I had to contend with the pain of wanting a beautiful white body, not out of some misguided vanity, but because I saw over and over how whiteness conferred an instant legitimacy… As a teenager, I blamed my parents for failing to secure me admission into whiteness, which I was certain was a prerequisite to being loved. I was mad at them, not at the cruelty of the American dream or the ways in which white supremacy had warped each of us. My privileged upbringing and education and linguistic fluency gave me such proximity to whiteness that it stung all the more to still find myself outside of it.

Jenny Zhang on Mitski, “Your Best American Girl”

NYT Magazine

You cannot lynch me and keep me in ghettos without becoming something monstrous yourselves. And, furthermore, you give me a terrifying advantage. You never had to look at me. I had to look at you. I know more about you than you know about me. Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.
—  James Balwin’s words from unfinished book in Raoul Peck’s I Am Not Your Negro (2016) 

In case anyone was wondering about the Polish immigrants, England thing i referenced in the previous post:

 Basically when i was living in the UK I was in a program that granted us living space in one of the most expensive areas of London, and we had a maid service that would come to clean every other day.  The entire staff of the maid service was Eastern European women, but the ones that specifically cleaned my unit were Polish and had severe difficulty with English. 

Because me and the people I was with had manners and were largely middle class Americans, we were all uncomfortable with the concept of just sitting there while someone cleaned around us. So we did this thing where, whenever the maids came, we would also get up and clean with them and then we would thank them for helping and tip them. 

At first they were ferociously uncomfortable with what was going on because I think they perceived us as thinking they were so bad at their jobs that they needed to be watched/cleaned up after. But one of my roommates got a polish/english dictionary and explained, and they were like really really touched?  But in that way that waiters get when you’re actually nice to them after hundreds of customers treat them like shit? which tbh was the first red flag but i was too American to realize it at the time. 

Anyway, we just kind of shrugged it off like whatever and kind of made friends with them.

Later on, I was hanging out with some people actually from London and I told the story about the miscommunication with maids to them as a funny “lol american behavior” story, kind of expecting them to just laugh. Or to agree with me that having maids was weird as a middle class person, but instead what I got was this horrifying tirade about how Eastern Europeans are coming illegally and stealing jobs and bringing crime

And suddenly, like getting slapped in the face, I realized that they were perceiving and reacting to these people exactly the way people in America do to Mexican immigrants. 

Like on every level.

Literally any blanket statement you’ve ever heard people in America make about Mexicans, I eventually heard someone English say about Eastern Europeans. It was disgusting, but also very illuminating. 

On the whole, it was so shocking to me, that my entire world view on “whiteness” shifted in that moment and I decided to do more research about it, and pay attention to the concept significantly more closely. 

The first thing I learned
is that (super basic) concept about “whiteness is ur skincolor!!!1!!” is an incredibly American perspective that really has more bearing in our short 250 year history, than literally anywhere or any time else on earth.

The second thing that I learned is that there are whole swathes of “white skinned people” who aren’t regionally considered white and are treated rather similarly (both socially and intersectionally) to the way POC are treated in America. 

The third thing I learned
is that even in America, whiteness is more complex than just “skin color” and that there was a literal slow pecking order of who got to “Become” white when in our history. And that most of our surface level race discourse is based on the lie that whiteness is inherent and physical, not recent, structural and granted. 

The fourth thing I learned was about the entire concept that one could “become white” is also attached to the concept that one could “lose whiteness”, which tbh is a little scary to me and I’m not even white myself. 

I am currently learning about “losing whiteness” in america and the roots of american racism (who decided this? why did they decide this? who benefits from this structure? what is a race issue and what is a class issue? How are ways to fix this? what are the negative aspects of the social positioning of whiteness on the working class as a whole? how can i improve my general discourse on this subject while being less focused on my American Perspective?)

I am almost done researching that, and I am starting to move on to class based struggle as it includes racism/xenophobia as a red herring, regarding obscuring the transfer of wealth from the general public to the hands of the few so if y’all got information on that send it my way.

Anyway, long story short, every day is a day to learn something new. 

The ‘Alt-Left’ Only Exists To Liberals
Intellectual dishonesty: avoiding critically honest and comprehensive approach to a matter because it may introduce an adverse effect on…
By Devyn Springer

My Latest: On the myth of the “Alt-Left,” identity politics, and liberalism. 

The conflation of the left with liberalism is a method of neoliberalism in the preservation of capitalism. It is within this conflation of leftism and liberalism, whether subconsciously through lack of proper political education or purposefully for the obfuscation of their own centrist positionality, the liberal creation of the “alt-left” is part of the historical assault on the left by those willfully apt to compromise with fascism. This conflation, or equalization if you will, of the left with the alt-right — or, as most leftists refer to them, neo-nazis — illuminates the dedication to inaction that is so deeply inherent to liberal politics.


To claim an “alt-left” is to position something as “alternative” to a main framework of larger ideology. However, this logical progression falls flat when examining what exactly this particular “alt-left” is alternative to: the center.To whom does the “alt-left” exist? Liberals, who sit at the center, comfortable in their inaction and collusion with the right. Liberals, who Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. famously described as preferring “a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice.” The “alt-left” is not a problem, James Wolcott, because it does not exist. If anything, liberals operating under the framework of neoliberalism, more dedicated to capital than protecting the lives of the marginalized, are the biggest problem to my liberation as a Black queer socialist warrior. So please, continue to cheer ‘go, State, go[sic]’ as you vilify the only functioning piece of resistance in a country built on the degradation of my ancestors, and is sustained through my exploitation.

Ok so

I’m going to take the time today to remind everyone that “whiteness” is a regional social construct that can be given and taken away.

Whiteness is less about where you are from and more or less a classification that certain groups can temporarily achieve.

I think the best way of quickly describing this is that one scene in Django Unchained where Dr. King demands that Django be referred to with respect to the master of the plantation and a slave girl asks “do you want me to treat him like white folk?” And the master says “NO” but then asks her to treat him like “Jerry” who it turns out is a poor non land owning white man who in the Master’s eyes is something between the status of a Slave and a “white folk”. (https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=2uoITu3Apbk)

Jerry exists as a masterful example of the status and social construct of “whiteness” not applying to someone who is technically white in a scenario in which most white people are “from” the same place. And as the history of whiteness in America is concerned, Jerry “becomes” white when other groups such as the Irish and the Italians and the polish,etc appear and it’s time to exclude them.

The social construct of Whiteness requires exclusion to give certain privileges to an ever growing upper class of whiteness. In which “new applicants” of whiteness must wait until another applicant arrives in order to be bumped up into the classification. And while the class of whiteness does grow this way, it can also spit groups out.

For example, when people are perceived as being white but then revealed to be not white. At the moment of the reveal,the social construct of perceived whiteness that benefits them erodes away and all social privilege granted is stripped from them (this happens to a lot of mixed people, white passing latin@s, and Ashkenazi Jewish people.)

If the construct of whiteness becomes strict, as it tends to in times of economic distress, sometimes the qualifications become even stricter and it spits out groups that have stronger ties to their mother cultures and languages than to the amalgamation of whiteness and thusly can be “confused” for being non white, such as that Greek couple who were speaking Greek and were besieged by a neo-Nazi.

What does all this mean?

That white supremecy is not something you must adhere to or that will even protect you if you are white. It is so tempting for some people when they hear white supremacist rhetoric to think that they will be “safe”. But the reality is that there is just a pecking order of who to attack and you simply are a bit further from the top than people of color. Also that your association with POC does count and that gives you brownie points that make get you closer to getting very violently hurt by white supremacists.

What can I do about this?

Learn about it. Do some independent research on the concept of race and where it came from. Race and culture are very different things and as things around us get worse, knowing the difference can help protect you from falling in with a dangerous crowd.

But what about black? Is black a social construct?

Yes and no. The first thing to understand is that black refers to two things: people with African descent the world around, AND the displaced African-American people who descended from slaves in the US. Because the descendants of slaves do not know their cultural origins (like you know that you are white but are actually Romanian and French or whatever) black people here had to start over and create their own culture so they are culturally black and racially black.

So if you’re talking about black/white issues, know that you are talking about Culturally and racially black vs. white supremecy/whiteness as a social construct. Not black people vs. Irish/Italian/British/etc cultures.

So does that mean I shouldn’t be proud of being white?

Whiteness is a social construct, so no. BUT! Having cultural pride for your background is absolutely acceptable and worth embracing! If you’re Italian being excited about Italian heritage is great! If you’re Hungarian tell everyone all about it you’re A++++! Everyone and their mama loves German fest in my town. It’s one of the highlights of the year. But the concept of being proud of a structure you can get kicked out of is absolutely ridiculous. Searching for pride in a structure that only serves the concept of a supremecy that you may or may not be allowed REGARDLESS of your skin color is dangerous and doesn’t serve you well. And hearing things like Black Pride! Is more comparable to hearing “Irish Pride!” Or “Swedish Pride!” Than “White Pride”. That Irish American heritage month is what is equal to black history month, not “white history month”.

Accepting that whiteness as a social construct does exist and that you benefit from it is important.

But knowing what the fuck that even means is considerably more so.

I very much need to have a discussion about the *almost ubitiqous ableism* in activist spaces. I’m not talking physical accessibility but about emotional and mental and social accessibility. Accessibility is so much easier, simpler, and less threatening than the work of unlearning the deeply held ableist beliefs we hold about ourselves, other people, and how the world works.

Like, so much of what I’ve been hearing over the past few weeks from the nearest town square to the farthest hilltop in the lands of Social Justice has been prescriptive DEMANDS to perform anti-oppression work in specific ways and *at a necessarily implied minimum level of ability*.

Like, Nazis absolutely need to be met with whatever force or even violence that it takes to subdue them and disintegrate their movement. I mean, I can think of EIGHT SPECIFIC REASONS they would prefer that I personally did not even exist. The thing is I had to avoid my feed for a over a week because even being AWARE of it was harmful to me. I’m diagnosed with conversion disorder (a neurological disorder which converts psychological stress into physical symptoms) and a complex central-sensitization chronic pain condition. “Educating myself” isn’t going to happen right now unless it comes in meme form and can make me smile.

So when I hear people say stuff that boils down to “if you’re silent you’re basically a nazi enabler” or “if you’re only posting pleasant stuff and no anti-oppression things I AM MONITORING YOU” like yeah it’s *essential* that we actively choose to dismantle white supremacy and all other oppressive hierarchies but the problem happens when we define a set of acceptable activities or types of action for this work and then drop that into a Good Person / Bad Person dichotomy. Sentiments like the above are overwhelmingly an ableist barrier to me participanting in anti-o movement; I’m not avoiding being uncomfortable, I mean I’m in literally constant pain and I’m rebuilding my body after bone density loss and muscle atrophy from a year of bedrest, so avoiding discomfort is NOT my issue. What is my issue is that I could only participate in the prescribed modes of action at the cost of my mental wellbeing and physical health. It’s also fucked up that I have to justify my decision to prioritize my wellbeing by publicly sharing my personal medical information. I don’t necessarily want literally everyone to know that tbh but here I am.

So, I am not going to offer my blood and my bones to use as mortar in the headquarters of the revolution. I’m not hopping up on any sacrificial altars, after all I’ve already done more than my fair share of weird cult rituals lol. You’re telling me that my attendance is mandatory but that revolution will not be accessibile. You want me to show up but could I please just, y'know, make sure to not be so disabled when I do? You wanna use my body as an object for the movements’ aims.

So here I am fighting the hecking rad message that being unable to kick nazis means I’m basically taking their side. So I just checked out. I was going to post a bunch more cute animal vids and other lovely things *on my own personal social media space* but I felt afraid to publicly smile and point at a sloth for fear that I would be seen or even marked as un-radical and upholding my privilege. So I just isolated myself instead.

I’ve heard VERY similar sentiments from numerous disabled people over the last week. We really earnestly do want to be a part of anti-o movement, but ya’ll are gonna have to do more than just install a ramp. You’re doing to have to make social room for us that allows us to bring our disabledness with us because believe me, if I could leave that part of my being behind I would sprint right to the front.

The way to approach it, I think, is not to ask, “What would it be like to be black?” but to seriously consider what it is like to be white. That’s something white people almost never think about. And what it is like to be white is not to say, “We have to level the playing field,” but to acknowledge that not only do white people own the playing field but they have so designated this plot of land as a playing field to begin with. White people are the playing field. The advantage of being white is so extreme, so overwhelming, so immense, that to use the word “advantage” at all is misleading since it implies a kind of parity that simply does not exist.

It is now common—and I use the word “common” in its every sense—to see interviews with up-and-coming young movie stars whose parents or even grandparents were themselves movie stars. And when the interviewer asks, “Did you find it an advantage to be the child of a major motion-picture star?” the answer is invariably “Well, it gets you in the door, but after that you’ve got to perform, you’re on your own.” This is ludicrous. Getting in the door is pretty much the entire game, especially in movie acting, which is, after all, hardly a profession notable for its rigor. That’s how advantageous it is to be white. It’s as though all white people were the children of movie stars. Everyone gets in the door and then all you have to do is perform at this relatively minimal level.

Additionally, children of movie stars, like white people, have at—or actually in—their fingertips an advantage that is genetic. Because they are literally the progeny of movie stars they look specifically like the movie stars who have preceded them, their parents; they don’t have to convince us that they can be movie stars. We take them instantly at face value. Full face value. They look like their parents, whom we already know to be movie stars. White people look like their parents, whom we already know to be in charge. This is what white people look like—other white people. The owners. The people in charge. That’s the advantage of being white. And that’s the game. So by the time the white person sees the black person standing next to him at what he thinks is the starting line, the black person should be exhausted from his long and arduous trek to the beginning.

—  Fran Lebowitz

When did you realize that whiteness was a thing, or when did you realize that you were not white?

Oh, so early. I mean, again, so I went to Hunter which is this like magnate school, it’s a public school but it’s a school for nerds, like you have to pass a test to get in. And I got in in kindergarten. So I went from a nursery school in the 150’s to literally my name changing. Like I went from Lin-Manuel to Lin, because I couldn’t take people mangling Lin-Manuel. I said just call me Lin, that’s easier, so like the switching of Spanish to English and English to Spanish, and slang changing, happened when I was really young. And in retrospect I’m grateful for it ‘cause I can kind of hang wherever, but yeah, that’s probably where. I mean it was literally just teachers and students who couldn’t pronounce my name.

Lin-Manuel Miranda
Another Round podcast
March 8, 2016

bagelanjeli  asked:

I find it interesting that you keep saying that Asians in Asia don't see themselves as poc. While you may feel that way, I think it's valid to note that Britain (white people) occupied and conquered what was then India (today India, Pakistan, Bhutan, etc.) There is a big difference between the fair indians and the darker indians. To be light skinned is considered beautful. Therefore, that region of Asia does see itself as poc for they were treated as second class to the gori British.

Hey, I appreciate you writing in! I’ll explain my thinking behind the term here.

I too grew up in a former British colony, so while I did have a concept of whiteness and therefore do not see myself as “white”- I want to emphasise that the term “person of colour” does have different political and cultural implications than “non-European” or perhaps “non-white”. Simply, I do not see myself as “white” because of British colonialism, but I does not mean I see myself as a “person of colour”. I see myself as Han Chinese, East Asian or Asian. “ In general, I believe the term should not be used carelessly outside the US due to different ideas of whiteness between the US and Europe, as well as other countries in the Americas, where race isn’t perceived the exact same way. I don’t believe it should be used at all in the non-Western context.

1. Person of colour is a term that specifically originated in the context of the United States’ system of colourist racism, of Jim Crow, of slavery, where the idea of “white” became a vehicle to confer privilege. I say “vehicle” because whiteness has always been a social construct. in much earlier parts of US history, several light-skinned European ethnic groups were not allowed to access whiteness, like Irish people. Today, they are seen as white. Although the term has been used carelessly by many people on tumblr, “person of colour” is first and foremost a racialised identity taken on to organise against white supremacy- in Western contexts.

2. I don’t believe it should be applied to non-Western contexts firstly, because the history of Asian colourist discrimination has actually long-predated European colonial rule. Further, it doesn’t quite just exist as a marker of racial otherness, but as a class division. Fair skin has been prized in China, Japan and Korea for thousands of years due to classism. I believe it is the case with India too- from what I know, it was very much tied to the ancient Indian caste system or other class/regional divisions. That is not to say British rule in India didn’t make it worse (it certainly did) or that Western beauty standards don’t help to reinforce this preference today, but it would be inaccurate for us to ascribe this obsession for light skin all to recent European imperialism. Recognising its ancient roots is crucial: as a light-skinned East Asian, nobody has ever tried to sell me skin-whitening cream, unlike my other Han Chinese friends who were darker-skinned. 

3. As “person of colour” is an organising tool against white supremacy, I do not believe it has much relevance in non-Western contexts because we are no longer under European colonial rule. This is not to say its legacy doesn’t still affect us, but that the fault lines and tensions that matter are very often not going to centre so much around whiteness anymore in day-to-day life. I feel white privilege can be discussed there without us defining ourselves as “persons of colour”. 

  • Primarily, I am against the term because it posits a false illusion of solidarity that erases local oppressor-oppressed dynamics, and centering on whiteness very often becomes a tool of deflection for their own crimes (like in Mugabe’s Zimbabwe, when he took ownership of land from white farmers ostensibly to correct the inequality in land ownership suffered by black Zimbabweans. Sounds fair, considering how colonial rule historically stripped people of their land. But the problem is rather than actually giving it to experienced black Zimbabwean farmers or training people to use the land, he mostly gave it to his cronies. Who didn’t utilise the land properly, causing food shortages that eventually hurt thousands of black Zimbabweans and made people worse off.) On another level, I don’t wish to centre around whiteness all the time because I think the fixation on it at the expense of other fault lines is in of itself a perpetuation of Eurocentric/whitecentric history and narratives.
  • To me, the attendant notions of solidarity underpinning the idea of POC have very little relevance when outside the Western world, our oppressive structures and systems of privileges are very often run by other non-Europeans. Whiteness is the “default” in the US, but in mainland China? It’s being Han Chinese. Han Chinese supremacy is the reason for continued racism and Sinicisation of non-Han minorities like Uighur Muslims and Tibetan. And this racism has a history in Chinese imperialism that long-predates European colonialism. To call all of us “POC” flattens the power structure and posits false solidarity between oppressor and victim- it allows the oppressor to wrongly occupy the space as the victim: as if the Han Chinese general is the same as the non-Han people he has captured for human sacrifices to the gods during the Shang Dynasty. You can have groups of people in the Middle-East and North Africa like Kurds, Amazigh who are very often marginalised by Arab supremacy- such as when Saddam Hussein enacted a genocide against Iraqi Kurds in the 1980s, using chemical weapons. The Nigerian government’s slow response to the Boko Haram crisis despite angry protests by Nigerians? The government not caring when people in Northern Nigeria, which is much more impoverished- die. For my own family history, some of the deepest grievances stem from how the Japanese mistreated my grandparents during WW2.

4. Lastly, the term “POC” outside the Western context tends to flatten the power structure between non-Europeans who live in the West or otherwise have a Western background vis a vis people from our ancestral countries. 

  • White privilege can reinforce Western privilege but they are not totally synonymous: Because even people not considered white do benefit from citizenship in a Western country or a Westernised background. When it comes to global economic inequality, we are closer to the centre of the empire, to the position of those who benefit, not the exploited. People like myself benefit from speaking English, from appearing “more European” and generally Westernised. It’s the reason my friend, who is of Indian ancestry, was treated very differently by the immigration officer when his British accent became obvious- compared to Indians from India who were on the same flight as him. There would for example, be a huge power differential between an Arab-American soldier and the other Arab people in say, Iraq. I cannot in good faith say my experiences are the same as the Chinese workers who work long hours in factories, many of whom start working at 16. At 16? I wasn’t done with schooling. It was taken for granted I would get a university education, and so on. 

5. So, the term “person of colour” is meaningless to me in the non-Western context context, and I personally find it actively harmful when people lump us as “POC cultures” because it purports to create an illusion of solidarity that obscures the massive amount of racism and oppression Asians are enacting against each other till today. Further, I see it as a projection of Western race politics on a non-Western context, which is decentering from local dynamics.

In conclusion, I very much see myself as “non-white” in Asia due to growing up in a former European colony. But I do not see myself as a “person of colour” there. I see myself somewhat as a person of colour in Europe, because it is a Western context where light-skinned Europeans are the majority. Still, not entirely- because it is quite an American term and European racism has a lot of ethnicity dimensions. I tend to see myself as a SEAsian Chinese, most specifically.

[Jonathan Franzen]  said something like ‘I can’t write about people I don’t know.’ That, to me, is more complex. So, why don’t you know these people? What choices have you made in your life to keep yourself segregated? How is it one is able to move through life with a level of sameness? Is that conscious? Is segregation forever really at the bottom of everything? When he says something like that, I find that really interesting as an admittance to white privilege: that he can get through his life without any meaningful interaction with people of color.
—  Claudia Rankine (x)