Broaching the topic of “White Privilege” is not synonymous with “All white people are evil and, I hate them all.” Chill out.
Want to watch a white person rush away from a dinner party? Just bust out phrases like “institutionalized racism,” “white supremacy,” and the oldie but goodie “residual effects of slavery that are still with us today,” and watch a room of white people clear itself out, or, at least, have them stammer out the names of all the black people they are friends with, and then offer another unsolicited list off all the good they’ve done for people of color.
When I talk about systemic racism and historical racial inequalities as it ties into white privilege and modern-day racism, I think I must sound like this to white people: “Hey Whitey! I am going to kill you.” I know this is a lot to ask of white people, but could you please STOP FLIPPING OUT when the topic of white privilege comes up? I’m talking about being defensive, blabbing about how there is no such thing as race (just one human race, which is actually made up of different races), and how you are so gifted as a white person that you “don’t see race.” Ooh, that last one, ouch.
That’s why we need to have this conversation — because the inability to “see” racism and privilege is exactly what white privilege is. Talking about race is not a trap. It’s not a game of “Gotcha with your Klan Hood Down.” Talking about white privilege is not about asking white people to leave their race. Nor is it about declaring genocide on the white race. (Besides, looks like we’re already going to outnumber you by 2050, so you might as well sit back, relax and enjoy being Wong-splained.)
Talking about white privilege is not even about trying to make you feel like shit for being white. Surprising, I know. But the conversation on white privilege concerns you and yet is not about YOU. And when you make it about how you feel personally attacked, we really don’t progress further into talking about how we’re going to fix racism. Really.
If you are a white person who gets nervous when white privilege gets brought up, imagine having to navigating racism in every day life as a person of color who must live with it. Imagine systemically being locked out of better education or healthcare, job opportunities or the mainstream American narrative.
There are moments as an Asian American when I’ve been regarded as an “honorary white.” (There are also many other moments when I am reminded that I will always be a perpetual foreigner despite the fact that my family has been in the United States for three generations.) But rather than take whatever privilege I can and run with it, I’m interested in talking with people who benefit from white privilege -– how and if they can recognize it and use their positions of privilege to dismantle the systems that oppress other people.
Believe it or not, I’d love for the world to be more equitable for EVERYONE. And when I ask you to recognize your white privilege, it’s not because I’m trying to place blame. It’s about asking white people to consider the moments where they are able to “pass” in certain situations. Where they are afforded privileges that they never earned. It’s about finding ways to cede privilege, space, and comfort to allow others to live in a more equitable world.
So white people, the conversation about race can’t happen without you. We can’t get things better if we aren’t all talking. If racism were an easy problem to fix, we would have fixed it already. Ending racism starts with recognizing privilege, systemic control over society at large, and when you are dismissing issues of racism then you have the privilege of being oblivious to.
Don’t get me wrong there are people of color who proclaim to drink the tears of white people. There are anti-racism activists who will never organize with the most “down” of white people. I don’t want to drink your white tears, but I’d be lying if I said that I don’t enjoy watching you squirm a little.
Come on, you got to give me that.
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The ways in which Jones’ identity as a black trans woman and sex workers’ activist inform her arrest can’t be ignored. Much like CeCe McDonald’s arrest was impacted by racism and transmisogyny, Jones’ arrest is impossible to separate from her race, gender, trans status, and public activism around sex work. TransAdvocate points out that trans women are already disproportionate recipients of police scrutiny, and trans status can intersect with racial profiling to make police interactions particularly fraught and dangerous. What research there is on the interactions between trans women of color and police tells us that police intimidation is a constant reality, even without a legitimate basis for arrest. If anything about the situation can be interpreted to relate to sex work, the odds are that much worse.
Dear Non-Asian People: Yes, fetishizing Asian people is racist.
Apparently, this is still being debated. But let me outline it for you again:
1. There’s a history of making “Asians” (as in, “people with dark hair, almond shaped eyes, whose ethnic background comes from one bigass continent) into one homogenous group. This is super racist, because, let’s be real here: despite what you learned in 7th grade geography, Asia is a big ass and diverse CONTINENT. NOT. A. COUNTRY.
2. In fact, if we want to be technical here, “Asia” includes parts of Russia and Turkey. Two countries which are definitely not grouped with the traditional “Asian” category. Why? Because they don’t look like a stereotypical Asian. And also, South east Asians (i.e.: Indians and other desi people) are considered Asian as well. Only, they’re distinguished and not what people automatically think of when they say “Asian.” Sort of like how Eastern Europeans are considered Europeans but also somehow not.
3. And while we’re on the topic, what are you fetishizing here? Because, as an Asian woman, I’ve heard really fucking racist/stereotyping “compliments” around three things:
- my eyes
- my skin
- my hair
And to be frank, saying “Oh hey, I love your eyes. They are so exotic” is no better (and actually, arguably, historically and politically more offensive) than a cis-gendered dude saying “Oh hey, I love your tits. They’re so womanly.” Because, bitch, who are you to define what “womanly” means?
4. So then there’s also the ideology surrounding Asians and Asian fetishes. For women, it’s all about “Oh, how submissive and light skinned and exotic, like having my own geisha kung fu princess jasmine harem girl all in one!” Which is absolutely fucking ridiculous because it is like saying, “Oh yay, I get my own spicy señorita french kissing german milkmaid swedish model all in one!” Bitch. We. Be. Different.
5. And also, let’s be real here: If your “fascination with Asian culture” basically means “I watch a lot of anime and masturbate to hentai and wish I I had a cute schoolgirl/effeminate school boy of my own to tie up,” you don’t have a fascination with Asian culture. I mean, for one, there IS NO homogenous Asian culture. For two, even if there was, there is no way that fucking Sailor Moon would be a cultural relic of said ethnic group. I am sorry, it is hilarious, but there is no way you can tell me that it’s somehow a gateway into the mysterious and exotic world of the Orient.
6. That last sentence was sarcasm, by the way. Never ever use any of the adjectives I just listed above unless you want to get bitchslapped. No, not roundhouse kicked. We Asians reserve that shit for bigger issues.
7. And Asian culture isn’t just sushi or kung pao chicken or Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon. Like I said, saying “Asian Culture” is like saying “European culture.” What the fuck does that even mean? Then again, maybe this is a bad analogy for Americans. I’m pretty sure that we’ve been conditioned to believe that every single European ever will speak fluent English in a French or British accent. Always.
8. That being said: fetishization is objectification. It’s putting an ENTIRE ETHNIC GROUP (which, by the way, shouldn’t even be grouped together in the first place because IT REPRESENTS A HUGE ASS CONTINENT OF DIVERSE PEOPLE WITH DIVERSE BACKGROUNDS) into one tiny little box and saying, “I like you because of my preconceived notions about what your culture and appearance should be. I find it sexually exciting that you have a list of characteristics which are not only inaccurate, but also steeped in racism and oppression.”
…So, long story short: Even if you think you’re flattering me, if you have an Asian fetish, YOU. ARE. BEING. RACIST.
If you are not part of said ethnic group: there is no such thing as a positive racial stereotype.