Race and Ethnicity

Why is belonging to the ‘right’ racial and/or ethnic group seen as a privilege?
Race is a social construct used to categorise people who seemingly share observable biological/ physical traits (skin colour, hair, facial bone structure) that a society deems important, thereby serving specific functions at any given time. Ethnicities are divisions based on cultural traits (language, religion, tradition) that a society finds important. An ethnic group is one that has a shared cultural heritage.

The ‘right’ racial, ethnic group or culture – i.e. majority or dominant

Depending on the situation, and location, belonging to the ‘right’ ethnic and/or racial group means having greater levels of acceptance and access to opportunities.

If you are part of the majority culture, such as a white person in a Western society, you will be awarded privileges as the dominant culture. This is not to say that being of the dominant culture means that your life hasn’t been difficult but it isn’t made more challenging because of your race and/or ethnicity.

We often say or hear the term ‘racism’, but rarely do we talk about anti-ethnic behaviour, but it’s important to address both separately because both race and ethnicity play a role in how people are perceived and therefore the opportunities that are available to them.

What is your privilege?

  • When people ask me where I’m from and I tell them my nationality, they don’t follow up with the question with ‘where are you originally from?’
  • I can walk into any store or supermarket and find products that were made for me such as nude plasters matching my skin colour and hair care products that suit my hair type
  • My race and/or ethnicity is not put together with several other groups with little, or no relevance or connection. For example, Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) or Under Represented Group (URG).

The stats don’t lie

  • In the UK, BAME workers are paid around £3.2bn less than their white counterparts every year (Gender Pay Gap Campaign, 2018)
  • Exclusion rates for racism in primary schools have increased by 40% in just over a decade (BBC News analysis, 2020)
  • At 82%, race is the most commonly recorded motivation for hate crime in England and Wales (Equality & Human Rights Commission, 2016)
  • Black African women had a mortality rate four times higher than White women in the UK (Equality and Human Rights Commission – Divided Britain)
  • In the tech industry, white people on average make $136,000 a year, which is about $6,000 more than black people with the same level of expertise. It also turns out white tech workers ask for more money, according to Hired’s data.
  • Black people in the US have been 28% of those killed by police since 2013 despite being only 13% of population.

What to do next?

Working towards creating a more equal society and workplace starts with recognising the ways we are privileged. Belonging to the ‘right’ race and ethnicity is beneficial in society. If you’re interested in starting a journey to overhaul this imbalance then join the Privilege Project today.

Watch the recorded session on Race & Ethnicity privilege from our launch event.