White is Right?

I remember one of the first times that my blackness was called into question. It was during  my latin class in highschool. A white guy decided that it would be appropriate to talk about how he hated the idea of Miss Black America because, “we don’t have a Miss White America, so why do they get a Miss Black America?” As was custom, I was the only black girl in the class at the time, so another girl in the class tapped him on the shoulder and whispered to him “shhh…she’s black!” In response, the white guy whispered back to her “so what, she goes to this [prep] school…” I took that comment to mean that because I was a black girl who went to a prep school and who was educated, I wasn’t ‘truly black enough’ to be offended by his comments. Therefore, he felt comfortable making those ridiculous comments in front of me. He obviously felt that my educational background made me ‘a cut above’ other black people and that I wasn’t ‘truly black enough.’

I was not the only black girl at my school to be called ‘acting white.’ One of my bestfriends told me of a similar incident that happened to her while she was working at an after school job. Apparently,  one of her coworkers (who was a white female) was working at the deli in the grocery store, when a black person came up to the counter and ordered something well-done. The girl took the order, but after the customer left she remarked to another white employee…”black people like all their food burned.” My friend, who is black, said to the girl “what did you say? Why would you make a comment like that when I’m right here, I’m black.” The white girl then remarked to my friend…” but, you’re so white…”

My friend later told me that the main thing that offended her was the fact that the girl told her “she was so white.” She said to me, “just because I speak in full sentences and have read a book does NOT mean I’m not black!”

She was on to something. I realized that my black friend and I were probably the only black people who my white peers interacted with on a regular basis. We were the people who they would be referring to when they stated, “I have a lot of black friends,” we were the people who would be placed on the cover of the school pamphlet to demonstrate how ‘diverse’ the school was. We were the token blacks.

The fact that my friend and I did not conform to the image of black people on BET, on the news and in rap videos (the image most of my white peers were accustomed to)  made us seem like the exceptional blacks, the token blacks. According to society, ‘true black people,’ spoke in ebonics, couldn’t read and sold drugs. So therefore, my friend and I were categorized  as black people who had ‘mastered the art of whiteness,’ and thus our behavior, our pursuit of education, our intellect and our positive upbringing was seen as ‘not truly black behavior,’ but white behavior.

This racist ideology stems from the notion that many white people (both consciously and subconsciously) are incapable of associating anything positive with blackness. In their minds, white is still right. White people speak ‘proper english,’ black people speak ‘ebonics,’ white people pursue education, black people pursue ignorance.

Any positive behavior by a black person is thus equated with whiteness because of the racist ideology that white is right. If my white peers didn’t associate whiteness with being right, then they would have had no trouble accepting the fact that it IS possible for a person to be educated and well-spoken and still be black. They wouldn’t have felt the need to attribute our positive behavior to  our ‘acting white,’ as if all things good are white and all things bad are black…This is nothing more than white supremacy in its subtlest form, as far as I’m concerned. Clearly, this ideology of white supremacy is still pervasive to this day. It’s clear that in the recesses of some white people’s minds, they still believe that white is right…

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White is Right?

6 thoughts on “White is Right?

  1. La Reyna says:

    May I share this commentary from Blaque Swan from Racism Review regarding this very issue you wrote:

    “Blaque Swan, previously No1KState said:

    Are black women willing to date white men? I can say unequivicolly, yes. Is that the preference? Unequivicolly, no. Have you seen the movie SOMETHING NEW with Sanaa Lathan and Simon Baker? They get at the reasons behind our hesitance very well. Since white man are the primary perpetrators of the US’s racist patriarchy, white men by and large are still viewed with suspicion. The way black woman conjures up all those negatives images for white men, as mentioned in the post, so does “white man” conjure up negative images for us. Don’t get me wrong, when it comes to a white male coworker or boss or salesman or cop, we can judge each guy on his own merits. But a white guy as a romantic partner? Uh, yeah, we don’t care to actually sleep with, or to put it better, we don’t care to bring that home with us. It’s one thing to put up with racialized sexism and sexualized racism outside our homes, but to actually bring that in the house? where we expect the most comfort and freedom? It’s not a brick wall, but it is a major mental hurdle to climb.

    Also, there’s what we know of white men as it relates to dating and black women. One, you don’t find us marriage material; two, when white men do date us, it’s either as an exotic adventure or a sexual one, due to our being stereotyped as hyper-sexual. We really don’t expect to be “hit on” by a white guy. So they may have not realized you were seriously interested in dating.

    And that’s assuming you didn’t approach them with some lame line like, “Did it hurt when you fell from heaven?”

    Keep in mind, time, place, and day plays a part, too. Did you approach these women after five on a work day? When they’re still stressed from work and here comes the “coworker/boss/salesperson/cop” white man you represent who just pissed them off not a couple hours ago? Or, was it earlier in the day on the weekend when they were still in a morning time, “new day” mood? Were you out in Vanilla City, or did you meet them on their on turf? Besides, there’re times when women just don’t want to be hit on, and that’s all women.

    Your lack of success has nothing to do with you personally. I actually think your race does play a part because of the meaning white skin carries with it. Whereas white men have limited experience with black women, we have tons of experience with you, the majority of which is not good. Even at it’s best, white skin still represents mainstream culture, a culture that negatively judges black culture, black women. Again, why bring judgment that “home?” “Home” is where I can speak black English. Will dating a white man change that?”

    And

    “Hmm . . . Yeah, it is something to think about. But just so we’re clear, black women are victimized by society by what’s called racial microaggressions, yes? So regardless of how I imagine my position in society, not bringing racialized sexism into my home is just a matter of protecting my self. I mean, people who can afford it live in gated communities or apartment buildings with security guards. Do they think they’re below the rest of society?

    That said, I will give serious consideration to your info apart, of course, from how it applies here. But as far as my general self-image, yeah, that’s something I’ll think about.”

    It’s about racialized sexism that began in slavery and continues today. I don’t think this should be played down or dismissed.

    La Reyna

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  2. joanne says:

    Do you know that reading these different blogs as a Black Caribbean woman has me feeling sick. You people are lost. Lost in a quagmire of racial self-hatred and doubt, it is so perverse that I am glad that I have never set foot in America and have no desire to do so.
    This is the same country that you guys go to war for and stand and sing the anthem for ? You all sound sad and pathetic that’s all I can say.

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  3. Zipporah says:

    I noticed that this actin white nonsense started around the early 70s. Before that, black people were into eduation and proper speech.. Maybe it happened after forced integration although im not sure.

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  4. Zipporah says:

    I’ve had more pronlems with blacks because of my speech than whites….that idiot who brought up Miss Black America probably didnt know the history of it. SINCE WE WERE EXCLUDED FROM MISS AMERICA weve had miss black america…Did you tell him? Dont be afraid.

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  5. Culture says:

    This is a bit of a racist misunderstanding on what is going on.

    Black Culture does promote “Being Black”, ebonics (according to some advocates) is seen as a method of creating a distinguishing factor between blacks and whites.

    The problem is that culture tends to be tied to territorial regions, race, religion, or other such labels. So when you hear someone say you’re being “white” what it means is you’re adopting white culture over black culture.

    The same can be said of other groups, stereotypes form due to the most frequent representations of individual cultures in association with some menial difference. Jewish culture does exist as does black culture… but what is Black Jewish Culture? We’ve stereotypically defined jewish culture as white, which makes it hard to grasp the merger of two different cultural identities.

    I WON’T deny that xenophobia and prejudice against different cultural identities exist, in the eyes of many “White is Right” (or more so, “City Dwelling, Laissez-faire Capitalistic, Screw the Poor, Entitlelistic, Hedonic” culture is right.) You’ll see this far better if you look at Alaska and how there are STILL aboriginals living there with their aboriginal ways… and being forced out of their habitats in pursuit of natural resources how Hawaii is actively forcing the Polynesians out and destroying the beautiful land they once called home.

    Stop looking only at race, race is meaningless in the end run; ask people “If people are happy living in the jungle, who are you to judge them” and reveal the deeper prejudices in their hearts. “If people are happy with communism, who are you to judge it.” “If people are happy under a culture that promotes classical wives, who are you to judge it”

    All claims that people aren’t happy can easily be subverted by saying “some people must be happy for the continuation of a system, even those who you perceive as being oppressed; in any system there will be those oppressed and those rewarded so why this particular reward-oppression offends you is the real question”

    Culture wars really are the big issues here; association with race is incidental.

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