People of Color and Proximity to Whiteness
I've never been able to pass as a white person. Some days, I wish I did...it would make life easier sometimes. It's exhausting living as a brown woman! We get the first level of racism that comes the instant people see us. The stares, snickers, whispers, jokes, and being followed around stores are constant reminders of our place in society. Then we get the second level of racism that comes when they learn my name, where I was born, about my heritage and ancestors, and the religion I grew up in. I cannot remember a single period in my life when my skin color wasn't one of the first things new people noticed. It's always been that way and I've gotten accustomed to it.
There are also PoC who present as white. Does that mean they are white by all accounts or that it's only full of positives? Of course not! Your identity feels erased, your culture can be dismissed, and you feel like you have to justify your 'PoC-ness' to everyone else. Those are all things that are difficult to deal with on a regular basis. But your proximity to whiteness gives you a privilege over the rest of us. You are able to escape that first level of racism I mentioned earlier. You won't get stopped by the police simply because of your skin. You won't get targeted upon sight for race-motivated hate crimes or be judged negatively the second you enter a room. Even when people do find out that you're a person of color, you still get preference over us visibly brown and black people. The racism you experience is not the same as what we experience. It's the same way that non-black PoC won't experience racism in the same way as black people.
Acknowledging this inherent privilege is critical for your advocacy for the fair treatment of PoC. You cannot possibly be an effective activist against racism if you are negating our lived experiences and speaking over us. Co-opting our anger, demanding proof of our oppression, or using other people from our communities to silence us are all things that result in way more harm than good. When you say and do these sorts of things, you are using your privilege as a weapon against us and are upholding white supremacy.
When visibly black and brown people tell you what we go through, believe us! Simply because you haven't had the same or even similar experiences does not mean that you have the right to accuse us of lying or being wrong. We spend so much time justifying our words, voices, and advocacy to white people, and it is beyond exhausting having to do that for people who are supposedly on our side. Please, learn what is your lane...and stay in it!
Do you know what I'm sick of hearing? White-presenting PoC telling me that my experiences as an asylee brown Muslim woman are made up or plain wrong. You do not get to invalidate my life to make yourself feel better or to suck up to the white community even more.
You are either with us, or against us. You cannot have it both ways. Unpack the internalized racism and overt colorism that are running rampant in you due to the privilege you hold from your proximity to whiteness. That shit is toxic to us!