Thursday, April 8, 2010

push non-white people to assimilate

Gloria, an swpd reader sent the following email:

I’m a sophomore at a very white university. I’m a Mexican American female, and I speak with a bit of an “accent.” I’m also a little dark, so people don’t generally see me as white.

I’m thinking of transferring to another, more diverse university, because I’m just not comfortable here. A big reason is that although I’m clearly Mexican American, and that means certain definite things to me, including who and what I am, I often feel a friendly pressure to assimilate. Other students, especially, push me to do “normal” things sometimes that just don’t fit my background or who I am, even sometimes physically.

Last week I was in my room, for example, and a white student who knows me through other white students popped in. She had something in her hand, and she held it up while she was smiling.

“I think this would fit you!” she said. I saw that it was a dress.

Now, I just don’t wear dresses. That goes back to my conservative background; my parents, for instance, never would have let me wear dresses. I knew enough not to even ask, but anyway, I never wanted to.

So what could I say to this friendly smiling person? Should I say that I don’t wear dresses? Should I explain why I’m not comfortable in them? And on top of that, was she implying, as other girls here have, that I should wear dresses, because that’s “normal,” or better, than what I wear?

“Um, thank you,” I said. “Where. . . where did it come from?”

Was this a used dress that she was like, handing down to me? If so, what would THAT really mean?

“Oh, my mom had it sent to me. It’s really pretty! It’s brand new, but it doesn’t quite fit me. Do you want to try it on?”

“Um, okay . . . “ And as she walked into my room, I said, “Wait, I mean, I’m sorry, but no. I’m okay, thanks. Thank you anyway, very much.”

She stopped and dropped her arm that was holding out the dress, and she dropped her smile too.

“Well, okay,” she said, turning around quickly to leave. “That’s okay. I just thought it would look nice on you.”

She sounded almost hurt, and then she was gone. I felt confused. And then I felt frustrated.

I notice that white women as students here often push me to join in their ways. Their “fun” or “pretty” or “attractive” ways. I have dark, wavy hair, and they've asked several times if I’ve ever considered straightening it. Other women make suggestions about my makeup that fit lighter features and hair then mine. It’s hard not to think of them as seeing these things as connected to their whiteness, but in ways they really don’t see about themselves, and about what they're doing to me in those moments.

The professors don’t seem all that sensitive to my ethnicity either. One knew that I’m not white and called me on it in class, by asking me to speak to how I felt about a topic (race and prisons) “as an Hispanic person.” As far as I knew, I was the only one in class. In that case, I didn’t feel like I was being pressured to try to be white—I suppose it was the opposite. But in either case, I didn’t feel right.

Most of the time, my ethnicity is not acknowledged in class, but then that doesn’t quite feel right either. It’s like, again, I’m expected to be white somehow—talk white (I’m aware of my “accent,” and always trying to curb it), act white-feminine (nice, smiley, polite, not loud, doesn’t interrupt—I think even my body language might change on campus), be “like a normal person,” which here means a white person.

So, I’m hoping to transfer to a more diverse campus near the city I came from.

But I wonder, do others feel these things, badly enough to want out like I do? Or am I overeacting?

I’d love to hear from any interested swpd readers.


  1. Oh, thank you for sharing, I can really relate. But, in an opposite way almost. I'm Mexican American too but I grew up in a very white suburb. I feel white, really, and hey I am white, actually. So, I do have the last name that's different. When I'm in class, that's been called out. I was in tears about it afterward once. I was so torn. it was a room full of white people, and I thought I fit right in. But then, suddenly, I didn't. I'm still figuring the pain of that one out.

  2. I definitely don't think you're over reacting. There's a point in your college career where if you are "an outsider", you start to become aware of it. I actually go to a very diverse campus (UC Riverside), but I was in a major that didn't have a lot of African-Americans. I was usually one of the only Black people in my classes and I had a roommate who apparently had never met a Black person in real life (She said some very offense things from ignorance).

    Ultimately, whether you are overreacting or not (I don't think you are though)if you feel uncomfortable, transferring to another school would probably be in your best interests. Just make sure the classes transfer to where ever you decide to go.

  3. I am a black man and I spent all of my life in very white private schools. I know exactly how you feel. I don't know why, but when you said you try to hide your accent, I was saddened by it. Partially, because it really shows how hard you are trying to fit it, but also I know how beautiful your accent sounds to me.

    Whatever you do, go where you can be comfortable, but most of all, be yourself.

  4. I understand what you mean about being the only Hispanic person in a place. I often go to forums about video games (dominated by white males of European descent) and, on the smaller ones, am literally the only Hispanic person there. It's an awkward change from my school where everyone is Hispanic except for one girl, whose family has been in the US for several generations and who does not keep in touch with her ancestry (German/Italian).

    It's really odd to go from a place where most everybody knows Spanish to a place where few people know any Spanish outside of "Hola". It lead to a situation that really angered me when I was trying to explain to some Irish dude why X commercial could be perceived as offensive and he basically said "You're Hispanic; you're too biased to comment on this".

    It made me close to crying and I was very upset. I had always regarded that forum as a nice, safe space. There were people who agreed with me, shared similar interests. I thought the people were rather educated about racism and such. It really shocked me for the conversation to come down to that. The only person who understood exactly why such a comment was offensive was this other girl (English, white, lesbian) whom I thanked in a PM later.

    I don't think you are overreacting. I'm not sure I could study in a place where I felt so uncomfortable and culturally out-of-place.

    @Veronique: I get what you say about being white and Hispanic but still feeling different. I'm Cuban-American, born in Cuba but raised in the USA by Cuban parents. I really don't know how to identify myself. I am white and Hispanic, and I hold these two truths at the same time (and dare anyone to challenge them). However, the issue of nationality is confusing. Culturally, I am American with strong Cuban influences. My family life is a mix of both cultures. I feel like I am a sort of "quiet insider" in both cultures; observing them but not really participating entirely in one. It's weird. I get you entirely.

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  6. gurl, you aint overreacting. I know exaclty how you feel. Where I live, I feel alienated and outcasted everyday.

    College was really hard for me. I didn't make any friends for the first 2 semesters. Then when Facebook was born, it gave me a social life (I'm not joking, people). Then I slowly began making new friends. But I always felt like an outsider when I had to socialize with white midwestern American Christians who came from small towns.

    There was one Indian girl in my dorm and we immediately gravitated toward each other on the 1st day of orientation. she complained about her dorm roommate who often made racist remarks about Indians and Hindus and how Hinduism was so "weird."

    my dorm roommate was much nicer, but she always acted weird and seemed uncomfortable whenever I'd pray salat in our dorm room. so I stopped praying because I was afraid and embarrassed. I didnt pray once for the whole entire academic year, just because I was scared to offend her small town Christian ways!!! ugh.

    You ain't alone in feeling this way.


  7. @Gloria
    I'm Chinese and have never been in any school setting in the US where I've been part of the "majority," so you are definitely not alone. And you'll most likely find that feeling after school finishes in the workplace or wherever.

    I don't think you're overreacting, but there are many things you could do as well such as seek out other minorities or people that can relate to you. But that said, you should follow whatever's best for you, and you can def judge your situation better than a netizen analyzing your post (i.e. me).

  8. Welcome to the World, Baby Girl.

    You are now realizing what it means to be a woman of color. Unless, we have some drastic change very soon, get used to it (but don't stop putting your voice out). It will be a very bumpy ride.

  9. As a black woman, I don't think we are a part of those who could or are encouraged to assimilate, on both sides of the fence... lol.

  10. @girlx
    I disagree.. (smile) I think as black women we are expected to assimilate but to always be poor imitations of white women.

    We are pushed to straighten our hair or plonk a weave on it, afros make white people uncomfortable or leave them looking at us like little children.

    We must leave all cultural nuances behind, our cultural ideas/styles/ methods etc are always labelled aggressive, silly, weird, not right, ugly substandard until white women find a way to mimic it and then they proclaim it to be new and the sexiest thing ever.

    - You know big lips were never sexy until Bardot/Jolie had em.
    - Big butts oh dear God! they were grotesque until plastic surgery made them available to white women.
    - brown skin is dirty/disgusting unless its achieved via a tan and then its healthy.
    - braids are ropey crap until bo derek did it then it was SEXY!

    White women think you must want to look like them, (in their minds who wouldn't) and they express this thinking they are being helpful without ever imagining themselves in that position.

    I've probably said this before on this board somewhere but my ex-bestfriend was white.... our friendship ended because I wouldn't wear my afro the way she wanted me to wear it....
    She demanded I wear it like Michael Jackson in the 70's (Jackson 5 era).

  11. @OP

    I'll never forget the look of confusion then horror on my ex besties face when she heard my lil sister and I discussing how much we loved dark skin and wished we were darker (almost blue-black).

    She could not wrap her head around it, yet this woman worshipped the sun! she was proud of her ability to tan deeply and her almost light brown complexion.

    Following that convo, I had to reassure her that I would stay in the shade if the weather got to hot. Why did I do that?? well years of conditioning that you do not upset white women, you do not rock the boat, you tell them what they want to hear and do what ever you want to do quietly anyway.

    It wasn't until we really got close that I realised that all the horror and disgust was really envy and jealousy at something she could never be no matter how hard she tried.

    She hated black women for their natural endowments, yet sought them out (only one at a time) for friendship were she would try to obtain as much info on how they do things whilst debasing them at the same time.

    Before me, it was someone else. And after me, there will be another black person. I'm just glad for the lessons she taught me.

    - Don't ever compromise yourself for anyone else. - The minute you start to feel uncomfortable, voice it and leave.
    - Don't be afraid to tell someone how offensive they are being and you don't have to explain, it only invites these types to debate your feelings.

    Calmly state you find their behaviour offensive and
    end it there. If they push you, ask them why they are trying to debate your feelings? isn't enough that you are hurting because they just said something offensive, why can't they just apologise.

  12. I feel like I could have written some of this post.

    I'm a college senior at a University that is fairly diverse, but still about 65% white. My chosen career (teaching) seems to be dominated by white people on campus, and there have been quite a number of classes where I was the only non-white person (I'm Hispanic) in the room. It was uncomfortable for me at times.

    I would often get singled out for certain issues, almost as if I were a spokesperson for the entire race. I'm not fluent in Spanish and yet I was (and still am) constantly expected to be and many white people just couldn't understand how I wasn't fluent in Spanish. They just assumed that all Hispanics knew it and see me as some sort of an anomaly (usually because I couldn't provide free translation services). My family's been here for several generations, however, so I assume like other immigrant groups we eventually "lose" the language.

    I had a professor I'll never forget who said some very offensive things despite knowingly teaching in a diverse school district. My class all had "normal American-sounding names" it was totally great for her because it wasn't like in her school district where she had all of these "crazy" names she couldn't pronounce! She also said several other offensive things about Hispanics that I made sure to mention in her course evaluation and that I will be speaking to the head of the Education department about.

  13. As a white person I implore you to use your accent, and feel no need to curb it. Accents are a beautiful reminder of how unique we all are, and are another form of something akin to music. I hope no one would cause you emotional turmoil over how you sound, and make you feel the need to 'train' yourself to 'blend' in with your voice. And if they do, I am sorry for your pain, and the loss of a beautiful accent.

  14. @soul... I guess I just don't agree with that. I do see what you are saying, but I view it differently. I doubt there will ever be a white woman encouraging me to behave in more lithe, "white" ways, or discussing with me the things that I do that are too ethnic. I doubt any white person is ever going to question why I listen to rap music, for example, or ask me not to. Black people are too much of an other for that behavior (frankly, we are THE other), and race relations between blacks and whites are so fraught with tension that we're just like some huge mystery that some white people prefer to watch in fearful silence from a safe distance. Not something to be approached or changed. There is, after all, no way a black person could legitimately pass for white the way some other ethnicities could which, I think, is part of the behavior the OP encountered.

    What's more, a lot, if not all, of the things you list, I think are pressures that come from the black community itself and have absolutely nothing to do with whites per se. I suppose I'm simply of the opinion that whites are content to keep blacks as far away from assimilating as possible, however one wants to interpret that. That in general, whites would not want blacks to "be like them" or even think that it's possible a black person could. I've known white people who wanted me to see things their way, sure, but nothing that comes close to pushing me to "assimilate."

  15. I'm a regular visitor here, and I recently commented on the post where the black woman was harassed at the bus stop... a despicable thing.
    However, from one Hispanic to another, I doubt your classmates are trying to maliciously erode your heritage. I'm not knocking off racism, it is certainly there, but at least your experiences are better than being ignored or distrusted! My features unmistakenly point at Latin American origins (in fact, some people don't even think I speak English when they meet me), but I wish I could feel a bit more welcome.

  16. Trust your instincts; if it feels uncomfortable, then it's definitely not because you're overreacting.

    One thing I don't like about visiting my relatives in America is the uncomfortable mostly white gatherings I have to sit through. My uncle-in-law's white friends and family could not be any more obvious at interacting with me at arms length.

  17. @nuralme, it is not a helpful comment to minimize the writer's pain or to compare it to your own like it's a contest. Clearly, her experiences are painful and frustrating for her. She doesn't need you to score them for her.

  18. It's sad that even when WP try to be friends with POC we end up making them feel more alienated. It sounds like just being around us is a no win situation for everyone. It seems like those girls had good intentions but nonetheless contributed to your desire to withdraw to more familiar surroundings. I wonder if there is a way for white people to behave that would be considered acceptable by POC, or if just being white and human at the same time produces a negative effect no matter what.

  19. @jas0nburns, your question comes across as disingenuous ("ugh, white people just can't win!") but I'm going to answer it anyway.

    "I wonder if there is a way for white people to behave that would be considered acceptable by POC, or if just being white and human at the same time produces a negative effect no matter what."

    The OP gave specific examples of behaviors that made her feel uncomfortable. These behaviors all revolve around the underlying concept that white is normal and better, and that deviation from accepted white behaviors and appearance was not well-tolerated by the people around her. So the problem here is note simply being "white and human" but a belief in white superiority.

  20. @jas0nburns re: "I wonder if there is a way for white people to behave that would be considered acceptable by POC, or if just being white and human at the same time produces a negative effect no matter what."

    Back in a though, Jason? The behavior that Gloria describes--her friend pushing her to wear what she thinks Gloria ought to wear and her obviously negative reaction to being politely turned down--might be typically white but it also shows that the friend is ignorant of the notion that someone might have a different approach to the world than her own.

    This is where the ideal of treating everyone the same breaks down. Everyone isn't the same, and what standard can a person use for sameness anyway except oneself? As noble as it might sound, if I treat everyone the way I want to be treated, I am assuming that everyone has my outlook, tastes, preferences, culture, and on and on.

    Gloria isn't persecuting her friend for just being white; she's exasperated at the friend's inability to let her be who she is without making her feel like an outsider. I don't think that's an inherently white trait even though it's pretty common; it's a learned response, part of our racial conditioning.

  21. @sciencegirl:

    Maybe I'm missing something, but I frankly cannot see how being given fashion advice and being encouraged to be part of the group are painful, frustrating experiences.

  22. I am white and mexican. I mean I am a white person whose family is from Mexico. I put non-hispanic white on my census form because I am white. I have zero Native American ancestry. Just because I have ancestors from Spain who moved to Mexico does not change my race. I am fine with whites who have no idea that my family came from Mexico. Whites in America today are very accepting. If they weren't we would have Mexico's restrictive immigration policy or even more extreme, Japan's totally restrictive immigration policy.

    On the one hand some ethnic minorities don't want to assimilate but they demand acceptance. I don't quite get what the point is. Everyone wants to come to America, but then when they get here they don't want to assimilate. I mean if those other countries were so great, why leave and come to America? How would you feel if whites didn't want to let you assimilate?

  23. That should be "Back in a trough, Jason?", not "though." And now I can address it to nuralme, too.

  24. But I wonder, do others feel these things, badly enough to want out like I do?

    YES. *nods emphatically*

    Or am I overeacting?

    NO. Your university sounds like a racial microaggression-breeding ground and you need to flee for dear life. I've been that black girl to whom white peers have offered "suggestions" for changing shit - my name, hair texture, outfits, religion - you name it. It was always on the tip of my tongue to tell all those people to go to hell.

    @ Veronique,

    It seems you got the dreaded "reminder" that you're not really "one of them". There's a saying amongst POC in America that one should never forget they are "different" because at some point, someone will "remind" them.

    @ jason

    I wonder if there is a way for white people to behave that would be considered acceptable by POC, or if just being white and human [how ironic that you would use this particular word] at the same time produces a negative effect no matter what.

    1) That was emo, but anyhoo,
    2) Yeah, there is a way - stop trying to change us. Most of us - and this may come as a huge shock - don't want lighter skin or straighter, blonder hair. Most of us actually like our noses, lips, and eye shapes. Some of us don't wear dresses, while some of us wear nothing but. Some of us actually like covering our hair and skin. And with that said,
    3) You wanna talk about being human? Try treating us like we're human...not pets or "projects".

    The white girls in Gloria's story wouldn't have liked Gloria to try to change them in return (how do you think I eventually got my white peers to leave me alone?).

    And Gloria, don't fall for the "hurt" look. *shakes head* Never feel guilty for being on the receiving end of a microaggression. If Miss Here-Wear-This-Dress fled your dorm quickly, then it's because a part of her knew she was doing something wrong.

    Let her feel that shit.

    If WP are having trouble treating POC like human beings, that's not our fault. It only becomes our fault when we encourage and enable them just to "spare their feelings".

    *snort* Fuck their feelings.

  25. I don't think you are overreacting and if you don't feel comfortable it is probably for good reason. As for transferring it will probably make you feel better, but really research what schools you will transfer to and be POSITIVE they will take all or most of your credits before you go and that you can easily transfer your financial aid. I have heard many nightmares from people who transfer who wind up not having their credits accepted by their new school and they spend an extra year or more in college which means a lot more money or even dropping out. Even when the schools are of pretty much equal ranking academically they can have very different core requirements for all students in a particular college (like Arts and Sciences, or the Management school, etc) and prerequisites for your advanced classes in your major. Also, if you are past your 2nd year, though it sucks, you might want to just ride it out b/c it can get really hard once you are taking a lot of core clases for your major. I just spent a semester at another school to do an internship program and had to engage in a HUGE fight to get my financial aid released and I'd think transferring can only make it worse.

    Also, this is sad to say, but unless you go into a very particular career path, you will most likely be in environments with many, most likely a majority of white folks, so at some point you really have to get used to dealing with their crap so you can look on this as preparation for the work world.

    As for the dress, it does sound like she was being nice but you did the right thing. Also, unless you really know the person and really feel they are open, will understand or at least try, don't feel like you have to spend lots of time explaining yourself to them or your ethnicity etc. You can just say no, or I don't think that color would work with my skin tone, etc. Also, you never know, maybe they think you are really pretty and are trying to help you accentuate it more? Though I'm sure you are fine as you are. I mean though some white folks can be crazy, some of them really do mean well and have good intentions and really do want to try to be friends, just don't let them do it all on their terms or to make you give up parts of yourself or things that are important to you.

    Are there any hispanic, or POC or even black student groups at your school? Joining one might help, even though I know you aren't black many times black folks are so used to accepting other folks, especially when there are few poc's around, that might be a nice respite from the storm (though I know that isn't always the case and sometimes we black folks can be as mean and as exclusionary as everyone else).

    Whatever you do, good luck!

  26. @ Macon,

    I mean if those other countries were so great, why leave and come to America? How would you feel if whites didn't want to let you assimilate?


  27. @white mexican re: "On the one hand some ethnic minorities don't want to assimilate but they demand acceptance. I don't quite get what the point is."

    In a country that is mostly mono-cultural and proud of it, like Japan, it's more understandable that anyone wanting to live there would be expected to assimilate into the culture. But this is a country that bills itself as multicultural; we say that we are a mixture of cultures and that we welcome people from all over the world (see Statue of Liberty). If we walk that talk, we should not expect anyone to assimilate to another culture, but to proudly be part of a multicultural mix.

  28. @ Moi,

    Why did you address your comment about a quotation from white mexican's comment to me?

  29. "Just because I have ancestors from Spain who moved to Mexico does not change my race."


  30. @ moi and at macon

    I literally typed out the same "macon, seriously?" comment. LOL again.

  31. @macon, I imagine it's because she wonders why you let it get posted. I had a similar thought about nuralme's last comment. Not sure how accepting comments that belittle the OP's feelings are constructive to the conversation.

  32. @jas0n:

    Maybe you should stop trying to win and start trying to understand.

  33. @thesciencegirl,

    I see your point, thank you, and I'll keep it in mind for future comments. I let the comments by white mexican and nuralme through because I generally don't think it's my place as a white person to police non-white or ethnic intragroup dialogues. But I appreciate the explanation/interpretation of Moi's comment and the reminder about the danger of hurt feelings, and I'll try to do a better job here of screening hurtful comments.

  34. I don't think you are overreacting. Of course it sucks to both be narrowed out for your race or have it completely overlooked.

    I'm a little torn though, because I'm an (italian american) white girl. I have frizzy/curly hair, don't dress feminine, or wear makeup. I also feel a lot of pressure to straighten my hair, wear dresses or makeup, etc.(from my mexican boyfriend no less) Obviously the racial aspect isn't there, and I don't really want to cross into the "it's not racism, it's sexism" territory. I've also had girls try to give me their hand-me-down clothes, makeup, and high heels.

    So just saying, I can almost sorta kinda relate. :D

  35. Japan's totally restrictive immigration policy.

    @white mexican - You sound like you live on Antarctica with the penguins and no tv, no school, no internet, etc. Have you never noticed the difference between the US and Japan's population to habitable land ratio? (Japan's already small land mass is filled with volcanoes and mountain ranges). Have you ever seen the size of standard Japanese houses and apartments? They are beyond minute. Their bathrooms are the size of your toilets, their kitchens the size of your closet, their bedrooms the size of your walk-in closets. To expect Japan to accept migrants at the rate the US does is incomprehensible, impractical, suicidal, and plain stupid.

  36. No. You are not. Do what makes you feel comfortable. If you feel comfortable saying "Dresses aren't really my thing", say it. If you don't want to explain yourself, you don't have to. Even though you feel pressured, in the end you ARE NOT responsible for keeping other people happy by completely rejecting pieces of who you are. It doesn't hurt anyone if you don't wear a dress, or don't feel like straightening your hair, so why should you feel guilty?

  37. @girl x

    Yes, black people can assimilate. My grandmother never heard from her two lighter sisters again after they "passed" in the 1940's.

    Not everyone who is black looks black.

    I am latina, cubana to be exact. I am also black. I look "Afican-American" to white people, not Afro-Cuban, which I am. No one ever assumes I can speak Spanish, or that my cousins live outside Havana. Many times I am pressured to assimilate to white expectations of what black people should like, wear, and listen to, while other Spanish speaking folks don't consider me one of their own either.

    There is alot of confusion around race, ethnicity, expectation and identity. There always has been, even around folks that seem "Black".

  38. Gloria,

    It's not overreaction. It's my reaction, too. I live in a midwestern college town currently, and damn is it white! Sometimes it can be like that.

    --People want to straighten my hair or if I ask for help finding a barber in the local area, I'll get directions to people that do "mohawks" or whatever they think a "mohawk" hair cut is. Complete unabashed appropriation to make a blase fashion statement, and an expectation that people of color (POC) used to seeing that happen to their culture want to participate in the same practices with others' cultures. Not to say some won't, but it offends me.

    --I'll be mocked for talking like I do, so I have to remind myself to constantly over-enunciate or people will think it's okay to use ridiculous amounts of slang.

    --So much of the local media (film series, music, art, etc.) is about middle-to-upper-class white teens and young adults and their angst, it's ridiculous. Whenever POC come on the screen or are a part of a media showcase on campus especially, it's documentaries about ways in which we're victims of brutal oppression, never coming-of-age tales, no romance novels, nothing about our angst and regular lives, nope...the campus folks can't show images of POC without us being helpless, but white people are complex and nuanced.

    It can get so unwelcome here and yet call people out on this privilege and they get to derailing..."Find examples, no more examples, no stronger examples, okay, now you're getting hostile..." and on and on it goes.

  39. To those reflecting on fashion advice: In my view, it is always an implicit insult for any woman to give any other woman unsolicited fashion advice. How better to say: "you have bad taste, my dear"? For that matter, any unsolicited advice is always condescending and an implicit insult that says: "There is something wrong with you."

    To Jas0nburns: your comment reminded me of something I read by a Black woman (I think it was bell hooks) about how to get along with her: "First, just forget that I am Black. Second, never forget that I am Black." I'm going to condescend to you by giving you some unsolicited advice. What she said can be generalized to a life principle about dealing with other people, including those closest to you: first, never forget that everyone else is a person just like you; second, never forget that everyone else is different from you. In this context, the awful reality you are confronting is that you are (I am) white in a white supremacist society, and that will affect every interaction we have with people of color. That pain is not going to go away in our lifetime. You can choose to live in awareness of that pain and try to connect with other people anyway, or you can put on the blinders of white privilege and pretend it isn't there. But you can't make it go away. Blaming people of color because they make you aware of the trauma of white supremacy is white supremacy in one of its purest forms.

  40. Gloria,

    We might just go to the same school (which, btw, will have it's first Black valedictorian--a female--next month), but even if we don't, I'm completely unsurprised. As a Spanish major and someone who runs an ESL program off-campus, I notice that WP push and pull Hispanic/Latino students in opposite directions. First, they're "too ethnic" (because more than 2 Hispanic/Latino people hanging together means they are plotting world domination), then, they are "teaching tools". It really pisses me off when White people try to prove how "Spanish" they are (people in my class do this all the time and it bugs), and since I'm not Hispanic/Latina, I can't imagine how it would feel to belong to that group and always have people asking you how to roll their r's or complaining about actually having to, you know, practice a new language in order to become better at it.

    As much as I try to make sure to find volunteers who are interested in what they can give to the community (rather than those who are like, "hey free Spanish lessons"), I always feel like some slip through the cracks and it frustrates me.

    If you do decide to transfer, I hope you find a place where you are welcomed as you are, not as a "work in progress". And if you don't transfer, I'd encourage you to look into Hispanic/Latino or POC groups on-campus.

  41. [Saint Louis, thanks for the comment and the link, but it isn't cowardice that led me to refuse them. Rather, I see no reason for anyone here to have to deal with people who willfully refuse to see and/or acknowledge the main points of their perceived enemies. Very few people find talking to a wall worth their time. ~macon]

  42. @ nuralme

    I don't think Gloria feels like her friends were trying to maliciously erode her heritage. I think what she's saying is that she felt notably unaccepted for who she is. I don't think her friends had malicious intent at all. But they also didn't have being accepting on their minds either. It went like this, I'm sure. "Gloria never wears dresses. We have to help her!" Not "Gloria never wears dresses, I wonder if she even likes dresses. I'll have to ask her if she's interested next time we're hanging out. I'll just hang on to this dress until then."

    They were engaging in the common white tendency to "normalize" everyone (or get them as close to white-normal as humanly possible). No one cared enough to get to know Gloria enough before dropping in with the dress in hand and insisting that she accept it. There was no understanding that her rejection of the dress wasn't a rejection of the person holding it or even her ideals. She just didn't want the dress and didn't want to have to explain her family history and upbringing to someone who doesn't even know her that well.

    @ Gloria
    I think if you would feel safer and like you can continue to be who you are in another environment, you should take care of yourself and do that. This post makes me think you're a pretty self-assured young woman, and it's not cool that you're being put in so many situations that it's starting to make you question yourself - even the way you speak.

  43. Macon,

    What thesciencegirl said.

  44. @ olderwoman:
    I'm an African-American male who thanks you for the level of consideration and self-examination necessary to arrive at the conclusions in your comments. I mean that sincerely.

  45. Thank you for sharing this, I can relate to your experience to a certain extent since I didn't exactly go to an all white college, but for me the issue was more on class as well as race. I'm an Asian American male who grew up in a working class neighborhood that is predominantly Latin@. I attended a college where the majority are white and Asian; blacks and Latin@s were a minority. Even though there were people who look like me, I felt like I did not belong in the 1st few months of college. My suitemates were white and Asian, but I began to realize that I even had difficulty relating to my Asian suitemates. It was not until later I realized that majority of the people on campus came from middle to upper-class privileged communities. Within few months, I discovered other students who came from similar socio-economic background as me and befriended them. (Not to say that I didn't have friends who came from upper class backgrounds). I also started joining student organizations and spent time at spaces like the cross cultural center where I felt the more comfortable.

  46. You might feel more comfortable transferring to another school - but even being a very diverse environment doesn't guarantee that the pressure to assimilate, whether overt or implicit, will ever go away. You are always going to feel it from friends, media, popular culture...

    The curly hair comment really struck me. All the white girls I know who have curly hair tend to straighten it - I wonder if this is due to some kind of pressure to conform to the white ideal of straight hair...maybe that ideal itself is meant to minimize the appearance of ethnicity, even among white people.

    Being in a more diverse environment, where you can find a nonjudgmental group of friends to hang out with might be really helpful in reducing your stress level - I'd just advise you to consider the school carefully before transferring to make sure that it's right for you.

    I don't think you're overreacting. It's hard to find a comfortable balance: on the one hand, you don't want your friends to ignore your ethnicity and assume that you will have the same tastes and customs as they do, but you also don't want to be singled out and othered as the "token" PoC, as you were by that teacher. I'm not sure that this tension will ever really go away, but being in a more diverse environment could really help - even the white people there will probably be more understanding.

  47. Blaming people of color because they make you aware of the trauma of white supremacy is white supremacy in one of its purest forms.

    Beautifully stated, Olderwoman. It's going to be added to my Ankhesenology collection (Macon's already in it).

  48. This made me think of an opposite kind of incident. One of my supervisors at work is a young black woman who always wears a weave in her hair. One day she just wore her hair naturally, and, like, every white co-worker complimented her. But no just, "your hair looks nice today". More, "Your hair looks nice, you should wear it like that more often, why don't you? (Asking a random person's opinion) Doesn't her hair look nice like this?" Even after she explained that it's a lot more trouble for her to wear her hair natural than to wear a weave. I don't know if my supervisor was bothered by it, but it struck me as a very privileged way to behave - kind of demanding that others meet your expectations, the idea that black people should be comfortable with their natural hair, because we're comfortable with diversity here, and pushing black people to live up to that idea, despite their own preferences.

    It strikes me as the same kind of tendency as you've written about, only expressed in an environment of diversity instead of conformity.

  49. i was trying to say it's a no win for everyone. not that POC were making it too hard for white people. In gloria's story, everyone loses. gloria most of all because she feels alienated at her school and wants to leave. and her white friends lose her friendship and probably will never know what they did wrong. but it's true i was being whiney and emo about it.

    thesciencegirl said: "These behaviors all revolve around the underlying concept that white is normal and better, and that deviation from accepted white behaviors and appearance was not well-tolerated by the people around her."

    I believe the behaviors here at least are neutral and that society revolves around the underlying concept that white is normal and better. so any interaction between a white person and a person of color in such a society is tainted by that concept no matter how mundane that interaction might have been between two people of the same race. because of the myth of white supremacy, interactions between white people and POC take on another dimension of complexity that is invisible to the white person but painfully obvious the POC. or thats what i gather anyway.

  50. @jas0nburns
    "i was trying to say it's a no win for everyone. not that POC were making it too hard for white people."

    "and her white friends lose her friendship and probably will never know what they did wrong."

    Simply saying it's a no win for everyone is kind of annoying. You say that Gloria loses most of all, but do the white girls really lose anything? Like really? Them not realising the implications of their actions doesn't hurt them at all, it just hurts all the other POC they will eventually interact with.

  51. There's a big difference between
    1. a friend you already go shopping (and maybe mutually lend clothing articles) with saying, "Hey, this looks like something you might like - if you want to borrow it sometime, feel free - guaranteed, I'm not going to be wearing it, Mom goofed"


    2. an acquaintance who has decided, without asking you, to appoint you her "make-over project".

    Even without the race issue, most people flee the busybody volunteer consultant. If (white) I had a buck for every time some other white woman tried to get me to girly-up and wear makeup, I'd be looking at a deluxe vacation or one-fourth of a new car or... .

  52. @white mex

    assimilating, whatever it means, is important to do in almost any society. as a poc who also considers herself american, i think there are some things that all people who come to stay in this country should do: learn basic english, basic history, basic customs, etc.

    but where does it stop being assimilation in a country that is characterized by freedom of belief, speech, expression, and a plethora of diversity- and where does it start being a white imposed standard of how sh* should be?

    ask yourself this.

    asking a foreigner to learn a bit of English for practical purposes is ok. but asking a foreigner to abide the same standards of ethnocentric beauty and behavior as the only way to be 'normal' is not.

    what you are doing is making the critical mistake of viewing life through a white person's eyes and believing that this is what should be for everyone, and that because i am white, i am an american. therefore, all non-whites are not american, and to be american they must assimilate and do whatever white people do.

    white people are not the standard in america- well ok they are. but that's like, self-assumed. it's not a truth. white people do not personify the american spirit, and no one asked them to define their life experience as the standard.

    because whites forget that they themselves view things from a racial perspective, they start to think their view is the standard and everyone else is deviating from that standard and thus failing to assimilate.

    you should take a moment to read macon's protips on SWPD for beginners. and you should take the time to research the legacy of violence and oppression your people have left behind.

    excuse me if i dont throw myself at white people and try to 'assimilate' when they have caused so much pain and suffering in the world- regardless of intention.


    as stated so many times before, you are not overreacting at all. its tough being a POC in a white man's world, and the best hope is for you to find people who you share similarities with.

    i can relate so much on some of those things. like the whole, white people's beauty tips. i read magazine and just go UGH. i cant wear this color eyeshadow, this shade lipstick, cant do this with my hair, don't want to. and some people don't get it! wth! how can you not get, my skin isnt like this, my hair isnt like this, i dont agree with what you say/think but i respect you, and i only what the same in return?

    when i see concealer that is a dark peach color, and it says on the back DARK, i get pissed. if i have trouble color matching, what hope is there for the beautiful women in this country that are much darker than I, when they go shopping for beauty products.

    also, i think that macon should allow those comments unless they are really absurd and rude, because it lets us 'practice' almost on how to respond to such things in real life, and let's us try to educate people who do not know better.

    who knows? maybe one of your comments will stir the mind of a racist.

  53. "you say that Gloria loses most of all, but do the white girls really lose anything? Like really?"

    yeah, they lose Gloria for one thing. and many other connections with people down the road. they may not realize what they are missing or feel the effects but i think racism robs white people at the same time that it provides us with privilege.

    I think for white people it's good to think about what we lose because of racism. not so we can compare it to what POC lose and be all like "see we're victims too!" but just to identify that it cheats us as well.

    So are the paths of every gainer of dishonest gain, The life of its owners it taketh.
    -proverbs 1:19

  54. @jas0nburns

    She and other WP may very well miss out on proper friendships with lots of wonderful people, but it's so infinitesimal that it shouldn't be included in a catch all 'everyone loses' statement. It's not like that girl doesn't have lots of other like-minded white friends. White privilege easily covers whatever loss of relationships with POC racism causes.

  55. Re: the discussion of what white people lose due to their racism or privilege: check out the "Cost of Racism" series on the resistracism blog.

  56. Interestingly, along the conflict between assimilation and self-determination, which may branch off into another topic altogether, this article by Sheema Khan concerning the Quebec law banning head coverings, which specifically targets Muslim women.

  57. Hermana mia, I know how it feels. In high school, there were only 2 Hispanics: me and a boy named Daniel. At my university, there are only 5 Latinos (including myself) on campus. I have a few PoC friends and only 1 of them is Latina. I, too, have been the "pet project" of white people..from "teach me Spanish" to "let me give you [beauty] tips for your hair/skin" to "How do they do [insert activity/food] in Mexico/Puerto Rico/Dominican Republic?"

    ...Ugh. I used to think they were interested in our culture, but I'm not sure anymore. But I know how it is everyday. We have to deal with them, and this won't go away. But we can try to find a way to make dealing with it easier. I'm right there with you.

  58. I can very much relate to this, I live in a small white english-speaking country, and they are constantly going on about how immigrants should assimilate and integrate into the white culture and stop sticking to their "old ways" because they're in a new place now. I don't really get it personally on a day-to-day basis, but it always seem to be the undertone whenever culture diversity is being brought up, aka "Why aren't they trying to be white?"

  59. Reina said,
    >> "I used to think they were interested in our culture, but I'm not sure anymore."

    Maybe it's sort of like, a lot of WP (and especially white Americans, maybe) are interested in POC and non-American cultures only insofar as they are "useful"? Either by perpetuating and reinforcing already-held stereotypes, or through mis/appropriation? (Witness the battles over whether yoga as a gym class constitutes cultural appropriation).

    There is also an underlying sense that WP/WAm have some sort of "right" to POC culture. That's one of the (many) problems with many discussions of what WP 'lose' due to our racism--the "loss of genuine relationships w/POC" and "loss of exposure to other cultures" assumes we have some sort of right to those in the first place.

    I'm not dismissing the idea that it's possible to have just a genuine, innocent interest in a topic, and there are times when friendly questions can be appropriate. (And education via reading/listening to what POC offer publicly and freely is very good! I'm totally not arguing for WAm isolationism!) But in the context of racism when a WP asks something of POC, factors besides individual interest enter into play.

  60. I tend to agree with both Jas0n (can't believe I said that) and Rochelle.

    Yes, WP who annoy/offend/alienate POC are missing out on crucial knowledge, awareness, and overall experience - I get and concur with that.

    However, what I think Rochelle is going for is that bliss! Miss Here-Wear-This-Dress doesn't even know she's lost something important. She just gets to go back to her clueless, privileged circle, bemoans the ingratitude of POC, receives whatever comfort and validation she desires from her friends, and then simply goes on with her blissfully ignorant life.

    This is a classic case of POC already knowing what some WP are just now discovering. Knowing white truth in addition to our own has made POC strong and insightful in many ways. Knowing only white truth while systemically excluding our truth ultimately weakens and even "dumbs down" white people, but privilege keeps them from realizing this fact, or even caring when some of them finally do.

  61. "Maybe it's sort of like, a lot of WP (and especially white Americans, maybe) are interested in POC and non-American cultures only insofar as they are "useful"?"

    This is a really great point. Many whites tend to be very utilitarian in their thinking. Often looking to use materials, ideas, situations and even people for efficient and innovative purposes. They like reductionism, looking at the elements of something and thinking how to use its natural properties to advantage. I know I am like that.

  62. [Lydia, a lot of comments get submitted here by white people who don't know how to listen yet. You're not responding in a way that shows that you've been listening. If you're really serious about learning how your racist culture has trained you yourself to be racist, I suggest you read this original post and its comments more carefully, then go to the list of readings available at the end of the "commenting guidelines" in the upper-right corner of this blog. You have some catching up to do. ~macon]

    @white mexican,

    You don't seem to be bothered by that common white tendency. Are you saying that it's okay -- even a good thing -- for white people to use, exploit, and in the process abuse non-white people? And as for other things white people "use" "efficiently," are you also expressing approval of and admiration for the general results of global white supremacy (which include global warming, polluted environments, vanquished and banished peoples, exterminated species of flora and fauna, destabilized societies, massive wealth disparities, and so on)?

    Or am I mistaken in gathering that you're a latter-day Dr. Pangloss?

  63. @ girl x

    they may expect you to love all those 'black urban' things but they also state that those are the things holding you and other black folks back. they've convinced many that not having names that weren't either 'normal' biblical names (no longer considered semitic) or anglo/saxon/celtic/scottish/take your pick is foolish and funny (how many africans, asians, americans of asian descent named or were given a 'normal name' just to fit in somewhat in north america and surope?) and have made it a detriment to employment, housing, etc. hairstyles changed so they're acceptable for the workplace. the list goes on.

    assimilation has nothing with what you look like it's the erasure of what you look like, your ethnicity, your culture. be like the 'normal' majority. the added bonuses are you won't rock the boat and mention racism and cultural/ethnic hatred. you won't feel any kinship with those of your group that are being targeted and therefore won't join up to fight against the attacks and injustice.

    silenced for the comfort of the majority

  64. @Moi

    Yes, that's exactly what I was trying to say.

  65. I might also note that everyone has had to assimilate sooner or later. Want to be a picky eater where you only eat food from your home country? Well, lunch with coworkers is going to end up being a constant headache. Can't be bothered to learn the grammar the country? Well, people are going to think you're not that bright. Don't want to abide by the prevailing cultural norms of behavior? Well, people are going to think you have behavioral problems.

    I've met some people who, in their desire to assimilate, practically developed a form of Stockholm Syndrome, becoming admiring and jealous of those Americans from the white/WASP "ruling caste," which ultimately started to come across as sort of desperate and pathetic. But to a certain degree, the United States is a game, just like making it anywhere is a game, and if you want to succeed at the game, you have to understand the rules. Once you understand the rules, then you can game and manipulate the system to your liking.

    Gloria's young, alone, and in an uncomfortable situation. Sounds like she needs a smoother transition before she figures out how to "play the game."

    Don't forget that being a woman is another significant factor here. Men likely have an easier time dealing with assimilationist pressures, particularly because they get a lot more leeway in terms of behavioral and aesthetic expectations.

  66. @Marissa
    "it's a lot more trouble for her to wear her hair natural than to wear a weave."

    Never having worn a weave, I had no idea this was true. Until today, my knowledge and experience of hair has been limited to styling, perming and coloring my own.Im wondering if I missed previous opportunities to learn-or-just never thought about it before?

    Now Im thinking this is exactly the difficulty of living in a Caucasian-dominated culture. It means as a white woman, I am likely to learn mostly/only things related to the white experience.

    It doesn't mean I don't care/don't want to know. For me it means I have reach beyond my own average/daily experiences and also those of my own friends/church/family, since they too are likely Caucasian.

    It also may means recognizing and realizing Caucasian centric school, media, or popular culture cannot teach me these things. It means going elsewhere -even outside my own comfort zone-to request information from people who may or may not welcome my questions.

    It means there is much I am not culturally aware of, and I sometimes trying to learn leaves me confused, and sometimes afraid to ask questions and wanting to say home. I'll try not to.

    Thank you.

    PS I came to this blog b/c of a sarcastic twitter post about "when did stuff white people do" get all serious?

    Thank you.

  67. @Marissa
    I strongly disagree with you. The only reason that your friend says it is "easier" for her to wear a weave is because she has not learnt to take care of her natural hair and she is actually trying to assimilate. Wearing the weave IS assimilation. Not wearing it is NOT. And I don't think her white co-workers were wrong to encourage her to not wear a weave. If they had said that her natural hair was ugly and she should wear a weave it would be offensive but saying they liked her natural hair was not because a lot of people (especially black people) think natural hair is not beautiful and people that have natural hair are made fun of. Some workplaces might not allow you wear your natural hair out. How is their saying she should wear her natural hair and not a weave trying to make her fit their expectations? If anything, they are encouraging her to be natural self. I think it's nice that they said nice things about her hair. Just go on youtube and see many rants women with natural hair have made about ugly comments people have made to them about their natural hair and see what I mean.

  68. @ lbyrne

    "PS I came to this blog b/c of a sarcastic twitter post about "when did stuff white people do" get all serious?"

    When people stopped mistaking it for Stuff White People Like. :) Another thing you will learn that we white people do is when we start learning more about anti-racism, we become the assassins of the bliss most WP have of being unaware of racism as it is today. I'm glad you got something out of this post, hope you will find others that are helpful to you.

  69. @lbyrne....

    If there is anything you should not take away from here it is thinking that wearing natural hair is more difficult than wearing a weave.
    That is the most ridiculous thing ever and is borne of a centuries of conditioning that black hair is wrong/hard/difficult and also out of centuries of using the wrong items to style hair.

    I wear my hair naturally, and it requires less maintainance than people who wear or use a weave and it is less damaging.

    I use the right tools for my hair and I do it myself.
    My hair is what many americans would call 'type 4b' as in pure unadulterated African hair. The type that apparently is supposed to be unruly and can only be 'tamed' with chemicals.

    What hogwash!. I constantly have people coming up to me telling me... oh I wish I had your hair.. you have 'good hair'... I couldn't do that with mine cos I need to put this chemicals in it.

    We have been conditioned to hate our hair, unless we chemically alter it to make it thin and wispy. The process is damaging and can be painful. But we do it because it helps to make us blend in and stand out less in a crowd.

    It makes absolutely no sense for anyone to say that your natural hair is difficult to maintain what they are really saying is ...
    1) I don't have a clue how to take care of it
    2) It is too difficult to make my natural hair look like the white ideal without applying chemicals
    3) I do not want to subject myself to the politics of hair that play out when a black woman wears her hair naturally
    4) I don't want to be associated with the 'militant'/different stereotype that goes along with black women in natural hair.

    Put it blankly natural hair scares them.

  70. @girlx

    I don't even know where to begin with you, so I'll just say.. I disagree and leave it at that.

  71. @Soul Thank you! That's exactly what I meant!

  72. I have to agree with Marissa. It's not her (or other WP's place) to encourage the woman to be comfortable with her natural hair (and maybe she is, but likes how the weave looks better--it's her head). To me it would come off as especially patronizing given that most WP don't know the history of Black women and their hair in the first place. Kind of like WP who say, "Ooh, I wish I could have your skin color!" to a dark-skinned person, completely disregarding the long history of colorism.

    If someone close to her who has natural hair wants to discuss her feelings about her hair, give her advice, etc., that's one thing, but even as a Black woman I don't think it's my place to say, "Yea, just wear your hair natural and stop self-hating" to someone I barely know.

  73. @ olderwoman, i too am an African-American male who appreciated the depth of your insight...i thank you...

  74. "You don't seem to be bothered by that common white tendency. Are you saying that it's okay -- even a good thing -- for white people to use, exploit, and in the process abuse non-white people?"

    Nope, I didn't say abuse. I said use efficiently. Like when I help my friends and their kids get jobs like through networking because of my connections. Even though they might not have thought they could use their talents in a certain way, I would challenge them to see how their skills could be used in a job that a friend of mine was hiring for. So, yes, use people efficiently so that everyone benefits. I am pretty sure my unemployed friends are happy to have me help them get job interviews and my friends who are hiring appreciate my recommendations. The fact that the guy hiring and myself are white and willing to see that even though the person I am recommending doesn't have some specific credential doesn't mean he can't really be a great fit because skills can be used in many ways. The fact that we are both white also doesn't hurt the job candidate. It helps the candidate regardless of his ethnicity.

    Hopefully a non white candidate wouldn't be offended that we were trying to help him get a job in a different area. Hopefully he wouldn't feel like we were forcing him to assimilate or whatever.

  75. "Knowing only white truth while systemically excluding our truth ultimately weakens and even "dumbs down" white people,"


    I am not sure I follow. Could you give an example?

  76. "You don't seem to be bothered by that common white tendency."

    Not really, however you have to judge outcomes individually. If the tendency leads to a polio vaccine, then it is good. If it leads pollution then it's not good. However it is the specific application, not the tendency that is the problem. My first son was so busy as a baby and toddler he drove me nuts, fortunately he has channelled that tendency to do well in school. My second son was an easy going delight, unfortunately that tendency also underlies his biggest problem, laziness. I try not to see people's natural tendencies as all good or all bad. White western culture gave us cars and telephones, and pollution.

  77. olderwoman said

    "the awful reality you are confronting is that you are (I am) white in a white supremacist society, and that will affect every interaction we have with people of color. That pain is not going to go away in our lifetime. You can choose to live in awareness of that pain and try to connect with other people anyway, or you can put on the blinders of white privilege and pretend it isn't there. But you can't make it go away."

    this is my new mantra.

  78. Thank you so much everyone who commented. I hardly know what to say, but I'm very grateful for the input, and for the sense that I wasn't overreacting. I read the comments carefully and gratefully. This will really help with my decision for my future. Thanks again, very much.

  79. Jasmine would it also be wrong if they had said to her 'You should wear a weave. Your natural hair is too nappy.' They didn't say they wished they had her hair. They said they "liked" it. I can say I like blue eyes or blonde hair but does that mean I want them? No it doesn't. I still think that it's nice that they said they liked her hair. Do you have natural hair? Well when you're used to people giving you odd looks and constantly telling you to relax your hair trust me you would welcome the compliments from anyone.

  80. Natural,

    They didn't just say they liked her hair; they said, "Why can't you wear your hair like this more often?" There's nothing wrong with compliments, but critiquing the personal choices of someone you barely know is rude, especially since I doubt many White people understand the hair issues in the Black community. But it would be rude if a Black person did it too, or if it were the reverse and they told her she should always wear her hair weaved.

  81. This is very interesting and I am in a similar position. I am a half Black half Taiwanese student from Houston attending a 95% white university in Small-town, Ohio. I don't think that I have been pushed to necessarily assimilate to the very dominate white culture here, but I have faced some interesting challenges. For example, a lot of students on campus have a very violent attitude towards the notion of white privilege and often accuse me of being a racist in discussions on race relations.

    I, too, am considering transferring to a more diverse university.

  82. White Mexican,
    You were asking for examples of how "Knowing only white truth while systemically excluding our truth ultimately weakens and even "dumbs down" white people."

    There are so many, it's hard to know where to start! I heard a story on This American Life recently about a white man who always trusted police and voted "tough on crime" until his teenage daughter was (he alleges) framed for drug posession. Take a look at the SWPD post "see a potential criminal in every black person" for a lengthy discussion of the ways PoC know very well that those in power are not always to be trusted (as well, of course, for all the ways that the criminal justice system works to maintain white privilege and supremacy).

    Take a look at "fail to see their interracial relationships from the other side" for some of the ways that white privilege and power actively discourage self-reflection and introspection.

    In other words, read almost any of the posts on this site carefully and you see all kinds of examples. That's one of the reasons I keep reading this blog - because it's helping me to begin the long process of filling in some of the gaps in my knowlege and understanding.

  83. Re: the Black hair issue.

    What those Whites did was eepy-cray because they were fetishizing her hair. Often WP go frikken overboard when it comes to complimenting something they view as uniquely PoC mostly in the attempt to avoid being labeled "racist." Remember being labeled a racist is waaaaaaaaaaaaaay more damaging than being a victim of it!

    Just like with issues of skin color, WP not only remain ignorant about said hair issues within communities of color but how they started and continue to perpetuate the whole mess. Do NOT tell me Whites don't practice colorism BETWEEN and among the races and that it's just something we darkies do. One of the main reason Asians are so favored above Blacks is because, to Whites, they look much more like them than BP. Whites favor lighter-skinned PoC over darker skinned ones all the time.

    That includes hair texture. If that weren't the case individual BW wouldn't have to stay suing WHITE-OWNED companies over hair discrimination. BW wouldn't fret about whether or not to show up at job interviews with their napptural textured hair.

    WP really need to cut the innocent act on these topics and pretend that their hands are now clean.

  84. White mexican,

    You were demanding examples of how "Knowing only white truth while systemically excluding our truth ultimately weakens and even "dumbs down" white people."

    I'll refer you to comment guidelines of this blog #11:

    11. Along with that, please do not ask people of color here to do work for you. If you have questions for people of color here about racism, remember that Google is your friend; finding information that you can find on your own is not their job. That said, if you are a person of color or a white person, feel free to relate, analyze, and otherwise share your own experiences with white racism, as long as what you're writing is more or less related to the topic at hand.

    I refer to you as White since you'd probably approve and see that as a compliment being so White-identified that you think Whitening up PoC is something we darkies need to aspire to and welcome.

    I know it's shocking but many of us do not want to be Whitened-up. We do not see it as an improvement over our obvious-to-you inferior PoC states. I would not at all be grateful if some WP came up to me and said I'd be so much prettier if I wore my hair straight/presented with straight hair. Just like I don't consider it a compliment to be seen as "pretty for a Black woman" or told that if I were lighter I'd be a dime or that I'd be a perfect dating/romance package with all my characteristics and background...if I were non-Black.

  85. @white mexican,

    please do not delude yourself into thinking that white superiority and western civ are the only mechanisms that could have led to industrialization and technology. most western technology and advancement was completely set up by knowledge and the labor of nonwhites, of natives, and of easterners. i dont need to sit here and tell you that white folk didnt invent math, that jesus wasnt white, and that even parts of our written language has arabic roots.

    technology=good is a purely western and ethnocentric mindset. i'm a poc and i love technology and first world greatness, but what i do not like is the WHITE tendancy to justify the progression of a SMALL group of people AT THE EXPENSE OF BILLIONS.

    you are getting into the field of another privilege now, called first world privilege, which also has racial and culturally imperialistic aspects.

    if you want to know why white people evolved to rule the world, read germs, guns and steel by jared diamond.

    but more importantly, that aside, realize that the greatness of technology and the consumption you revel in is only accessible to a few hund million people in this world, if even that--- while 3 billion live on less than a dollar a day so the first world and whites can lead selfish consumptive lifestyles and use the execuse of, 'well how can you say cars and telephones are bad?' to justify massive exploitation and hr abuse.

    this makes me so angry. what a dumb statement. we do not talk about irrelevant or simplistic white tendancies on this blog like how white people dont eat spicy food or some bull. we are talking about tendancies that promote racism, systemic injustice, and frustrates POCs who are just as capable, intelligent, and HUMAN as WHITES but cannot express it because of PEOPLE LIKE YOU.

    read macon's commenting guidelines, go through this blog, and then tell me if the tendancies discussed here, practiced by whites en masse, must be looked at on an isolated level because MAYBE THEY DID SOME GOOD FOR A FEW PEOPLE WHILE LOTS OF OTHERS DIED/SUFFERED.

  86. @ white mexican

    last thing to give you an example of witchsistah is saying about 'we dont want your culture, its not automatically better than ours.'

    when whites came to north america, there were people here. they had lived in this land, in harmony with everything, for centuries. they knew more about this land then the whites, and they did know ever have any exposure to the culture of the europeans. vice versa.

    so the white spanish/french folk went to the native americans and said, we want this land. we will give you money and things.

    and the native americans laughed because they thought the whites were so stupid to pay for land. to them, the idea of the earth was that it was a collective entity, belonging to everyone and one that should not be abused by anyone. this was the truth for them. this was their view of the world. the land is worthless, you dont pay for it, it belongs to everyone, it nourishes us and keeps us safe and alive.

    to the whites, the NA were idiots. here they were, accepting mere trinkets for acres. to the whites, who had a different culture, land had a different value.

    in india, rural villagers who have lived on land for centuries are surprised when they see bulldozers come in all of a sudden, when they are told their earth has been sold to western corporations because its full of resources.

    to them, its their land. they dont care about the law, that is not how they operate. that is not their culture, the ideas their society and community is centered around.

    so how can we say that white culture is superior to east or other cultures, when it is JUST ANOTHER WAY of looking at things? its not a universal truth.

  87. headrooomination, ronnniebrown, jas0nburns: I won't lie, your comments made me feel good. But also embarrassed, because I know how often I screw up and hurt other people.

  88. "they had lived in this land, in harmony with everything, for centuries."
    No, they didn't. That whole "noble savage" myth is just that...

  89. In the spirit of commenting, even though I'm late to the post:

    @Jasonburns: I know other commenters have addressed your statement; what it boils down to for me is empathy. Empathy isn't "do unti others what you'd like for yourself", it's actually listening and considering the other person's viewpoint to be as valuable and legitimate as your own. Poc aren't pets, projects, or scary aliens, they're people, and should be accorded as much respect as you would want for yourself.

    OP: You were totally not overreacting. In addition to the blind privilege of the white girls who tell themselves they're "just trying to be nice", you are having to contend with an ingrained racism that posits what WP think as the only right way to think.

    While such behaviour is simply rude when it is perpetrated between equals (i.e., your friend starts telling you you "should" do something regarding your physical appearance), when it is done by WP to PoC, the whole monolith of centuries of infantilizing and denial of rights "for their own good" comes with it. The impact is not just of rudeness; it's also related to the power imbalance of white privilege.

    The same white privilege that allows that girl to tell herself that she's only being "nice", and not question her motivations at all.

    So yeah, not overreacting.

  90. Interesting post--it sucks when the racism is so subtle that most White people would probably just give you a blank stare if you tried to discuss these experiences with them.

    Macon, I was wondering if you would be willing to write a post about the subtle racism of social justice organizations (that are run by White people and aren't focused on anti-racism as their cause).

    I'm sure this has come up a lot but one specific example I've found is the Innocence Project This is an organization that focuses on exonerating innocent prisoners using DNA testing. Their work has done an enormous amount of good in the world and many of the exonerated prisoners are people of color. However I find it interesting that this social justice organization refuses to criticize the justice system in terms of race. Instead of racism being a possible cause of wrongful conviction, it's called "Witness Misidentification." Also, if you look through the case studies, White people (such as Kirk Bloodsworth) have programs and such established in their names, while people of color do not. Lastly, you'll notice that many of the White innocent people have been monetarily compensated, while POC have not (though this is more a problem with a justice system than this project).

    Anyway, a complicated topic but one I thought you could write about, or at least think about.

  91. Alex said,

    "it sucks when the racism is so subtle that most White people would probably just give you a blank stare if you tried to discuss these experiences with them."

    I totally agree. I am a white girl, and my first thought when reading this was, "wait, what's the problem here?" I can understand the isolation of living in a white environment, and the awkwardness of being singled out by a professor, but the situation with the dress just didn't click with me as being racially problematic at first.

    I also come from a conservative background, and don't dress or present myself by the standards of conventional beauty. I have also had friends try to make me more "attractive", and I know that it's a painful experience, so I thought to myself, "isn't this a problem that all women, regardless of color, have to face?" Because this kind of thing happens to white women too, I couldn't see how it could be racist.

    But after reading the comments here and thinking about it some more, I realized that that's exactly the problem. I don't ever have to worry about whether someone is trying to make me assimilate, or just being friendly (albeit in a rude way), because no one is ever going to try to assimilate me. I don't have to wonder whether something is a racial microaggression or not, because it never has, and never will happen to me. And that's a function of white privilege.

    Thanks for sharing, Gloria.

  92. @white mexican

    I have a problem with your comment claiming you have zero native american ancestry. Mixing between the Spanish and Mexican Indians has been going on for hundreds of years, I seriously doubt you're as "pure" as you claim to be. If anything you seem like you're trying to convince people (including yourself) that you have no native american ancestry, as if that would be a bad thing.

  93. @Alex E,

    Thanks for the topic suggestion, I'll look into it.

  94. "I have a problem with your comment claiming you have zero native american ancestry. Mixing between the Spanish and Mexican Indians has been going on for hundreds of years,"


    That is a reasonable assumption given that you don't know me and haven't seen my Mexican relatives. Of course I can't say with 100% metaphysical certainty, but if you were to see these people, you would probably agree. When DNA tests get a little cheaper, I am going to get my genetic profile done just for the fun of it and for the kids etc. Maybe I will get a surprise, but I seriously doubt it.


  95. @honeybrown1976, the sciencegirl, RVCBard, witchsistah, LisaMJ, Moi....


    I am a black woman and I appreciate the times I have seen you break down a topic and the posts you have made back and forth with olderwoman.
    I have seen where she has thanked some of you for the clarifications and references to texts which have helped her to better shape her posts here.

    Your lot is a thankless one, and usually the fruits of your effort go un-noticed and underappreciated.

    Since there are thanks going out in this thread.. I'd like to thank you for the part you have played here.

    Thank you

  96. @ attack_laurel

    i would say that all those things you listed fall under the banner of do unto others as you would have done to you. what I'm starting to recognize though is that with interactions between whites and POC the golden should be the foundation but at the same time another layer of awareness is needed on top of that. because in a multicultural environment what's good for me may not be what's good for you. while in a monocultural environment do unto others is really all you need to avoid offending or
    hurting anyone.

  97. @soul, you are sweet. YOu are very welcome. Thank you to you too, I've found your comments and those of many others really helpful as well.

  98. Alex E,

    I'd love to talk with you about your proposed topic.

    I work for a white-dominated social change organization, as a person of color, and I'm appalled, myself about the lack of awareness around issues of race and oppression in general. It's like a white, middle-class liberal wonderland for folks, as opposed to a social justice movement, and people seem to prefer privilege over progress.

    Any thoughts, notes, info you or anyone else has on this 'subtle racism' I would greatly appreciate.

  99. [Anonymous white American male, the comment you submitted for publication has been rejected because it's (perhaps unwittingly) dismissive of central points raised by the original post, and by many commenters upthread. If you want to learn how that's so, I suggest that you read the original post and the above comment thread more carefully, as well as this swpd post. ~macon]

  100. I am also a Mexican American student attending an overwhelmingly white university (University of Chicago). I have complained about feeling left out and feeling the strong pressure to be more 'white,' especially through speech, and have lightly considered transferring to a more "minority-friendly" school. Friends have suggested it too. But I honestly think that would be a step backward for me. I don't want to isolate myself. I don't want to further "other" myself. Does that make sense? I don't know. I just would never really want to exclude myself from such a great university community (that I worked hard to get to, dammit!) because ... where is the progress forward? I think this comment is a little specious and I apologize, I just don't have much else to say. Good luck!

  101. @soul, back at ya babe. I really appreciate your comments.

    @dis-moi quelque choses grand, you've hit on something I've been ruminating on this week and am considering submitting a guest post about: the choices POCs must make to either work/live/learn in more comfortable, safe environments or the choice to be a token, pioneer, or denigrated other in a white environment which may have other tangible benefits (prestige, opportunity for advancement, physical safety, importance to one's career). It's a difficult position to be in.

  102. @soul:

    Thanks for the shout-out, but I'm increasingly feeling like I should not bother saying much here anymore.

  103. Hey RVCBard, I'll miss your comments - and your gravatar. I love that movie (Spirited Away)

  104. NancyP said...
    Hey RVCBard, I'll miss your comments

    Me too. I'd say the same to Witchsistah but I fear she's already gone.

  105. RVC Bard: Please don't leave. Your comments here are among the best, most trenchant breakdowns of the issues under discussion.

  106. @ RVCBard

    I know I appreciate your contributions. I tend to emotionally check out of the convo as soon as the derailers arrive but you & other regular posters have repeatedly stepped in. I know what it cost you to expand the emotional energy to say what you say. Half the time I don't even read the comments because I don't want to deal with it.

  107. unmakingmacon at gmail dot com

  108. First, I want to make sure you are aware of the costs of transferring. I think it was stated already in a comment, but you really want to be aware of the possibility that some courses may not transfer, and that differences in gen. ed. requirements could really set you back. You might feel that the circumstances warrant you leaving, but it would be a shame if you transferred only to discover you have to start all over.

    w.r.t the dress incident, I'm not sure what to think. In isolation it seems fairly innocuous, and where she also Mexican American or were you also white, I doubt any issue would have arisen. (Although, admittedly there is a world of subtly between women that is wholly lost on me.)

    However, once you put the incident within a larger framework of how you and WP interact (and you take the effort to demonstrate how in other instances WP either pushed you to assimilate or highlighted your ethnicity in an inappropriate manner), it becomes more difficult to brush off.

    One assumption I am having a hard time understanding, is that when WP assume the universality of their behavior (i.e. "I wear dresses. I see you don't. It must be because you don't have any, because if you did have some dresses, you would definitely wear them. Oh, I have one that doesn't fit, I should give it to you.") they also assume the supremacy of their behavior (i.e. "I wear dresses and so should everyone else.") I would think that the universality assumption is mostly an artifact of ignorance (and thus, fairly easy to correct), while the supremacy assumption attaches a value to the behavior, which while it may also be ignorant, is much more difficult to change.

  109. Am I the only one kinda bothered by the multiple warnings that the OP is getting about transferring? It might just be me being prickly, but I feel like, "She's a grown woman, ya'll, and more than enough people have said it already." It just comes off as kinda infantalizing to make the assumption that she has not or would not consider all of the possible ramifications of transferral, and then to belabor the point repeatedly.

    Like I said, it could be just me.

  110. August,

    I think I agree; thank you for bringing that issue to the forefront. Refocusing the conversation on the issue of transferring ignores the more important sources of discomfort that made Gloria consider the possibility in the first place.

  111. I'm biracial (Black/white) and I've had a lot of people over the years be like "well if you'd just wear this, it would look so pretty!" or "why don't you straighten your hair?" or (because I have short hair) "why did you cut your hair? It looked nice." (I even get some of these responses from Black friends/family members. White culture cuts deep.)

    I've been the only non-white person in a classroom, and it's really awkward. Because, since I can pass as white, I have to out myself if someone says something that I think needs a response, or it's like I'm just letting those assumptions go unchecked.

    I've spent most of my life in pretty white environments, so it wasn't until more recently that I started to realize the extent to which I have to assimilate or be an Other. And if I am out as non-white, there's always the question of whether "making these people uncomfortable" by pointing out that there's a non-white person in the room and maybe they should realize that is worth it or not. Kind of frustrating.

  112. I am half Palestinian and half Bosnian, but I look like an Arab.
    I have very big, curly hair that often attracts attention.
    I kinda feel sorry for the millionth person who asks me that and I go off on them like they are the same person who has asked me a million times.

  113. I am adopted from Honduras. I have brown skin, curly black hair and facial features that are a mix of African, Native American, and European. I grew up in a white family of English and German descent in majority white towns. I don't speak Spanish and I look like I could come from many different backgrounds.

    I am in the process now in my life trying to find a way to assimilate into American society while at the same time freely express my ethnic features and celebrate life and belonging with people of color who I feel comfortable around and with white people who I feel comfortable around. Let's not forget, just because we may share the same racial or ethnic background with another person does not mean that we instantaneously should connect. That is part of the destructive nature of racism, the assumption that all people of color should be like one another and connect to one another, including people from the same ethnic background. It is unrealistic. If we lived in our historic countries of origin we would not connect to someone intimately just because we came from the same skin color or something. It is a shame nations push on their citizens that looking a like implies some form of connection.

    My philosophy is that empathy is what is really needed for rewarding relationships. As a person who grew up and was raised outside of my ethnic and national culture I have never felt any form of ethnic or cultural connection to anyone. But I manage to find people with enough awareness to accept me for my uniqueness, and are sensitive to my experience outside of any stereotypical norm. The world is not perfect and it is certainly important to do what you can to actively root out racism from society, but it is also important to critically think about what the superficial forms of identity and identification are and what forms on a heart level really matter.

    As far as style of dress goes, I would say that your feelings about yourself and your self identity might change over time and be open to that. But it is most important to do what you feel is right at the moment. Never lose your sense of right and wrong that is from within. That is your inner voice guiding you and you will need that your whole life. Eventually, you will probably find yourself adapting to the outer world in some ways and maintaining your own world in other ways. And yes, racism and discrimination hurt, they are real and they do happen. I had two incidents myself just last night. But you have a choice. You can use those incidents to guide you to find a better way. Another thing to remember is that people of color are can also be discriminatory towards people outside their group as well. If we notice racism in white people then we must also be willing to notice our prejudices as well because we all have them until we transcend them.

    I hope you are doing well. Thank you for the post.


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