Jamal Khashoggi’s borrowed white privilege made his murder count
The journalist’s western links made him the focus of world attention. Perhaps other Middle Eastern dissidents will benefit
By Khalid Albaih
Coming from Sudan, a country that is both located in Africa and part of the Middle East, I carry the baggage of one of the most “complicated” areas in the world. That’s according to the western narrative – as if the west were not one of the main complicating factors in the region.
But most of the people I know back home can perceive white privilege and agree with that mentality. When they see what has become of our region post colonialism, they take on the western narrative too. In addition to the everyday bragging from the older generation about how things were better back then, and how working for the khawaja (in that context, white man) was better, I remember an article widely circulated on WhatsApp that openly called for the British to come back and save us from ourselves. It argued that the most functioning structures in postcolonial societies are the ones that were erected during colonialism.
With the help of the prosperity it has hoarded from its gruesome past, two world wars and providing its citizens with a whitewashed version of history, blinding them to western states’ manipulation of “third world countries” and support of authoritarian governments, the postcolonial west was able to rebuild its idea of itself as the self-righteous protector of human rights, free speech and democracy. I believe this is one of the main reasons for the rise of young white nationalists who imagine that the white race is superior because it has singlehandedly made the world a better place, while everyone else is trying to steal some of its hard-earned civilisation.
Long before the refugee “crisis” that swept Europe after the Arab spring (challenging its self-righteous self-image), most artists, intellectuals, free thinkers, opposition leaders and journalists from the “third world” had, like me, headed west, not only for education but for protection. To be protected by white privilege, even if it’s just by association. And this has only served to further the west’s white saviour mentality.
So most of us end up living between a rock and a hard place. Do we stay at home to be threatened by authoritarian regimes and not have full independence and freedom? Or do we try to get to the west to be free, but become a poster child for how good the west is (even though it supports the very authoritarian regimes that suppress us, by selling weapons and more)?
The extent of the power of white privilege, even if only by association, came as a surprise to most world leaders, including Donald Trump, who were pressed into taking action following the murder of the Saudi Washington Post journalist “who is not even an American citizen”, as Trump said during a press conference.
While the Saudi regime imprisons thousands of nameless dissidents and kills millions in Yemen, the whole world knew of one name, Jamal Khashoggi. That is his association with white privilege in action. There are thousands of Khashoggis out there – working, dying – but none will count like he did. But what the focus on him did achieve, thanks to his associated white privilege, is to help bring all of their stories to the surface.
Khalid Albaih is a Sudanese artist and cartoonist living in Denmark