What if you’re white and you just Don’t know it?
O wad some Pow’r the giftie gie us To see oursels as ithers see us! — Scottish poet Robert Burn
I may be old and slow, but at least I’m dumb and blonde.
It took days before I figured out why the half-Native, half-white woman at the party got testy when I said she looked white.
I forget the context under which it surfaced. We sat next to each other, chatting. She mentioned early on she was half-Ojibway, and I don’t think we were talking about race or racism. Not the kind of potential conversational IED you open with when you’ve just met someone, unless you’re at a Black Lives Matter protest.
I said something to the effect of, “Oh? I couldn’t tell.”
She replied, “Really? Everyone else says they can see it!”
I looked at her. Older woman, about my age, a little wrinkled, as we usually are, long straight white or grey hair. Nope, nadda clue she had Ojibway blood in her.
“No,” I said. “You look white to me.” I didn’t mention a full-blooded Ojibway friend I made when I first moved to Canada who could never produce a baby that white if he impregnated Scarlett Johansson.
“Really?” she asked. “I swear to God you’re like only the THIRD person ever to tell me that! Out of all the people I’ve ever met EVERYONE said they could see it except for like TWO people until now!”
I found that very hard to believe.
Her underlying anger genuinely mystified me. If she was half-white, what was the big deal? So was Barack Obama, and he didn’t care.
We chatted awhile longer, and we didn’t argue, but we found another point of contention: She was That Kind Of Liberal. The kind who likes to be offended and thinks it’s okay to change group labels constantly. “It’s the evolution of language,” she informed me.
“It’s bullying and needless hectoring of others,” I replied. “We all understand the historical reasons why the N-word for blacks and the K-word for Jews is no longer okay, but come on, it’s pretty silly when we say ‘people of color’ but we can’t say ‘colored people’, perfectly acceptable when I was growing up. Including by black people.”
“It’s eliminating language that has become offensive,” she told me.
“Fine, as long as there’s a rational reason,” I volleyed back. “It’s the People’s Front of Judaea versus the Judaean People’s Front. ‘People of color’ and ‘colored people’ mean exactly the same thing.”
We wrapped up the conversation, clicked our wine cups together to signify a polite end, and she got up to sit next to someone else. Thank Goddess.
I wondered for days: Why had she been upset at hearing she looked white?
Finally, Old and Slow, Dumb and Blonde figured it out.
She didn’t want to be accused of having white privilege.
White privilege is like pink slime: It’s plentiful, but no one wants any.
I read the occasional article on race, racism, or white privilege, if it doesn’t look too right-wing denial or lefty-progressive-racist, and I’ve noticed some writers provide up-front racial identity labels the way academics offer their education credentials.
Sometimes, I look at the photo and think, “Are they really black/mixed race/Southeast Asian/whatever?”
I click their profile for a larger look at the pinky fingernail photo. I take off my glasses, press close and squint.
“That’s weird. She doesn’t look black.”
They begin with the racial pedigree: “Proud black Southeast Asian Native American Cajun…” and add several more non-racial labels so you know exactly where they fall on the gender/autism/sexual preference/sexual identity/preferred sexual fetishes spectrums. (They’re almost always wome — fema — er, people born with a vagina.)
And I scrutinize the photo and think, She looks white to me.
A few times I’ve even looked for the person elsewhere, like LinkedIn or Facebook, for a better photo.
Uh, no, sorry, girlfriend. You still look white. But what do I know?
I don’t doubt them. I know what you look like isn’t what you are.
I met a guy many years ago who claimed he was a quarter black, a quarter Native American, and half white. He looked black. No way he could have ‘passed’, as they said in my mother’s day, signifying a black person who was white-enough looking that s/he could enter white society and enjoy all the benefits of white privilege, as long as they kept their mouth closed about their family.
I worked with a guy from Jamaica who looked white. I was surprised to learn he’s mixed race — so mixed even he couldn’t provide the ‘proper’ blood fractions. His sister looked black, he said, from the same parents. Go figger.
What you look like doesn’t define what you are — to you.
But here’s the dirty little secret the color-obsessed label-makers already know: White privilege isn’t conferred by how you see yourself, it’s by how others see you.
The half-Ojibway lady understood this. She informed me early on of her non-whiteness and I don’t remember a genuine reason for it. I suspect she did it with everyone she met. Once she established I’m not white, no one could accuse her of white privilege.
She’s got it. She knows it. She denies it.
Welcome to our world. The watercress sandwiches and autographed Celine Dion CDs are to the left. Help yourself! You deserve it. <wink>
Barack Obama is as white as he is black, but no one calls him white. Certainly the Tea Party didn’t, which arose after his election in 2008 and disappeared, not coincidentally, with a white man’s election.
They normalized calling Obama a Nazi, a more acceptable insult than the one they wanted to use.
There’s no such thing as half-white privilege. No second prize, no honorable mention, no slightly less violent beating because of your Establishment-smashing hippie grandmother. Barack Obama has zero white privilege because he looks black.
Hence the writers who inform you up front about their non-white blood; they want readers to be clear they’re not some virtue-signalling clueless white person. They need you to know that regardless of how they look, of how much better they get treated if they keep their mouths shut, they don’t identify as such.
Rachel Dolezal’s big mistake: You’ve got to have the pedigree to claim non-whiteness.
The obsession with pedigree on the left demonstrates it’s no less racially identitarian than the wannabe Aryans terrorizing the Capitol.
“Race is nothing more than a social construct!” the left crows, and at the genetic level, they’re right. As more people get tested by spit-and-mail genetic analysis companies, the more we realize not only are we not as ‘pure’ as we think, but our DNA can even contain traces of extinct humans like Neanderthals and Denisovans. (Fun historical side note: Our sole surviving species, Homo Sapiens, likely genocided them both.)
Now white supremacists are learning they’re slightly less white than advertised. Um, awkward!
Even more awkward: Native Americans suddenly discovering their Inner Racists when it comes to sharing casino profits with people who don’t ‘look Native’ but who contain more Native DNA than the ones who fit the stereotype.
Optics are everything.
It’s why Elizabeth Warren received much-deserved derision when others accused her of using her minimal (genuine) Native American ancestry to gain favor in her legal academia rise.
Critics rightly noted she looked white, lived white, and never suffered any sort of racism. No one ever followed her around in a store or stopped her for Driving While Native.
‘White privilege’ is a conceptual football casually tossed around, correctly assigned only to those in power, white people. And since we racist (and species-ist) Homo Sapiens insist on judging each other by what we look like, white privilege is conferred upon anyone who can ‘pass’.
Time for our fellow whites-in-denial to get real with themselves. Regardless of how stone-soup one’s personal recipe is, how you get treated depends on how you look. It’s stupid and toxic, but the Regressive Left’s obsession with racial labels — ‘impurity’ as a point of pride — is no less comparable than ‘white pride’.
It even mirrors the racism: White supremacists hate anyone who’s not white, while the Regressive Left hates anyone who is.
The benefits of identifying as non-white include no debilitating ‘white guilt’, and unquestioning obedience from those who have it. Victimhood is sacred.
If you look white, you have white privilege. Your opinion doesn’t matter if you walk into a bank and don’t tell them about your black great-grandaddy and your half-Southeast Asian mama.
Which I’m guessing you won’t, if you want to increase your chances of getting the loan.
This article appeared first on Medium in January 2021.