By India Taina
So, here we are: White Girl 101. Now before my sisters of color turn away, please understand that this post right here is still entirely for you and your benefit. White girls (and women, boys, men, or whatever is chosen to identify oneself) are all a huge part of Caucasity. Thank you, Captain Obvious. But hold on, don’t close this window out just yet baby. It’s really about to get good. I mentioned in a previous post that I can’t fix a two sided problem with a one sided solution, and the problem with Caucasity is multifaceted. You’ve gotta hit it from multiple angles. And as important as it is to try and guide women of color as to how to fight their own battles with Caucasity and The Patriarchy and all these other institutions, I think it’s equally important to teach white women their piece. Teach them to be an ally and be in our corner while also just respecting that we don’t need a white savior, we just need a friend. In whatever color they come. But white is nice too. We don’t have beef with you because you’re white. We do have beef if you pretend you don’t know what it means to be white. When you pretend that you are “colorblind” and don’t know the difference between blue and black until it’s blue against black and then all of a sudden you all about the blue (snap snap). That may have went over some heads, but that’s what this post is for. To get it in your head. We cannot fight the battle of Caucasity without Caucasians. We ain’t against you. It’s not you. Breathe. It’s no shame in being white, either. White shame is not going to solve any problems (although, not gonna lie, white pride low key has caused some, but we’ll get to that lol). So sit back, drink some water, and let’s get into the nitty gritty. Let’s learn some uncomfortable truths while still being comfortable in whatever skin you have.
So first things first- let’s talk about white privilege, and what it isn’t. White privilege isn’t the belief that white people don’t go through hardships. No one thinks white people’s lives are all rainbows and butterflies and that they are immune to really difficult shit— like unemployment, financial struggles, bullying, being arrested, etc. What white privilege actually consists of, is the fact that none of those things will occur to white people because of their color. Do you see the meaning now? It’s the fact that your name “Anna Smith” will never be discriminated against the way “Anais Santos-Rosario” would on the heading of a resume. White privilege is being pulled over and the biggest worry on your mind is how fat the ticket will be and if your parents will be mad. Your life does not even cross your mind. You are not worried because you instinctively know that your color does not pose an immediate threat to anyone, so you are safe. This is white privilege. So we are not talking about how every white person gets the easiest hand in the deck and your lives are perfect and you don’t work for anything. It is simply the fact that you will never in your life have to question if the reason you did or did not get something was because of your color.
So now that we know what white privilege is, let’s discuss why being “colorblind” is literally the dumbest shit that could ever be said in the history of ever. “I don’t see color, I treat everyone the same”. Bitch. Let’s just take a moment to dissect this statement. So, in order for you to have the capacity to treat everyone like humans, they have to be monotonous gray blobs of nothing for you to achieve that? You immediately have to dull out the beauty of melanated skin and the grace of a hijab in order to treat people like humans? Just listen to yourself. G-d created color because it SUITED him. He thought is so beautiful that he made everyone different. And now here you go trying to mute out his grace, fix it Jesus. And say you aren’t religious, so this part of my argument doesn’t affect you, that is cool. But just pay attention to what a psychopath you sound like when you say that you can’t treat humans like humans unless they are all the same kind of human in your brain. It’s dumb. So, please don’t ever say it. Ever.
Another thing to not do: stay tf away from black people’s hair. Let’s just put this into perspective, because this is ACTUALLY something that many people are not aware of. So, say that you have the hair that you normally have, sitting where it normally would. You’re minding your business when your roommate walks by as your brushing your teeth and begins to massage her fingers through your hair for a solid 10 seconds. That’s a big WTF, right? But whatever, you just get ready and go on with your day. And then you’re at work. So your coworker walks by and says “Oh, your hair is so poofy today,” and to further prove her point to herself, she sticks her fingers in your hair, and repeats the weird motion of combing her fingers through your hair. Really fucking odd. Okay, so, you’re through with work now, have to go grab something from the grocery store real quick, and as you bend down to grab that necessary item, you freeze. The combing is happening—-but from where? As you turn around, you reveal to yourself a friendly middle aged woman, that you absolutely do not know, putting her fingers that have grazed unknown (and -probably unclean- surfaces), into your clean hair. “Oh, what beautiful hair you have!”. Yeah, 911? Please come immediately.
And you might be thinking, oh this is just for satire, this is an exaggerated account of what black women and men go through. I assure you, it is not. This is what thousands of black women go through all throughout their lives, and sometimes it IS all in one day. And you want to guess the large majority of people who do the “combing?” Yeah, baby. It’s the white people. And so, if you are in shock because you are guilty of doing this and no one ever said anything before, it’s good, we’re not going to hold it against you. But now you know baby. You know, so there is NO going back. And to further solidify my point about not touching hair, here is a wonderfully and aptly titled song from Solange (Beyonce’s sister), called “Don’t Touch My Hair.” Enjoy. ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YTtrnDbOQAU )
So, while writing this piece, I realized that my own experience, while valid and true, is actually very limited. My perspective is limited only to my reality. And that leaves out so many other important and necessary perspectives. I’ve never been black. So that’s going to leave a huge hole in the “Black experience” category. I’ve never been Muslim, I’ve never been in an interracial relationship with a white man, and I’ve never had my hair touched or massaged by strange white people. A lot of this I have observed, but I have not lived. And so I reached out to my wonderful network of women to see what they thought was important to share with white girls who want to learn how to respectfully interact with women of color.
Here’s what they came up with:
– Don’t ask if someone’s hair is “real” because it isn’t in line with what you expect it to look like on someone from that background
-Don’t make people feel uncomfortable for dating outside of their race (it’s none of ANYONE’S business)
-Don’t think “you are pretty for a (insert ethnicity or race) girl” is a compliment
– Don’t mix up ethnicity with religion, because you can be from anywhere and STILL believe in ANYTHING, despite what you may believe is the appropriate religion for that population (i.e. thinking someone from the Middle East is automatically Muslim or that someone from Africa believes in voodoo *this is horrifically incorrect based on region but that’s for ya’ll to do your own research on*).
– Don’t try to mock someone’s accent and think it’s okay to call people “foreign”
– Don’t touch hair (I told ya’ll lol)
-Don’t say someone looks “exotic,” because it gives the vibe that you think they’re some sort of exhibition for your entertainment. We are not zoo animals.
– DO NOT, UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCE, WHEN CONFRONTED ABOUT A POSSIBLE INSTANCE OF RACISM, CONTEND WITH “I have a black/Latinx/POC best friend/niece/nephew/husband/wife/daughter/son, so I can’t be racist”. Trust me when I say, that is not how racism works. Slave masters still had black children, and clearly, were racist AF. So remember that. Own your shit. Don’t drag nobody else into that. That’s a big pet peeve for me.
And so to finish out this wonderfully educational piece, now it’s time to revisit that “white shame vs white pride” debate I was talking about in the beginning. And this is definitely more open to conversation and dialogue then the rest of the post, because the first part of this was actually us women of color setting boundaries. And boundaries are not to be negotiated. But this part I absolutely welcome some input from white women, white men, women and men of color, everybody. So, why is it that white people have been made to feel ashamed of being white, and feeling like they are all of a sudden walking on eggshells? Based on my observations, the answer is this: White people have done a lot of fucked up shit. And when I say a lot, baby, I mean A LOT. And throughout the years, white people HAVE BEEN PROUD of the fucked up shit. And to this day, there are literal rallies of majority white people celebrating the fact that they are not only white, but better, and that everyone else needs to get out of “their” country. So, you see, this leaves the mellow white people in an uncomfortable spot. Because, hey, you weren’t there back then, and you aren’t actively participating now, so you feel kinda like you gotta take the shit from everyone and apologize for everything and you try everyday not to say something fucked up. This is where the walking on eggshells i.e. white shame comes from. So, here’s my opinion:
Honestly, people of color are strong AF. We don’t need your apology for your ancestors 400 years ago. Not because we are OVER it (and I am not just talking American slavery, because my ancestors were not here for that. My experience is the complete annihilation of my native tribe on the Island of Puerto Rico, the abrupt extinction of an entire culture and language- gone- and then the enslavement of my ancestors on the fields, where the Africans were taught that their color was putrid and wrong and that the only chance their descendants had at progressing was if they mixed with Europeans and banished the brand of their color. I am NOT fucking over that. It absolutely has affected myself and my family, because we were bore of my great grandmother, the last black woman in our family, who died thinking she at least did her descendants well by not giving them her color. She died just two years ago, in 2017, thinking that she had done us a favor not leaving any remnant of herself in us. How fucking tragic. How fucking traumatic. But I will digress). So yeah, back to my point, we don’t need apologies. What we need is acknowledgement. What we need is action. And we, without a doubt, need understanding. A willingness to understand. Because if you cannot open your heart or your mind up to this, we cannot move. We are bound. You have to be willing to understand where we come from, understand our perspectives. And then you have to get your mom to understand it, your dad, your grandparents, your friends. White people, this all started with you. So you have to do your part to undo it. And your part does not require dissolving of who you are, it does not depend upon your extinction and your shame. Your part, simply, is being present in your skin and acknowledging that other skin tones don’t have the same experience that you have with yours. And then you do something about it. You educate your family, you vote for people that are going to help better equal out the stakes for people of different backgrounds, you ASK questions, you LEARN things about others, and you befriend and fight for those who are different. If you can take and apply this lesson, BAY-BEE, I am telling you, this world will be so much better. And I know I titled this “White Girl 101,” but really this last section here is for all white people. We need you to undo the evil that was done before and the evil that is happening now. So white people taking something away from this, you rock. And I’m so glad you’re here.