one unexpected thing that has come out of doing these interviews for my senior project is that all of the people i am contacting—all of whom white and over 50—only know my mother, who is also white/blonde/green-eyed. it’s hard to explain the look of surprise when they see a young brown-skinned man with dark ethnic features and a shaved head—“are YOU cary?”
one woman i spoke to looked so off-put by my appearance that I actually, in a joking manner, said “Yeah I don’t really look like my mom,” to which she muttered “You certainly don’t.”
this was all after i purposely removed my facial jewelry and “dressed down” (read: white-down) into non-distinct clothing—usually my style is somewhat street. Initially I did this as to reduce my “interviewer effect” on the interviewee. Now I realize that it was so I could make older white people “comfortable” enough to talk to me, whereas if I wore the exact same shit I do every day but with white skin, it would probably make little difference. This realization is a strange mixture of satisfying and depressing.
Identifying as a person of color in solidarity with other people of color says ‘hey, my people have been oppressed by White people, maybe in a different time and space than your people, but we can work in solidarity.’ The identification needs to carry some degree of humility, and a deeper commitment to allyship . The POC umbrella is not an excuse to disavow the ways we benefit from various racial structures and sit idly by as our communities reap advantages from racism towards other people of color.
Black-Asian solidarity in the US, for instance, is hard to find and it will continue to be difficult to build if we continue to use the uncritical ‘POC’ label. Rather, we can use ‘POC’ as a way of reflecting on our different racial histories and building coalitions in our struggles and their difference. POC is a term for building solidarity between movements, not a movement in itself. That distinction is important."
Identity begets commodity. Commodity begets control. Control begets violence. Violence begets identity.
It’s not the same, white boy….
My “mixed race” journey is less about skin color and more about heritage - my cultural identity. It’s about the culture my mother gave up in order to fit in and become American. It’s about wanting to embrace my Vietnamese culture but feeling like I haven’t earned the right because I look so white.
I was expressing this to some friends when one of them said, “Well I think anyone can feel that way. I feel that way about African-American culture.” I suppose I would have said something if this sort of thing had happened a few months ago but I just don’t have the spirit to have this fight. But it’s not even remotely the same and it’s incredibly insulting to think your obsession with another culture is even close to what it feels like for me. I wear an ao dai from my mother and feel like a thief but I look around at non-Asians wearing Kimono-like, pan-Asian crap without a second thought and I get angry. I have to tolerate non-Asians telling me what it’s like to be the child of an Asian immigrant or what it’s like to be Asian and then to have them act as if I can’t really refute what they say because I’m “not really Asian.”
The land I long for is the one my mother had to flee and the food I love is what nourished my ancestors. This was passed down to me but I don’t feel like I have the right to it. BUT I DO. You do not have a right to someone else’s culture. These are two separate things so don’t try to relate.
We’re in post-racial America, so we shouldn’t be so touchy about MacFarlane and Lincoln star Daniel Day-Lewis sharing a guffaw about Don Cheadle being mistaken for a slave while he’s in character. We shouldn’t care about Iron Man star Robert Downey, Jr. defiantly clapping as MacFarlane joked about the brutalization of a then 21-year-old Rihanna, because she went back to her abuser, so to hell with objectifying her for shits and giggles.
And we most certainly shouldn’t care about a 9-year-old Black girl-child being called a “cunt” on the biggest night of her life because there are more important white feminist things to be concerned about."
Kristen West Savali, Where Were White Feminists Speaking Out For Quvenzhané Wallis?
"And I get: “But you look so white! You’re not black!” I want to say, “Do you know how hurtful that is to somebody who identifies so strongly with half of who she is?” Still, that’s not as bad as when people don’t know. A year ago a taxi driver said to me, “That Jennifer Lopez is a beautiful woman. Thank God she left that disgusting black man, Puffy.” I said, “I’m black.” He tried to smooth it over. If you’re obviously black, white people watch their tongues, but with me they think they can say anything. When people don’t know *what* you are, you get your heart broken daily."
“When people don’t know what you are, you get your heart broken daily.” Powerful, if not solemnly accurate.
It reminds me of the “bike to work” movement. That is also portrayed as white, but in my city more than half of the people on bike are not white. I was once talking to a white activist who was photographing “bike commuters” and had only pictures of white people with the occasional “black professional” I asked her why she didn’t photograph the delivery people, construction workers etc. … ie. the black and Hispanic and Asian people… and she mumbled something about trying to “improve the image of biking” then admitted that she didn’t really see them as part of the “green movement” since they “probably have no choice” –
I was so mad I wanted to quit working on the project she and I were collaborating on.
So, in the same way when people in a poor neighborhood grow food in their yards … it’s just being poor– but when white people do it they are saving the earth or something."