Being of mixed race, I’ve been blessed to be surrounded by a diverse group of people: my interracial parents as well as my social circle. Both parties have helped shape the person I am today through visual example and conversations discussing issues regarding racism as well as racial identity. Growing up was not easy for I often left out because I looked different. From my caramel colored skin to the wild curly mane. The pretty girls with the bone straight hair looked at me in disgust while the boys made derogatory and misogynistic marks about my black features. It made me question my identity not only as a woman, but as a woman of mixed race. Just because my skin color is different from that of the norm, it should not label me as a thing. I am human for I have eyes, ears, arms and a heart, duh! Yes, I am a woman of color and yes, my skin color should be acknowledged, and myself along with millions of colored people, deserve respect and equal treatment! But in reality, we are not treated equally. From straightening my curly hair for job interviews, to having to prove to my white boss(es) that my skills do not correlate to my skin color, to sitting in history classes where Black and Indigenous people are highlighted in 3 pages out of the entire textbook, there seems to be an ongoing pattern. Are there any colored people working at this company? Why did my white co-worker refer to me as nappy-headed? How come Malcolm X, Madam C.J. Walker, and Shanawdithit aren’t covered in my history textbook that I spent $250 on? The term “white privilege” has been coming up on my Facebook timeline and comes in an array of definitions, have a look at one below:
⇒ White privilege: The reality that a person’s whiteness is followed by an array of benefits and advantages that people of color do not have, or get to share.
Not a bad definition for a group that 1.) Has never experienced racism 2.) Is constantly targeted for cultural appropriation, 3.) Will never understand what men, women, and children of color go through on a daily basis 4.) Most likely to get get uncomfortable when issues of racism are brought to the table for they fear being perceived as racist. NEWS FLASH: if racism makes white people uncomfortable, 1.) Good! 2.) Come to the understanding that they too need talk about it, address it, and acknowledge they do hold a higher position in society as compared to people of color.
DISCLAIMER: first and foremost, I am not saying that ALL white people are racist! I’ve met some good ones who ask questions, acknowledge their privilege, and are woke as fuck. I ask that if you are a white person reading this, not to scroll down to the comment section and get your troll on. Our society has been purposely skewed in the favour of white people in areas such as the media, pop culture, workplace, academics, prisons, wages, politics, etc. If white people cannot recognize and maintain awareness of their privilege, then we will never be able to move forward towards living in equality. Throughout this post, you will come across the following terms:
Racism: discrimination against someone of a different race solely based on the belief that one is superior than the other.
Privilege: an advantage, special right, granted to those of a particular group of people. In this particular case, caucasian people AKA white people.
Ally: a person/group that cooperates and supports another person/group.
POC: short for “person/people of color,” excluding caucasians.
Photo credit – Rawstory
As a person of color, it can be frustrating when a member of the privileged group believes that injustice doesn’t exist and that they don’t see color. By you stating that you don’t see color, you are pretty much saying that POC are non-existent, which is quite a detrimental way of thinking. If you would like to know how you can be an ally to a POC, please read the points listed below. And also to my fellow white folks, it is NOT your fault that you benefit from these privileges, you can absolutely use your privilege to support POC. Upon writing this post, I reached out to my fellow colored friends and each provided honest answers that I truly believe can help our white allies. I want to take this opportunity to say thank you to everyone who helped me put this article together, you know who you all are! Don’t be afraid to ask questions for we can all learn from each other. And please for the love of God, read through it first before you provide your opinion(s). =) Peace & Love.
1. Admit that you are privileged: Think of this point like the 12-step program in AA, admitting that you have a problem. Not with alcohol in this case, but coming to acknowledge that you hold a higher standing when it comes to the norms of the society that you currently live in. With these norms constantly changing, you must check yourself and make sure that you are an ally and not an oppressor. And for some, that’s hard to stomach for feelings of guilt and helplessness come with it. Think of it like this, when you admit that you are an ally and privileged, you are letting POC know that you 1.) Support them and 2.) Are not going to let them fight alone =)
2. L-I-S-T-E-N: This point is so important that I had to spell it out. We as POC ask that you listen before you speak, report, and advocate. Please do not assume that you know everything about scenarios that you’ve never experienced for it comes with a few dimensions that are often overlooked.
3. Open Up Your Mind: there’s times where we all get consumed in our own thoughts and beliefs, but it doesn’t mean that you should block out other people’s views. When taking to a POC, drop your beliefs for a brief moment and try to understand where they are coming from in terms of their experiences and the kinds of racial scenarios they have to endure on a DAILY basis.
4. Please stop making it about yourselves: when the issue of racism is discussed, I have noticed that the tables tend to turn when talking to a member of a non-marginalized group. They turn the table on themselves and talk about how they were picked on, beat up, etc. For what, being white? There is not a day that goes by where a POC is not racially victimized, picked on, beat up, and murdered for the color of their skin, their religion, etc. Let me also remind ya’ll that by making these issues about yourselves, you are acknowledging that our real-life issues regarding racism don’t mean a damn thing to you, which by the way, counts as privilege.
5. Attend organizations of communities affected by racism: I legit had someone say that if they could fight for POC, they would do it without a doubt. Uh, news flash, there have been many organizations, events, marches, and protests for you to attend that tackle these issues head on. If anything, the time is now! Use your privilege for a good cause and don’t be afraid to interact with attendees and members. Ask questions too! That lets us know that we have your support =)
Photo credit – LA Progressive
6. Have a conversation with a minority/POC: seriously, sit down and have a conversation with someone who has experienced racism and oppression. Don’t just start the conversation by asking “so what’s it like to be discriminated against?” Get to know who they are as a person, what interests them, create a safe zone between the both of you. I do recall Kanye West saying the following “Education is in every conversation, you couldn’t have a conversation without it.”
7. Volunteer at non-profit organizations or charities of affected communities: the reason I state this because it will humble you and will inspire you to want to set your beliefs aside and gain a better understanding of what POC go through. This point also refers back to the point about having a conversation with a minority/POC. You can use your privilege for a good cause.
8. Also work among your own people (white people) and create more allies: the more allies that join, the better the outcome! Use your privilege to confront these racial injustices, especially when you see them taking place right in front of you. Whether it is at work, a party, or even at the dinner table. By educating each other, it will create word-of-mouth, therefore leading to more awareness.
9. Don’t wait until you encounter a problem to talk about race: it shouldn’t take another news story or Facebook status to make you want to speak up about racism. Understand that these scenarios happen every single day. Imagine being in a situation where you saw someone being discriminated against, what would you do? If you have time, check out the “What Would You Do?” series on Youtube hosted by John Quiñones. It shows how people behave when being faced with dilemmas that either require them to act on them or to mind their own business. But in all seriousness, what would you do?
10. Don’t be afraid to ask POC if they need help: as an ally, you cannot take action on behalf POC’s without knowing what they need to begin with. The same goes to telling a POC how to deal with oppression. It might seem like a good idea to you, when really, it can be quite detrimental for you’ve never had to go through it. If you want to offer a helping hand to a POC, simply ask “Do you need help?” If the answer is yes, then proceed to ask them what kind of help they need or even better, ask “what can I do to make sure that you feel safe?” You will be amazed at the response =)
If you managed to make it to the bottom of this post, please pat yourself on the back. If you are offended by this article and still under the impression that I am saying that ALL white people are evil, you clearly didn’t read the entire post and only skimmed over the parts that YOU thought were offensive and think that I’m coming off as angry and bitter when you and I both know that’s not the case. In order to put an end to oppression, we must see each other as equal and as allies. Then we can work together to make the world a better place for everyone. *Drops mic*