A Conversation About White Privilege and Why it Exists

The title may be misleading because I’m neither an anthropologist nor a sociologist, so I actually have no real scientific or societal basis as to why White privilege began and why it’s still in existence. I have some pretty good ideas, but not founded enough to write an entire blog post about them — this is about how it DOES exist despite what some people may say.

First off, being a minority in America is a weird thing, especially belonging to the “elite” minority group, the one white people don’t really mind all that much except when it comes to penny pinching and a lack of understanding at nail salons. Have major strides been made since the beginning of American time? Absolutely. But why is it that not that long ago (less than a century, even) that it was illegal for me to marry a white man, to own land or a home, to even vote? Why were fellow Asians (the Japanese to be specific just in case you’ve been living under a rock and literally know nothing) forced into internment camps a mere 70 some years ago? Babies born in internment camps are still very much alive, which means it wasn’t long ago enough (of course it shouldn’t have happened in the first place, but it did, and nothing I can do or say will change that).

And to add to the confusion (for me and probably everyone else), I’m an international adoptee, which has garnered such comments as, “Well, you’re not a real Asian” or “So you’re basically White.” Have I said these things about myself? Totally. But there’s a difference between what a person can say about themselves and what other people can say, sorry if it bothers you and feels unjust. And I’m working on curbing comments like that anyhow so as to not add to the unfortunate race problem we have here in the old US of A. (And just as an aside, I recognize there are some major race issues in other countries, but I don’t live in those countries, probably you don’t either, and that doesn’t really affect how America acts. If it does, it most certainly shouldn’t — “Well, as long as there’s a group of people more racist, then we’re fine.”) But back to the issue at hand — I am most certainly a real Asian (my facial features prove that quite readily), and I’m not basically White since I am, last time I checked, full Asian. Also I’m not basic at all *snaps*. It would appropriate to say, under these circumstances, “Well, you’re ethnically Asian but culturally American, which is a predominately White culture even though White people can’t seem to get enough of Taco Tuesdays.”

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If you’re a White person reading this, fuming and foaming at the mouth that I am declaring that White privilege exists, well … sorry, but I don’t make the rules. Does it appear that White people in America have some unearned social advantages because of the color of their skin? Absolutely. Does it mean I expect all White people to sit around feeling bad about themselves because of the color of their skin? No. That would be racist. (And just to clear things up, we all say or do racist things from time to time, and those instances do not make us Racists. They make us humans who say and do dumb crap. When a minority says to you (should you be White), “That’s kind of racist,” don’t get all up in arms about it. Accept the feedback and reevaluate what you’ve done and then probably stop that particular behavior. Recently I got into a rather heated argument with someone over Facebook (which I most certainly did NOT want, by the way — I hate Facebook arguments quite thoroughly and don’t ever go to other peoples’ pages to disagree with them, even if I feel confident I can be diplomatic about it) in regards to whether “South Pacific” is racist. First of all, it totally 100% is, and I don’t give a hoot about in what decade it was written or what the original intent was. People are unintentionally racist all the time, and that doesn’t make it any less offensive. It just makes it steeped in ignorance. Plus, things age out. Let’s all agree to retire “South Pacific” because it’s 2016 and no one should be producing it anyhow. And rather unfortunately, the White person with whom I was trying to discuss the matter did NOT take my feedback well and then downgraded my distaste for racism to mere offense. I wish a more productive conversation could have ensued from the whole thing and that the other person could have begun to understand that when two Asian people are saying, “This thing is racist against Asians,” it very well may be. For a much better explanation of the ultimately too negative connotations to the words racist and racism, plus several good ways White people can overcome their White fragility (y’all are SUPER fragile) and occasionally swallow that uncomfortable pill of being wrong, check out this post here.)

“But what about reverse discrimination? White men can’t get anything these days because of all the benefits the minorities are getting.” HAHAHAHAHAHA shut up and go away, first off. No one wants to hear about how hard it is to be a White man in America. But that does bring me to my next point about The Problem with Affirmative Action, and Why it Needs to Go Away. It’s been proven time and time again that the government probably needs to stop making sweeping generalizations about groups of people and offering handouts to those they consider less fortunate — there’s actually very little that bothers me more than White altruism (I’m looking straight at you, Brangelina).

Story time. When I was in college, one of the organizations held Affirmative Action Day in the student union, where they sold food at different costs depending upon the buyer’s ethnicity. Spoiler alert: that didn’t go over well and no one thought it was a good idea. I mean, I guess it was cool that for just some pocket change I could buy a burger (or was it candy? Too old, can’t remember), and I think at the time I took part in it just because it was so cheap (cheaper for Black students, cheapest for Native Americans, which … the offensiveness runs deep with that one, kids.) Here’s my beef with Affirmative Action: it was created by White people, for starters, and appears to be a handout to POC (people of color) because apparently we can’t achieve anything without the assistance of our White superiors. Is it reverse discrimination, however? Absolutely not. It is, unfortunately, hiring employees or accepting college students for all the wrong reasons. Accept Black students into your student body because of their GPA, their motivation, their drive, their extracurriculars — not because you have a percentage you need to fulfill to appear diverse. They’re out there, they exist, and they don’t need your help. We don’t need your help. But ultimately till that goes away, when someone says, “I want you because of the color of your skin,” that is not in any way similar to, “I do not want you because you are White.”

I don’t think the answer is abolishing the notion that race exists at all. I’ve heard that argument, and it just ultimately sounds like something a White person would say. I’m proud to be Asian, to be a little different from other people, to have unique traits that no one else can have. I think there are dozens and dozens of cultures that shouldn’t be downgraded in the name of fighting racism under the guise of “But we’re all humans.” I DO think we need to open up the conversation about White privilege, what White people can do about it, how they can take responsibility for it, how they can learn valuable lessons from POC. And I think POC need to recognize that the majority of White people are inherently good, that they have good intentions, and that there’s a lot they (and we) don’t know. When someone says something racist, don’t be rude about it. Let it be a learning experience, and if they react negatively to that feedback, don’t engage in argument. You’ve offered up knowledge, and what they do with it is up to them. I’ve been told almost my entire marriage that the key to success is good communication, and that translates VERY well to all interpersonal relationships. When you take the time to listen and understand, that’s when growth occurs. That’s how we get rid of the race problem in America.

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To the LGBT Community: I’m Sorry My Friends are Bigots

When I was a little girl and a volunteer at my mom’s library (I mean, she didn’t own it, but she worked there), I wasn’t allowed to use the public restrooms. It wasn’t even an unspoken thing — kid volunteers were supposed to use the staff restrooms (which required a key code) because, and I wish I were kidding about this, they had an issue with heterosexual male predators who liked to hide in the women’s restroom to watch women use the toilet.

It took me years, honestly, to feel comfortable using a public restroom because of this.

Those are the only individuals who cause me major concern when it comes to the usage of public restrooms. First of all, they’re not even there to pee — they’re there to peep — and despite there not being an actual set of rules of what you can and can’t do inside a restroom (middle school and high school aged girls will prove this because it’s rare they ever actually go instead of take selfies), that’s totally and completely wrong. I think this is something that everyone, Peeping Toms aside, can agree upon. Bathrooms aren’t meant for snooping.

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I have absolutely no concern over individuals who are using the restroom to empty their bladders. I’m a woman. In every restroom I enter that houses more than one toilet, there are stalls, which are as close to privacy as we’re going to get except for those extremely uncomfortable moments when we accidentally make eye contact and one of us sacrifices our own lives by flushing herself down the toilet because it’s just too mortifying. So to be perfectly honest, if a well-meaning man were to enter the restroom to pee while I peed because for some reason the men’s restroom were simply unavailable to him, I wouldn’t mind. If he tried to peek over the top, then we’d have a real problem. But then we get back to the whole issue of him being there for all the wrong reasons.

And sorry to get all anatomical on you, but if a trans male enters the men’s restroom (which is the way it should be), then either he has the plumbing and will use a urinal LIKE EVERY OTHER MALE or he doesn’t and will use a stall CREATING A CERTAIN DEGREE OF FALSE PRIVACY. So I see no problems there either. I’m not a man, but seriously it shouldn’t be a big deal.

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So let’s not talk about my sanctity or safety any longer. Frankly, I don’t need or want you to because I am definitely able to deal with life on my own. This “sanctity” is just a fancy, religious way to cover up what’s really going on — a high level of bigotry, prejudice, hatred, sexism, and transphobia that shouldn’t exist, especially in 2016, especially when we should all agree that human rights apply to everyone who’s a human.

And for the record, since it’s not resonating with so many of my acquaintances when an LGBT person says it, perhaps it will because I am a straight, religious woman: homosexual people, queer people, those who are gender binary, and the transgender are not somehow more apt to commit heinous sexual crimes than heterosexuals. In fact, statistically speaking, they commit significantly less. When a man says, “I believe I should be a woman” and then goes through all the emotional and physical pain of transitioning, far be it from me to then tell her she can’t use my restroom because I don’t understand how that feels. And it is INCREDIBLY unspeakable that I (or anyone else on this planet, especially other Christians) should ever imply that she is a criminal when really she is just about as incontinent as the rest of us.

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Photo found here

You’ve already shared the restroom with a trans person and lived to tell the tale (I’ve shared the women’s restroom with PLENTY of boys who were there with their mothers, who crawled around under the stalls and decided to hang out in mine, which was far more alarming than the possibility of a transitioning/transitioned woman being next to me, washing her hands). We closed the door on segregated bathrooms already in American history, and I don’t think we need to open it ever again.