A white man weighs in

16 April 2019

Callum Walker opines on the Sunday discussion

This time last year I was frantically applying for every bursary possible to somehow pay for my upcoming Masters degree. I didn’t get any. Almost every bursary was for people not like me. They were looking for LGBTQIA+ people, ethnic minorities, foreign students, pretty much everyone who wasn’t a white cis man. And it’s not that I’ve never gotten bursaries. My dad is a retired bricklayer, my mum’s a teaching assistant. My university offered bursaries at an undergraduate level for people, like me, from working-class backgrounds, to help us finally get a chance to break out of that cycle of poverty and try and make something with our lives. But all of those bursaries didn’t cover me once I reached my MA.

Suddenly reaching a point in life and education where the safety net of those bursaries was dragged from underneath me was rough. It would have been easy to look at those targeted by those bursaries and ask, ‘Why not me?’, especially when only months before I was one of the lucky few who was deserving.

It was important to take a step back and ask: how did I even get onto a MA course? I have to apply, I have to interview, I have to hand in document after document with my name printed at the top. And at each of those stages it was clear that I was white. Even when I’m not face to face, my name still carries whiteness and Britishness with it wherever it’s printed. And I can guarantee that there have been times in my life where that name and my skin colour have placed me above other people. 

My whiteness has gotten me a lot in life. I think it’s fair that someone who isn’t like me gets to enjoy the same privileges as me after years of not being able to. That might feel like me losing an opportunity, but that’s not what’s happening. Bringing someone up doesn’t bring me down.

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Image credit: Beatrice Debney