Content warning: we’re talking racism and colorism here.
TL;DR: White supremacy and colorism are bigger than any single experience of it which means you can still have white passing privilege.
So, we’re here again aren’t we? We’re out here talking about how being white-passing doesn’t confer any privileges when you’re not in a certain place, carry a certain identity, and all that, huh? Well, since it’s that time for this discourse, let’s get into it so you can have this for reference in a few months from now.
Let’s start with colorism as a baseline. That baseline basically places people with darker skin at the bottom of whatever culture or class they are in because white supremacy has us fucked up and has kept us that way for centuries now. With that comes a corollary: the closer you are in appearance to the ruling/oppressing classes, the more likely you are to be treated with favor that your less similar counterparts do not get. In this case, the ones that are darker in skin tone than you are.
We know this. We have studies for this. Research has been documented to prove this point several hundred times over and yet, “Just because I am white-passing doesn’t mean I get white privilege” continues to come up. Why? Because people – who are rightfully critical of basing our understanding of the world solely based on western culture – insist that because they don’t experience white privilege in the way that people in the United States do, that they don’t experience it at all.
That’s not how it works because the United States isn’t the only place that colonizers plundered and tried to assimilate. We don’t own the copyright on imperialism, colonialism, or any of those experiences or being victimized by them. Those things happened everywhere.
White supremacy is both absolute and relative in the same way that light behaves as both wave and particle; it is a thing that scales regardless of where you happen to be and that means that your experience of it not being the same as someone else’s is a comparatively moot point because it is still happening and where it applies, you still benefit from it.
To put this in perspective, if I go to Japan (for example), I am going to be treated differently even relative to other foreigners in the same place because I am fucking blackity black black. If other people are treated terribly, I am guaranteed nearly 100% of the time to be treated worse regardless of location. It doesn’t take a long search to find any of this information at all, so why are we having this discourse?
All of this begs a larger question and surfaces an even larger concern. First among them being “why”.
It is a fact that the ways in which white supremacy impacts us vary from place to place and that there is a lot from one culture to the next that we may not know. However, there’s only one enemy. Your enemy is not a black man in America, it’s white supremacy. It’s not a Honduran, a Dominican, or someone from the Philippines. It’s white supremacy still and everything it spawns which includes anti-blackness, anti-indigenous sentiments, antisemitism, lack of cultural literacy, the literal diaspora and its broken connection from one place to another, and beyond.
Where and for what reason is this energy being spent talking about anything but dismantling that shit instead of how you, specifically, don’t benefit from it?
Follow-up for concern: have you considered that being able to ignore how other people respond to your appearance and presence as you move through the world is a privilege? Read that again.
You know what I can’t do? Go outside and decide I don’t want to participate in male privilege. I present as male and therefore the world responds as such. Period.
You know what I can’t do? Decide that white supremacy doesn’t impact how I move through the world. Globally. I cannot take a globe and point to anywhere other than the Arctic circles for places that I wouldn’t be impacted by white supremacy, yet so many wake up and say, “I don’t experience privilege like that.”
I’m reminded of every time I have explained how I still get anxiety spikes around police only to hear, “Well, I’m not privileged. I’m not rich. Also, the police gave me a ticket one time, so clearly…”
Now imagine that, but it’s “I don’t live in the United States, so surely…”
Listen to me: no. Absolutely not.
Imagine the idea of trying to Oppression Olympics™ your way into being “I’m as marginalized/more marginalized than you” while speaking over thousands of people’s lived experiences who are treated demonstrably worse because you don’t want to be perceived as privileged in some way when you could just… oh I dunno… understand how this shit works and use what you know to resist this shit where you have influence. The olympics are closed for the next four years at least; take your ball and go home.
This is basic stuff. Dismantling This Bullshit 101. We’re not competing for trophies out here. We’re not catching Pokemon shinies. We’re absolutely not speaking over people and their very real and lived experience when the enemy is literally knocking at the front door. Take that energy and use it to think about what you’re going to do with the privilege you have.
See you in four months when I’ll repost this because y’all refuse to learn, stubborn mules that you are.