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  • Writer's pictureBen Westwood

My white privilege? - Everything I've been through makes sense once you learn about the slave trade.

(This is a continuation of my previous article which can be viewed by clicking here)

Something very strange yet powerful has been happening to me this week. As well as a sudden surge in energy which has made it extremely difficult to sleep another part of me has wholeheartedly enjoyed not only finding important answers in what has been a long-life quest for them, but also a validation of what I've been feeling all along. Not through the opinions of the world at large around me because still the concept of this phenomenon will go straight over some peoples heads. But I'm hoping that those that can truly understand such stigmas and discrimination will sense enough familiarity in all of this.

I'm 37 years old now, but even around the age of nineteen I can very clearly remember my frequent expressions to friends about how I often felt that I had more in common with black people and travellers than I had with a lot of other people, and yet at that time whilst saying it I didn't even truly know back then exactly why.

Whether anybody chooses to believe it or not - reality for myself feels like a non-stop series of completely baffling and tragic outcomes. Some will understand it because that's life, whilst others might suspect due to the constant conveyor-belt of dramatic and shocking results that perhaps the problem is merely completely within or that it's simply just a victimisation-fantasy.

Having been more conscious of the levels of stigma and discrimination those like myself can face particularly over the last year or so, whilst writing a book about it all it's been a constantly tough decision to review whether or not what I'm feeling and talking about is truly valid. With that comes anxieties about people saying that I'm just playing the victim. But are those like myself from backgrounds in care and homelessness really seen in a more embedded and established psychological sense as the 'negroes' of society. A second class citizen.

In my last post I mentioned how I'd come to find that people from backgrounds like my own were the among the first to be rounded up and shipped off to America as people in servitude and slavery before the first African captives were sent over.

Ironically, there had always been a theme in my life that being a former street kid on Piccadilly only the other side of the park from Buckingham Palace had indeed put me on the radar of certain mysterious entities that had operated in the world.

Of course, there's a lot to cover as to why I'd felt that and perhaps at the time like a lot of people searching for answers I'd been well off the mark.

Still though, for me personally it only sheds a spotlight on how little we understand the real way that abuse in society towards those unfamiliar to the status quo is left to flourish. But sometimes the allowing and standardising of it really can make a person feel that it's some sort of spirit or even organised structure.

People can draw all sorts of conclusions but I think the real truth is that the disregard and devaluation of people from backgrounds such as my own can be so embedded in to peoples consciousness and so standardised in society that people can label you as mad for simply questioning it exists. Once again, rather than be truly understood you'll be to be told to see a doctor or to simply be more positive and embrace what we are told is a completely free world if only you worked hard enough to achieve it.

Despite what had been theories and suspicions about what being a runaway street kid living on London's Piccadilly had really meant regarding my position in the world, largely I had tried to accept most people's view that any such suspicions were merely just that, a paranoia or trauma response. Yet every so often I'd get flashbacks of certain moments and had always wondered about protocols to clear up the west end of it's homeless or how kids from the street could be of use to anybody that simply wanted to use them. What I've also been shocked to learn is that in financial terms such white slaves or people in 'servitude' were worth around ten times less than their african counterparts, of which some historical notes mention that the currency for such white slaves had not been in cash like the people they'd deemed as 'negroes' but in ten-times the amount less worth of cotton.

This had actually led to some white slaves being documented and described in records as 'negroes' in order to gain more financial profit. Then there's also the issue of native-American's also being documented as negroes, but a part of that was simply because some had characteristics more in line with what traders had perceived as African, but a whole other story in itself.

Beneath all of that had been another theme that I'd been struggling to understand and one which I know will take many years for people to validate once I've brought it up, and that is what seems to be an AUTOMATIC disregard and a standardised sense that people from backgrounds such as myself are fair game for exploitation and being threw under the bus when it benefits anybody else. Not everyone gets it, but people like myself can really be the last ones that matter in a lot of situations which a part me presumes others aware of such stigma can familiarise with.

As mentioned in my previous article, often there can be little hope of a way out which immediately makes me question how many people are either homeless or in prison because of all of this.

I know by now that many will at this point in time disregard what I'm saying, and fortunately for me I'm sort of getting cool with that by this point, but I've learned this week that my long-term suspicious curiosities of street kids and the homeless being rounded up and being completely exploited through various means which CAN and DO involve elements within the authorities and the criminal underworld have existed and had hand-in-hand relationships in Britain since at least the 1600's.

I think it's hard to truly express how on an almost daily basis that I feel I'm told to know my place here, and exactly where that place is. Why is why I so often do my own thing. Despite wanting nothing more than a peaceful life and accepting every human as a soul, it really does feel like class-wars really do exist and happen within the deep-psychology of Britain, and that my off-the-cuff remarks decades ago about feeling less acknowledged than even those that experience racism feels more validated than ever now. Coincidently, upon researching the topic of English child slaves being amongst the first to be sent to Jamestown along with Irish, vagabonds and local convicts, I came to find that the majority of people covering the unspoken roots of the slave trade on Youtube were not white British or American's that had a bee in their bonnet about the narrative of historical slavery, but instead had been what I'd say were around 75% people from afro-Caribbean, African and native American backgrounds.

However bitter this may sound - perhaps there is a deeper reason why they are willing to accept and acknowledge the story more than many of those that haven't felt a reason to look too deep into it.

I'm proposing that the embedded ethos within society about people such as myself 'knowing our place', which is deemed as substandard, can be so deep-rooted that it takes some thought and realisation to actually spot. Yet it's all there happening everyday both in obvious plain sight and in the subtleties of the moment to many people, but it just simply isn't spoken about enough or acknowledged.

As I look at my own life, I can only sympathise and familiarise with those that were deemed worthy of being the scapegoat simply because they were seen as different. And what does being different actually mean in a society that gives better treatment to predators than it does to anybody else that doesn't fit the colonial template version of a cog in their machine.

These recent revelations have even highlighted and translated things that can happen to you as a busker, in which the treatment that can sometimes be received again may have it's roots from hundreds of years ago when many roaming and travelling people such as entertainers were seen as scourges to the city streets and people that were fair game to be used and exploited by the ruling classes.

Of course, along with the forgotten history of slavery comes the forgotten history of it's so-called end. It's important to remember that although slavery had been officially abolished in 1807, like any business operating under grey-areas of the law these things simply don't just pop up and shut down overnight and perhaps it wouldn't be too far fetched to say that it's predatory essence simply went underground.

We all know that slavery in the world hasn't ended, but in regards to the mentality that enables it's spirit perhaps in the grand scheme of things it might be important to question if two hundred years is a long time really at all. Does this colonial influence that treated such people with such disregard for centuries, as well as around the world in other forms for thousands of years just simply disappear at the flick of a switch?

I also firmly believe that one of the major components that enables it is the search for an excuse, a difference and a sense of unfamiliarity. Not only in this part of the world, but across the board which is why this phenomenon can and does happen to people like myself. So before some of you might be quick to instantly dismiss a person's sense of experiencing stigma and discrimination and how it effects their whole sense of life, it might be good to ask if the world ever really wants to accept that its even there. Peace.

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