Saturday, April 16, 2005

My White Privilege - Geetha

Throughout our tour there has been a lot of discussion of white privilege. It is a very interesting question for mixed people who have a white parent. We have mostly discussed with respect to people who are mixed, but perceived as white. It is interesting to hear the ways in which they have received white privilege. But I have never really thought of myself as someone who would be a recipient of white privilege, because I have never really thought of myself as a white person and nobody has ever mistaken me for being white. I love and acknowledge my white mother, but based on my physical characteristics, usually what people see of me, I am definitely not white. There are many kinds of white privilege that I will never receive because I have dark skin, and there’s no question about that. Since I first heard the term “white privilege,” I have always categorized myself as someone who does not receive it.

However, this tour has made me think about the fact that although I am a person of color (and I will always continue to identify that way), my white background has in fact given me a lot of white privilege. My mom receives white privilege, and because she raised me, I have benefited from that privilege in a lot of ways. Everything from my family’s long historical presence in this country to the fact that my mother may get treated better by store clerks has impacted my own life and given me privileges that I would not have if my mother were a person of color.

This brings me to a whole new stage in my identity development that I can tell already is not going to be easy. Let’s face it: it’s very hard to come to terms with our own privilege. I still struggle to acknowledge the privileges I receive from aspects of my identity like my socioeconomic status and sexuality, privileges that are very easy to see and that others experience in the same ways I do. But this white privilege thing is a whole new dimension for me. With my socioeconomic status and sexuality, there is no question that I am privileged by them, but there are definitely questions as to when and how I am privileged by my whiteness. Much as been written and discussed around the issue of white privilege, but I have never heard a discussion that mentions the way I receive (and don’t receive) it. Of course this does not mean that other people aren’t thinking or talking about; it just means that this is the first time I’m thinking about it and trying to find others who are doing the same. I am both nervous and interested to explore my racial identity through this lens that truly does acknowledge all pieces of my heritage. But I know that it is important to acknowledge this privilege if I am going to work toward breaking down the system that creates it.


Anonymous sashya said...

Hi Geetha and the Generation MIX crew! You are doing great work on this tour, keep it up! It must take a lot of energy.

I think that you have touched upon a very important issue here - the fact that mixed people who are part white do often have access to white privilege in some way or another. This can be a very difficult issue to grapple with, and I really appreciate that you are bringing it up to your readers.

Addressing white privilege as an aspect of (part-white) mixed race identity is just another facet of the constant balance between worlds that mixed people have access to. But how do we navigate that balance, and bring it into harmony with our identity, rather than conflict? Interesting ideas to ponder - I'll be checking back to see if you have further pontifications on this topic! Thanks, and keep it up!


April 18, 2005 12:02 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

yeah, i think it's often hard for light skinned people of color and mixed people with a white parent to acknowledge their privilege. we experience our own forms of racism (both from whites and nonwhites), and i think because of that we can be unwilling to admit that there are so many others who have it so much worse. thanks for sharing, geetha! we all really appreciate it! ~smile~

April 22, 2005 11:14 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm a mixed race woman who appears white. My white family was pretty racist. In fact, I live as a white woman, grew up with all my white relatives and none of my black ones. I sure did know that my mother and I weren't really considered good enough.

I'm really glad to see people coming out and identifying as mixed race and allowing themselves the identity of choice. To some extent, however, I think choice is an illusion. Race is often more a matter of how others identify you... I mean... I would have to pull out my history every time I talk to someone to be seen as the full racial me. Way too much trouble and how anyway? TMI? You know... you'd have to know me so I could find a time to have that conversation.. and it just gets to be such a drag to "have the conversation". Mostly why bother? Occasionally just to mess with someone... if they say "blah blah you're white what do you know." I say "how do you know I'm white?" That's always fun. lol But then again.. what does it mean to be white or black or asian? Are you black when you have a black dad or when people treat you like you're black? Are you white if no one but you can tell the abuse you took from your own family for not being white enough?

Reading your discussion of white privilege... not feeling so privileged from where I'm from, but anyway... maybe so. Right now, though... I'd like to access my black privilege. I am thinking about attempting to get access to even better colleges by identifying with my black side even though I appear white. I've got great scores, but I could leverage those scores if I identified as black on college applications

April 24, 2005 3:28 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Passing" By Nella Larsen

It's a nifty novel on multi-racial/white privilege issues. Most people interested in this should probably check it out. It could spur discussion.

April 25, 2005 11:16 AM


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