like to ask people who are having difficulties with understanding what the role of art is in a functional democracy to take a breath, and ask themselves, “What if I address that feeling, that emotional reaction that I had on first seeing this work of art… what then must it be like to live with this for hundreds of years, generation after generation?” We can’t answer this question because we white people will never know the depth of that pain. But we can respect it. I think we must know what it is, but also have to recognise that it will only ever be a translated experience.

And then once we move on from how we feel, to apply ourselves to understanding that this is the lived reality of the majority of a world that has been interrupted by white supremacy; and the continued repercussions of slavery, colonialism, imperialism and neoliberalism. That there is a way in which something affects where you live, your safety, what you eat, educational opportunities and what access you have to human dignities. It also affects how you see yourself, how you are able to provide for your family and whether your life is valued.

We are uncomfortable because we are realising we can no longer hide in white privilege. It’s time to apply our imagination to solutions instead of feeding our worst fears. Belonging is earned and not stolen. We’re shifting into a world where we need to acknowledge the inherent violences of this system. Many people are contributing to spaces of social justice. Not just for their benefit but for people who continue to live lives directly affected by poverty and inequality. This is not an exercise in empathy. We must do this because the time is now.

These are the realities of a world created and sustained by whiteness and Western cultural imperialism and the appropriation of the the intellectual and physical labour of black and brown people. Capitalism is failing and so must the systems that exploit all of us. When did we stop being conscious of our impact, not only on our individual realities but this shared delusion that capitalism is a kind system? Capitalism’s role in the very particular mass theft and trade of human beings. The creation of a race construct which advantaged us at the complete dehumanisation of the other?

When did working class white people think they had more in common with the landed gentry of Europe than the people who were sharing their circumstances here? Why is the face of whiteness middle and upper class? We should consider that the indoctrination of children into white supremacy is a form of child abuse.

We have become too comfortable with ignorance, of not only ourselves but in the giving away of agency to politicians, something we slowly grew accustomed to during the plunder of the natural resources of this country since we landed in 1652. The sum of our knowledge is largely appropriated from societies who are considered “non-white”. Even this phrase is a tool for erasing the humxnity of black and brown people. This attitude of superiority continues to tie us to systems of oppression irrespective of whether we can acknowledge that we all directly and indirectly financially benefit.

It is an opportunity not a sentence. We can choose to act or be acted though. We need to listen, and we need to act against white privilege and the systems that keep white people racist. And we need to self-reflect on our complicities and not become paralysed. People are working at making this a fairer and more just society. It’s time we started contributing with direct action in our communities.

Please stop trying to make reverse racism happen.

prejudice + power = racism
racism = prejudice + power
reverse OF racism = respect + dignity = Justice
Justice > Feelings
‘reverse racism’ ≠ racism

It’s time to move beyond our perceived victimhood. Some conversations are harder than others but are never served by silence. Let’s have creative solutions.

It is unfortunate that this work, which was only one small part of a larger exhibition, detracted attention from the excellent work by black artists. It’s another living example of white privilege.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect The Daily Vox’s editorial policy.

This press statement was originally released on Dean Hutton’s blog.

Featured image via Ra’eesa Pather