MIC is taking on the concept of privilege and how it relates to mixed-identified folks in an effort to decolonize & deconstruct the various social privileges that some of us may benefit from.
Privilege is very loosely defined as a right, immunity, or benefit enjoyed only by a few beyond the advantages of most (see more important terms here).
The lens from which we are attempting to operate centres anti-Black and anti-Indigneous racism in particular, as opposed to mixed-race whiteness. With this in mind, it is important to remember that “racial ambiguity” in general, which is often associated with mixedness, can shield folks from anti-Black and anti-Indigenous racism (which includes folks with 2 parents of colour). While it is very well documented that darker-skinned folks experience more oppression, someone whose race is “difficult to pin down” and who are not racialized as Black or Indigenous, are still able to escape the most virulent forms of anti-Black/Indigenous racism.
This is not to say that racialized mixed-identified folks with white or Asian ancestry and/or have light skin do not experience racism and other forms of oppression (because we most definitely do). However, having a parent or grandparent of European descent can bring privilege in other ways than just skin shade. For example: generational wealth, social capital, social networks, land ownership & real estate, etc. Even something as simple as access to information about who your ancestors are is a privilege, as descendants of the transatlantic African slave trade may never have access to such documents. In addition, according to the PEW Research Centre, Asian-white heterosexual married couples on average earn more than any other interracial unions (the study however doesn’t include queer couples, couples where both partners are people of colour, or Indigenous people at all). Finally, class plays an interesting role where “the richer a family is, the more likely children are to identify themselves as white”, according to research done by Lauren Davenport, professor of political science at Stanford.
Below is a list compiled by racialized mixed-race identified people (including those with non-white ancestry) of some of the ways that they access privilege in their every day lives:
1. Somebody can make a derogatory remark about my people right to my face without realizing that’s what they’re doing.
2. I am only expected to be a spokesperson for my entire community when I choose to be vocal and assertive about my identity.
3. When I represent for my culture, ethnicity and race, I am praised for being “culturally refined” and “true to my roots”, as opposed to demonized and condemned for being “backwards” or “uncivilized”, or held in disdain for being assumed to be “fresh off the boat.”
4. People will tell me that I am “the best of both worlds”, often implying that I’m better looking than my Indigenous/Black kin.
5. I am assumed to be “white” over the phone and have more access to jobs that require speaking roles because I don’t have an accent.
6. I am offered “diversity” roles for a variety of ethnicities over people who read/identify as coming from those communities.
7. People assume that I’m more conservative politically because of how they read my racial phenotype.
8. I’m less likely to get accosted/arrested/charged or receive longer jail terms than my darker skinned kin.
9. I’m more likely to be offered modeling/acting roles to represent my Black/Indigenous side, as opposed to my darker skinned/more “ethnic looking” counterparts.
10. I can usually get away with passing as a local in most places I travel.
11. I have access to economic privilege via my parent/grandparents who are not Black or Indigenous.
12. If I don’t say anything, I can pass for for various ethnicities at times when it is advantageous to me.
13. I often get compliments on my hair, complexion or eye colour.
14. My ethnic ambiguity sometimes protects me from racialized verbal or physical attacks.
15. I have access to more dating partners because of my ethnic ambiguity.
16. Teachers/employers have higher expectations of my intelligence/abilities and thus have more access to economic advantages.
17. People don’t necessarily assume that I live in regions that are afflicted with a variety of social issues (ghettos, reserves, hoods etc).
18. When I go to the doctor, hospital, sexual health clinic or obstetrician, I might be treated with more respect.
19. I can ignore racism/oppression around me when I don’t “feel like dealing with it”.
20. My parents/aunties/uncles/ grandparents treat me better than my siblings/cousins because of the way I look.
21. My name gives me access to interviews, apartment-showings and opportunities before people make a visual judgement.
22. I have EU citizenship and shorter lines at European airports because of my grandparents’ citizenship.
23. People have told me I’m the link between African students and other students.
24. I can be pretty sure that the vast majority of whites will express obvious or muted surprise and incredulity to my face when I present a blood relative to them whose visual appearance is darker than mine.
25. I can more easily insert myself into random, “perceived public white spaces” than my more “ethnic-looking” equals.
Graciously created by the MIC community contributors: El Machetero, Alexis Kienlen, Tyler Sammy, Omolola Chantelle, Briana Pipkin, Donna J. Nicol, Kimberly Siple, Andrew Marc L, Matthew Sinclair, Jamaias DaCosta, Malinda Francis, Diana Andrews
More food for thought:
- 10 tips for my non-black and light-skinned or white-passing Latino and Asian brethren by Nico Dacumos
- Being Biracial: Figuring Out Where is Home by Maya Gittelman
- BLACK PEOPLE HAVE EVERY RIGHT TO DISTRUST YOU FOR BEING LIGHT SKINNED by rad fag
- How I’m Using My Light-Skinned Privilege to Fight for Racial Justice by Zola Ray
- Nina Simone, Zoe Saldana, And Light-Skinned Fragility by Ijeoma Oluo
- Race is About Interpretation, Not Identity Race is About Interpretation, Not Idenity by Marissa Jenae Johnson
- When Skin Privilege and Racial Belonging Collide by Shannon Luders-Manuel