Who determines what I pass for? Who determines what privilege I am granted? I have the privilege of light skin, and I agknowlege that. I also hate my skin. I have bleached my skin. I am chronically ill. When I do pass for white, I am aware of that privilege. But it is not a constant passing. My NDN friends are the only ones who have not tried to label me, but everyone else either labels me as Asian, mixed with Asian, says I “look strange” or forces my whiteness. Not saying it doesn’t exist, but here at a very social-justicey college I get told that I will NEVER be a POC and have only experienced white privilege. I would love to understand where they come from, but this is the first time I’ve actually been seen and treated as white-and in a BAD way, too. I was a token minority in a white upper middle class school in the suburb, bussed in from the inner city to fulfill diversity quotas-and if it wasn’t teachers accusing me of stealing, having to do with any drug trade on campus or asking me to give presentations on broken homes (admittedly, mine was) or how NDNs make great money from casinos-etc etc, I was getting beat up by kids and kicked out of public buildings on the pretense of “looking suspicious”. Now, at college, I’m accused of cutting, straightening and dying my hair in order to “conform” to white aspects of beauty. GOD, what do you people WANT? Growing up, I would have KILLED to be white. Now, it’s the only thing people see me as, and want me to see myself as.
I am not denying that, at times, I have benefited from my light skin or occasionally passing as white. I am, however, hesitant to say that I have consistently benefited from white privilege, simply because i’m confused. In public, people don’t treat me as white. More often than anything, I get “do you speak chinese” or “excuse me, where are you from?” from people on the street. Is passing and privilege a constant? I’ve looked at the handy checklist and found myself lost. Should I have had these experiences? Am I wrong? Light skinned, yes. I understand that. Can I blend in more if I tried? Yes, and I try to understand the privilege that comes with that. But if you are part white, and only occasionally pass-do you have privilege in just that moment, or forever-and EVERYTHING on the checklist?
I don’t know. I’m sorry if I’ve offended anyone with this, I’m just confused.
[just a little thing I threw together a few weeks after ago after feeling incredibly frustrated… it’s not worth much at all, but it’s something i’m so tired of.]
I’m half white on my mother’s side. My father is Chinese and Mediterranean. When I was a kid, I looked distinctly of Chinese heritage. When I hit puberty, things changed. I still have hair identical to my Chinese friends, in texture and colour. Yet my skin, my skin has never been the same colour 2 years in a row.
Naturally in the sun, my skin darkens even more and goes a warm golden brown. In the cold winter months, my skin is paler, but never white. Yellow? Yes. Red and cracked in places? Yes. But there is always that tinge: that line of colour I observe when I balance my hand flat in front of me that separates the dark top of my hand from the pale palm underside. No matter where I go, that line stays put. It’s my little reminder that my tan will always be a part of me. I’m proud of my colour.
I recognise however that particularly in Winter (isn’t it interesting how racism toward mixed folk can alter with the seasons?), I have white-passing privilege. I acknowledge it, I suck it up and I take perspective from it. What I hate about it though, is that I never know when it’s going to make an appearance or manifest itself.
Just days ago, I had been complaining to my friend about some racist comments directed at me at my work. My friend kept repeating “but you’re just WHITE to me! You LOOK white!” (thus making my complaints feel completely undermined and unnecessary to her). I didn’t have the energy to get into why I hate it when people say that, but I knew what she was trying to communicate. During the conversation, another friend sat down and he was just listening in. Upon hearing my friend say again “god I can’t believe that, I mean I think you look white”, he turned to me in astonishment.
“You’re WHITE?” he asked, mouth agape.
Unsurprised, I began “No I’m-“
He held his hand up, still in shock and said, “Oh my god, I honestly thought you were like, Indian.”
His ignorance floors me.
The familiar tired feeling washed over me as I looked at the two people in front of me. Both white, both come from the same school, attending the same university, come from almost identical backgrounds. Yet when they look at me, they see two completely different ethnicities. Of which I am neither.
I will never not acknowledge that in terms of racism, I have a less bumpier ride than darker-skinned poc in certain spheres. But I will forever resent that as a mixed person, both my white passing privilege and recognition of my heritage intrinsically boil down to the views (on stereotypes, how ignorant they are etc.) of the person I’m communicating with. I just never know which one it’s going to be. I find myself wondering, “will my skin be the source of privilege today, or will it disadvantage me?”. And after nearly two decades, it’s a burdening, exhausting question to ask.
My baby brother is white passing. My family and I tease him and call him the white boy of the family.
Now just like my older brother and I, he’s half armenian and half el salvadorian but Josh (my older brother) and I are definitely darker than he is.
I think being the lightest skinned one in my family gave Michael a lot of dissonance. I remember when he was about ten years old he rejected his identity completely and would tell people that he was white. This struck my entire family funny and we would always ask him why he told people he was white and he would just say, “Because I am.”
Now he’s 16 and when asked his ethnicity he’ll say he’s Armenian. Never including that he’s half El Salvadorian. To my mother this was like a slap across the face.
Once it was unveiled that my little brother rejected his Salvadoran half we realized that the pressures of living in the anti-latin@ climate of southern California forced him to pretend he was something he’s not and we don’t know how to reverse this. I fear my brother will always deny his latin american heritage.
Has anyone else had experiences like this? Whether it be a personal experience or tensions within your family?
I’d love to hear your story and your successes or struggles.
I’m bi-racial (black/white.) But I have an interesting story thats been told within my family that relates to what you posted. My great great great (idk how many greats lol) grandfather on my African American side was a slave of a white women in Georgia during slavery but they were secretly married. They lived far outside of town and when they came into town he would have to walk behind her and act as her slave. We aren’t 100% sure how they hid their children (they obviously had some because I’m here lol). But it’s a cool story.
I’m super glad that we’re getting responses to recent posts! But, unlike recent posts, I am posting them gradually so that they each get the attention that they deserve. Also, I don’t want to spam people. (Well, I don’t want to spam people more than they’ve already been spammed!) So there will be no new posts for now, but I will be posting them over time.
Thanks again for responding, guys!
Anonymous asked: Just because your parents have one heritage, doesn't mean you do. I'm so tired of fully white people with one Latin@ grandparent using that as an excuse. You don't speak Spanish, you've never been outside the US and you're swimming in privilege. Stop. Please stop.
I (usakeh) don’t like policing identities, and I don’t think that that’s what this blog should be doing. That said, I can sympathize with what you’re expressing. After a certain point, it seems rather ridiculous when people make certain claims. (For instance, the essentially 100% white people who are all, “I’m 1/16th Cherokee!”) But we have to carefully keep balance between accepting people as they see themselves (i.e. not policing identities) and being skeptical when people present themselves in ways that don’t seem quite right, wouldn’t you say? It’s no easy task, to be sure. I’ve found this answer difficult to write, for one. But I think that it’s one we have to undertake nonetheless.
Anonymous asked: I'm so tired of white passing mixed race people denying their white privilege. :( No, stop. Just because you're mixed, doesn't mean you're exempt from things.
This is a very fair point. I (usakeh) am white passing and therefore do have white privilege; I try to include this in every discussion of race I have online. If I ever slip up, please do call me out on it! So, yes, I agree. I think that it is exceedingly important for white passing mixed race people to acknowledge their privilege, especially in online discussions, where said passing privilege is not necessarily evident.
Edited to Add: It’s irishthanhy here. Wanting to say that I am also white passing (though many people think I’m Latina which seems to be a very common hapa problem) and have always acknowledged my white passing privilege. When I first received this message (before I gained a co-moderator) I was baffled. I personally have never experienced anyone who is white-passing denying that privilege. I first found my co-moderator, usakeh, through a lovely post she wrote about white passing which I may queue for a re-reblog. I’m very grateful that she’s come on board to answer this and the other (possibly related) anonymous message.
nzdza-deactivated20131201 asked: I thought I'd send something so here it goes: I get a lot of crap for being Mexican and Moroccan. I get to deal with illegal immigrant jokes and for some reason i get this a lot, "lolzzz can I call you 'taco'?" Also for being Moroccan (a lot of us are Muslim) I get Taliban, Osama bin Laden and terrorist jokes. That's the thing that I have the most problem with being biracial. Other than that I love being Mexican and Moroccan c:
I (usakeh) am sorry to hear about the teasing that you get for being Mexican and Moroccan. People can be so ridiculous about these matters, not to mention immature. But I’m glad that, other than this, you love being biracial. It’s not easy to love being biracial, sometimes. So, seriously, kudos to you for that, and thank you for contributing to the blog!