As white-passing people of color, we have our own set of struggles.
We have to hear all the horrible, racist things that our white friends (and sometimes even our not-white friends) say about people of color that they wouldn’t dare say if we were visible poc. And because we look white, we are expected to be okay with it. We are expected to understand and sympathize with the “I’m not trying to be racist but…” agenda. Basically, we are expected to support whiteness as an ideal.
When we talk about our identities being anything other than white, our white friends act like we are throwing ourselves an unnecessary pity party. They act like we are so full of white-guilt that we are trying to falsely identify as people of color to get away from it. Or, worse (and more commonly), they act like looking white is some kind of accomplishment, as if you were born inherently better than your visible counter-parts, are fully aware of their inferiority, and are being ridiculous or annoyingly humble by also identifying as a person of color. This experience is similar to when visible poc are seen as “credits to their race”. Except that the white-passing, instead of being seen as being better because they aren’t “lazy”, are seen as better by default. As if being born light-skinned, instead being a product of recessive genes, is evidence that we were meant for better things than our visible parents, siblings, and friends.
And we cannot effectively contest it because, when we do, it is held as evidence of our inborn moral superiority to visible people of color; evidence of our grace and humbleness. Yet we are not as good as white people because we are not actually white. We are still people of color, and, therefore, our words are cooed at benevolently and brushed off, as we cannot posses the wisdom and authority that comes with being an actual white person. We are light-skinned because we are better, but we are not white enough to actually be taken seriously. Our purpose in white people’s lives is not as evidence that racism is idiotic, counter-intuitive, and without any basis in logic, but to reinforce the value of racial hierarchy. And anything we say will be twisted and mangled to support the racist schema of the white people who have been kind enough to let us sit around and act white with them.
A self-aware white-passing person is constantly aware of their unmerited advantages and simultaneously unable to do much to convince the white people around them (and often other people of color as well) that we do not deserve to be on this pedestal. Or, rather, that our visible counter-parts deserve to be on the pedestal equally as much, if not more, than we do. A self-aware white-passing person realizes that when they set off a metal detector and get waved ahead instead of having to go through lengthy and invasive searches, it is because of the value a racist society has arbitrarily placed on pale skin and European features.
And then there is the isolation from visible people of color. Because while we may identify more with them, we still look white. And we are never, ever, unaware of that fact.
As a person of color, I know that I usually prefer to be with other people of color (and some non-delusional white people). So while we can’t blame them for not automatically seeing us as people of color, we also can’t just go over and say “hey I’m a person of color, too” because THAT IS SUCH A WHITE PEOPLE THING TO DO!
I’ve seen a lot of stuff come through my feed, lately, about white-passing people of color trying to equate their struggles with those of visible people of color.
Personally, I don’t understand how any self-respecting poc (visible or white-passing) could do that to another poc. Every time you try do that, you are saying that you face the same discrimination as visible poc. This is just not true.
As white-passing people we have the privilege of letting people think that we’re white to get jobs, grades, respect and to avoid having our words and actions serve as a testament or evidence of our race/ethnicity. Most importantly, we have the ability to sit in a room full of white people and not have all eyes on us. When we are tired of the discrimination, we can get up and leave and be assured that, in a few blocks, at most a few cities, we will be in a place where no one knows that we’re people of color; where we can sit in peace, without being discriminated against because of our skin tone.
This is a white-passing privilege that visible poc do not have.
So, yes, we have our struggles. But they are not remotely the same as those of people who do not have the privilege of passing. Pretending otherwise is hurtful, invalidating, counter productive, and generally fucked-up.
So, please, quit trying to play oppression olympics and acknowledge your privilege like a decent human being!