I’m just going to be real with you, white America, y’all don’t seem very comfortable with being called what you are: white.
I get it. Being white in this country is the default, so you never have to think about yourself in terms of race. You just are.
For POCs, it’s the opposite. Race is intertwined in every interaction, all day, every day, until the day we die. Just think about the word race for a moment. What are you picturing? Black folks. Hispanic folks. Asian folks. Indigenous folks. Non-white folks.
Why is that, you ask? Because white is the default. The standard. The norm.
The only time we notice race is when people are not white. That’s the foundation upon which systemic racism has managed to flourish for hundreds of years in this country. And it’s why you get so damned itchy when a POC calls you white.
Recently, an Asian friend of mine posted something on Facebook about an incident involving a lot of racist bullshit when she was just trying to enjoy herself one evening. She included an article that explained Asian fetishization and white supremacy (which she absolutely did not have to do, but POCs are forever hoping they’ll be able to educate, even when they are the ones constantly barraged with inappropriate and racist crap). I read the article and, as is my way because I am Queen Word Nerd, I quoted a particularly moving sentence that started along the lines of: ‘The confusion of my white friends…’
One woman took immediate issue with the quote, because of the word white. It was divisive, she claimed, and then continued to advise that my friend educate these friends and if they refused to be educated, they were not friends at all (she seemed completely oblivious to the fact that the incident mentioned in the original post did not involve a friend at all, but a stranger).
Hmmm. Okay. So the onus is on the POC to breakout a comprehensive lesson plan whenever a white person does some racist bullshit? Funnily enough, my friend had already done just that by providing the article that accompanied her story of racist fuckery one fine spring evening. Yet the white woman (yeah, I said it; I’ll shout it from the rooftops: WHITE WOMAN) insisted on making the narrative one in which my friend (or, rather, me since I quoted that portion of the article) was being divisive. As y’all know from one of my earlier blog posts, when a white person uses the word divisive when talking to a POC, that actually means STFU.
Listen, y’all, there’s nothing wrong with the skin you’re in, be it white, black, brown, or whatever. Just own it. Don’t be afraid of it. And acknowledge the way you’re able to move through the world because of it.
Call me black, because that’s what I am, and it’s what I call myself. And I’m going to call you white if that’s what you are. If that makes you uncomfortable, you have some serious shit to process on your own time. I can’t imagine the discomfort that would have to be simmering inside in order to make me flinch at someone calling me black.
The history of this country is ugly in so many places, and we see it reflected in the way we’re treated–good or bad–due to the color of our skin. The dialectic of oppressor vs. oppressed is everywhere apparent. It issues forth in all kinds of fucked up situations that make us question just how far we’ve come as a nation.
Is that why the woman went nutso at the use of an appropriate adjective in a quote that was not even about her?
POCs don’t have the luxury of forgetting what we look like. We are acutely aware of what color we are, mostly because of the way white folks treat us. If that reality makes you uncomfortable, I honestly can’t find a single fuck to give. But if you really want to have a tough conversation that doesn’t devolve into you calling me divisive the minute you’re made to feel the slightest bit uncomfortable, I’m usually in a talking mood…