The Collegian
Thursday, February 29, 2024

What is Whiteness?

<p><em>Graphic by The Collegian</em></p>

Graphic by The Collegian

Sometimes I wonder what it's like to be white. 

To walk into any CVS and find makeup in my shade, or have mainstream bandaids match my skin tone, or to circumvent being alienated, ridiculed or even fired over my hair. I wonder what it’s like to be judged by my hobbies and interests rather than my skin color and to have the world revolve around me and my comfort. I wonder what it’s like to have boys fight their hardest to find a girlfriend that looks like me instead of writing me off as ghetto and calling it a preference. 

I wonder what it’s like to walk past the police without fear or to not have to use my “white person voice” and code switch in order to seem non-threatening to Karens on the Upper East Side. I wonder what it’s like to walk into a restaurant and immediately be seated or to enter a store and have people not assume I’m stealing. I wonder what it’s like to sit in a classroom full of students that look like me. I wonder what it’s like to scream about my oppression without being told to whisper.

Or to be seen as “normal” and have my way of life deemed as acceptable. Or to exist without erasing parts of my culture and identity to fit in. Or to turn on my TV and see people that look like me on any given channel, not just on Soul Train or Baddies East. Or to have my features be praised and reflected on all the supermodels of the world. Or to not be mocked for the way my body exists in its natural state, while others imitate me through surgery. Or to not have to type in “for Black people” after whatever I’m searching to get results specific to me. Or to not be forced to remind people that the N-word is a slur every time a rap song comes on at a party. Or to not have to explain my racial trauma in a pretty and packaged “respectable” way so that people believe I deserve to be heard. Or to not have the mandatory “talk” with my parents about how this country isn’t built for me and never will be. Or to not be rejected by other people of my race because my skin is too dark and my curls are too tight to be “the right kind of Black.” Or to not be taught that I always have to respect white people and their comfort, whether or not they are deserving of it, in order to be successful. Or to not be forced to think about the bullshit excuses that white supremacists would make on the internet to justify my murder at the hands of those meant to protect and serve. 

Or for people to not assume I’m a hoe or uneducated because my skin is dark and I love myself. 

Or for people to understand that I can amount to and surpass ANYTHING a white man has accomplished. Or to be able to excuse slavery as a thing of the past, a small blip on the bloodstained pages of history, if you will. Or to have so much generational wealth at my fingertips that I can vacation eight out of 12 months of the year. Or to be paid my worth and have tax added at the expense of those who do not look like me. Or to have the ability to murder, r*pe, and destroy property while having the justice system offer me a blanket and cookies before sending me home. Or to be able to enjoy a successful life and take it for granted without giving back to any of the communities my ancestors have harmed in order to maintain my superiority. Or to accept posting a black square as the extent of my activism before centering my struggles and claiming that I’m tired- “allyship fatigue” they call it. Or to have so much privilege that I can live my entire life without being obliged to acknowledge anyone’s issues other than my own. 

Although being white would make my life SIGNIFICANTLY easier, my brown skin impels me to recall how hard my ancestors worked for equality. How hard they continue to fight with their words and bodies to be seen as equal. To drink from the same water fountains, to legally get married, to be able to eat more than the scraps their slave owners rejected as well as vote like white men and women are able to. I constantly remind myself that my brown skin and nappy hair defy the beauty standards imposed on me, yet I have recently begun to acknowledge that they are special in their own way. The chocolate pools in my eyes reflect 400-plus years of struggle and oppression, and a revolution on the horizon. 

I was raised in a society where princesses only have fair skin and get rescued by white men with blue eyes, but what if I were to build my own castle and liberate myself? Gone are the days when I would cry because I did not see any chocolate skin reflected on the television. Long gone are the days when I would change how I talk and spend my last dimes on expensive clothing to fit in. Long gone are the days when I was silent about my suffering. 

I will rescue myself from this white supremacist hell through education. I will rescue my people from this white supremacist hell through wealth redistribution. I will rescue the future of this country from this white supremacist hell by decolonizing ideas of Eurocentric beauty and white supremacy through platforming transgender, socioeconomically disadvantaged, disabled and plus-sized people of color. 

What if we changed the faces in our government and replaced the Josh Hawleys with more AOCs and Stacey Abrams?

So while I spend my time wondering what it’s like to be white, I refuse to live under the assumption that it’s the only correct way of living. Rather than bleaching my skin, frying my hair and wearing contacts to become more digestible, I am going to create a society where people who look like me are appreciated and valued ... and not just for diversity quotas.

Contact Notes from the Margins editor Jaize Francis at jaize.francis@richmond.edu. 

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