The last time I dated a white person was five years ago, and it was a horrible experience for lots and lots of reasons that I don’t even have to time to write about here. So I’ll keep it focused on one aspect, which is: race. He was Southern Italian, and anybody who has seen a map knows that Southern Italy is very close to Africa. Southern Italians are known for being swarthier and having darker features from generations of interracial families. I, however, didn’t really care about any of that until said ex decided that it would be cute to lord his heritage over me, a Mexican-Filipino-Dutch woman who is the product of second generation interracial marriage. He liked to say things to me like, “I’m darker than you” and “I’m more of a person than you are” because of that. Five years ago, my praxis was still evolving, so I mostly just wrinkled my nose at him and ignored it. But after reading about the recent Jessica Krug scandal, I wish I had punched him in the face.
Apparently this is a fairly common mentality among white people, and it’s something that needs to be actively called out and shamed before it metastases even further. It’s easy for white people to look at the aesthetics of race and think, “I’m not that different from them.” White people can get their tans, get their hair done, put on hoop earrings, get lip injections, and voila! Race is a social construct that can be cosplayed whenever convenient. The lived experience of race in America doesn’t register to white people who can’t fathom that not being white in America is inextricably linked to American racial identities.
When I look at white people dressing up as POC, I realize, oh, shit, as a white passing, racially ambiguous, half white woman: I am the grey area that white people slide through in order to come out the other side as fake POC. This is my territory. It’s my job to hold this down and hold people in this space accountable.
But I am so confused. And I don’t know how to do that. I feel fucking harmed by white women who dress up as people of color. They look like me! In some cases, they look more like a person of color than I do. In doing so, I feel like my experiences as a white mixed race woman are invalidated, and the conversation I want to have with other people like me becomes irrelevant, invalidated and easily cancelled by snakes who want to coopt that experience. But the difference is that they are white and they have lived their lives as white people. We are not the same.
This insidious, snake-ass bullshit undermines the trust that BIPOC can have for those of us who are in the racial middle. I get that being an ally means that every day we have to prove ourselves to be an ally in a renewed way because of people like Jessica Krug. But because of people like her, we have to find new ways to build trust. The only way that we can rebuild that trust is to always give our seat at the table to someone whose voice is more marginalized. It is on those of us who are light skinned or white passing to use the privilege afforded to us by colorism to end the pernicious cycle that excludes our friends with darker skin.
In many ways, my ex was just trying to invalidate me and invalidate my experiences growing up in a mixed race household. Which is, ultimately, the whitest thing he could have possibly done. These small incidents of erasure might be funny to white people who don’t understand the difference between darker featured white people who were reabsorbed into white culture and lighter featured POC who are still not purely white. But for those of us know what the fuck is up, let’s make sure those fuckers know their time is up.