Last week, I posted a blog entry about how I learned about sex and how I feel that parents should address pornography. The entry was a lot more well-received than I imagined it would be, and I received a comment from an old classmate saying that she admired how I addressed relevant topics in a neutral yet modern fashion. Because of said comment, I decided to look through the previously mentioned list of writing prompts I discovered on Google, and answer two more questions from it; “What is your racial and ethnic identity?“ and “Have you ever tried to hide your racial or ethnic identity?
First off, I am Hispanic, and I grew up in a predominantly white conservative area. I’ve never felt the need to hide my ethnic identity. My first language was English and my first name isn’t really ethnic sounding, but I cannot count the number of times someone has learned my last name and responded by saying “Oh, you’re Hispanic? I thought you were white” or “You don’t look/act/or talk like a Hispanic.”
If you are a person of color and someone tells you anything along the lines of “you talk like a white person”, don’t take it as a compliment. Telling a person of color that they speak “white” is implying that speaking grammatically correct is a behavior exclusively belonging to white people.
In the fall 2015 semester of my undergrad career, I took a sociology class, in which one of the assignments was for each of the students to address a privilege they have and to list ten benefits of having said privilege. I chose “white-passing privilege” as mine.
White-passing privilege is when a person of color possesses European features and a light complexion, meaning they appear more Caucasian than they do their actual ethnicity.
My parents moved from El Paso to Plano before my oldest brother was born, as a means of providing a better life for their future children. I am thankful to have grown up in Plano and I will always be grateful for the education I received and the opportunities that were presented to me. However, growing up Hispanic in a suburban city did have its downsides.
Because most of the people I went to school with were white and came from conservative families, I oftentimes heard people make racist jokes about Hispanics (and other PoC) without thinking twice about whether or not I took offense. I assume that this was largely due to the fact that people would initially assume that I was white.
I’m not going to say that I had a rough life, because I was very blessed with the opportunities I was given. I’ll admit, having white-passing privilege poses its pros more often than its cons. For example, I can go to a store and not be followed around by a manager or owner, and I can go for a run late at night without being stopped by a police officer. However, there are other young people of color, with similar goals as I, who have to work harder to obtain the same opportunities I’ve been given, simply due to the fact that they don’t posses European features.
If you fall within a minority, it is important to acknowledge the issues your community faces. For example, if you fall within the LGBTQ spectrum but possess the established normative qualities of your gender, it’s your responsibility to not be dismissive of the problems butch lesbians, feminine gay men, and trans people face on a regular basis. Also, if you are a white woman who identifies as a feminist, it is your responsibility to acknowledge that young girls in third world countries are often forbidden from going to school and in some cases, trafficked and sold as sex slaves. There are gender equality issues that are more pressing than freeing the nipple or wearing tank tops in school.
Now, I realize that nobody is perfect, and achieving social-consciousness is an ongoing process, but acknowledging your privilege is a great place to start.