citizenship and being 'white enough'


[subtitle: reading about these cases made me think of giving up who you are to be considered white or American; this one is going to be brief because I’m writing this out right before I have to leave]

[see my #citizenship and being ‘white enough’ tag to see what I’m talking about]

I think both Ozawa’s and Singh’s cases show something about how we have to give up our heritage and backgrounds to try to convince people that we fit in. Ozawa’s brief, that he wrote himself, talked about how he was just like a white man, he described the lengths he’d gone through to make sure his children spoke English and not Japanese, and how he was 100% Americanized. For Ozawa and Singh, it was to be considered “white enough” to be granted naturalization or citizenship.

And for us now, I think, it’s to be considered American. Because anything you do  wrong is anti-American, right? If you have too much of your heritage showing, not only do white people look at you weird, other people from your country (who live in the U.S. now and probably longer than you have) look at you weird, too. To want to go back home to your home country is not American enough. To wear your country’s clothing is not American enough, unless it’s for multicultural day at school or people are able to commodify it or exotify you. To criticize the United States is not American enough.

I think it’s sad that to be safe and to be accepted we have to give up so much of ourselves (if we don’t want to). To not learn your language? This was no fault of my parents, they tried to teach me lol, but I don’t know my own language that well and that makes me really sad. And to think that there were times (and is some cases, I’m thinking it’s still a thing that people do) that parents wouldn’t speak their native tongue to their children so that they could be 100% American.

Assimilation means being acceptably white. It means getting rid of anything about you that reminds people of where you are from, because no one wants to have their white worldview challenged.

whiteness and anti-blackness from non-black POC

[aka: the post in which I start out trying to talk about Takao Ozawa but end up talking about present-day anti-blackness. Not sure if my transition makes sense anymore, but hopefully I’m getting something across. This is to my fellow non-black POC.]

[I keep coming back and thinking I should remove the part about Ozawa because I don’t know if this will seem disjointed to people, but I’m going to keep it because it’s part of my thought process.]

[see my #citizenship and being ‘white enough’ tag to see what I’m talking about]

Ozawa and his lawyers argued that he was in fact a perfectly assimilated, 100 percent American. The Japanese, they argued, were not like the Chinese, who had been explicitly excluded from immigration to the United States and prohibtied from becoming naturalized citizens. […]

[The Court ruled that because Ozawa was not a “free white person,” he could not be naturalized.]

Ozawa’s attorneys, citing the Dred Scott case among others, had argued that the term “white person” had been constructed by the court to mean “a person without negro blood.” The Court, however, rejected that reasoning and adopted a definition of a white person as “a person of what is popularly known as the Caucasian race.”

[quote from Robert G. Lee’s Orientals, emphasis added by me]

I think it’s worth noting that, in order to justify Ozawa being naturalized, Ozawa’s lawyers have to reject any connection with black or Chinese people. It makes sense why, I know, but I want to pause to make a connection. I want to point out that, look, it’s clear here that to play this game. To play this game that the white power structure created, where unless you are white enough for them, you’re not deserving of naturalization, you have to throw fellow POC under the bus. Look. This is not any different from now. When you try to play this game and try to win and you throw other POC, who usually tend to be black people because non-black POC wholeheartedly participate in anti-blackness (either through active participation or passively standing by), to the side so you can get your share, what do you think is going to happen? Do you think we’re going to win? Ozawa wasn’t allowed to be naturalized. And whiteness will never place us at the same level as white people, no matter how many times we turn on our fellow POC.

Here’s the thing.

Every time we stand by while someone, whether a fellow POC or a white person, makes a joke at the expense of, or otherwise says something terrible about, black people, we’re participating in anti-blackness. Letting whatever it was pass without calling anyone out may keep us safe from attention for that moment, but what are we doing by staying silent? We’re buying ourselves time at the expense of black people.

There’s a thing I’ve always believed for a really long time, and it’s this: There is no true liberation unless we’re all free and safe, unless we’re all included in that liberation. And if we keep pushing black people to the side, dehumanizing, ignoring, and stepping on them to get where we want, none of us are going to get anywhere real. Because we might get 'somewhere’, maybe, but we’ll have walked all over a people a whole group of people, okay? We’ll be leaving behind black people, in the hopes of gaining acceptance by white people, and all that’ll have happened is this: we’ll have helped the white people do what they wanted to see happen, but didn’t have to do all by themselves because they tricked us into helping them. As POC, we should stand united against whiteness, but instead we’re doing it’s job. Whiteness has got us playing its game, making us do its work. And we’re playing happily.

I think POC solidarity is important. But we have no right to insist that we truly do stand in solidarity with black activists, because we would be lying as long as we participate in anti-blackness.