I have a friend who knows me entirely online (in pictures and text) and said I never registered as white to them, which is odd for me, and I’m realizing that almost everyone who’s kind of gone “You seem pretty white” have been white people and on some level that has distressed me, mostly because it feels like “You are close enough you can sit at the table with us.” Which is upsetting, because what if I wasn’t white enough, could I sit at the table with them?
And it’s not overtly intended to mean that, and these are people who try their best to be as not racist as possible. And that bothers me even more.
I’m perceived that way because I don’t have any particular subculture in my history–I speak standard English, I’ve been academically well educated, I was raised by a white woman who was middle class growing up and a moc who was deeply in denial about it and trying as hard as possible to fit in with white people and make them forget.
I was raised to make them forget–and that’s what it is; my white friends tend to forget, even if they read me as not white at first. And my poc friends do too, but it only insults me when white friends forget. Because a lot of it is how I talk, move, carry myself.
People online are more likely to not forget because I talk about racism and they just see my face and can’t hear me or watch me and so it’s easier to keep it in their heads that I’m a poc because they don’t register “white behavior” as much as in person friends.
So being taken in as a white-enough person and hard-to-place poc by white people is both a privilege and something I find really insulting. It’s rarely poc telling me I don’t get race–it’s white people telling me it’s basically not my concern. And it bothers me a lot that they on some level want me to be like them and try to dismiss it when my race concerns are personal but hard to pin down. It’s invalidating.
And my hard to place-ness I think is a bigger part of my passing than my skin shade. It’s my cut off from my father’s culture. If I’d stayed Muslim and worn a hijab, I’d get more shit. If I’d grown up there and had an accent, I’d get more shit. I’m light skinned and that’s a lot of my privilege–but it’s the not-color-stuff that makes white people forget entirely and I am very uneasy with that, because they are associating my academic education and “default culture” with whiteness and that bothers me a lot, coming from white people.