My Light Skin Is Not A Pass For Your Low Key Racism
Updated: Feb 18
I know what you see when you see me. You see a racially ambiguous female, not always sure of the age but you are definitely sure that I am not white. Typically you will decide without checking; that I am Latinx. You will either mind your p's & q's and not offend my "Latin" heritage or you will try to prove to me how down you are with Latinos.
At some point, surprise, surprise you will find out that I am mixed; Black, and white. For those of you who consider yourselves woke, when that happens you will try to hide the surprise on your face. What typically comes next is you will look like you are about to burst with a thousand questions that you are too scared to ask.
But, there are also those of you who don't worry about whom they offend, or if they offend at all; they will automatically go for it. "Who's Black? Your mom or your dad" "Wow you're so light!" "You don't look Black"(whatever the fuck that's supposed to mean!) "Your hair is so nice" "You speak so well"...... and on and on. Your low-key racist comments will come flying out of your mouth faster than you could possibly catch them.
Then there's the third type of person, the one who will start to side-eye me without even realizing it; I have automatically become suspicious. I can't tell you what they suspect me of, but whatever it is, they seem to make peace with the upcoming offensive behavior they will lob my way. Weirdly, more often than not these people tend to be from other minority groups.
I have come to realize that I throw off their sense of what a "Black" person should look like. It's always about my looks, never about how I speak, dress, job, or education level. It is simply the fact that my ambiguity doesn't allow for them to put Blackness in a neat and tidy box. The level of side-eye has a tendency to rise and fall within generations of people who encounter me, but very often I still manage to run into a group of people my age who are not comfortable with what I am presenting. Over time it has come to my attention that when I encounter other minorities my age, who seem to be somewhat put off by me, they also do not have many if any at all; Black friends.
With all of this said, at some point, people find themselves comfortable enough due to the lightness of my skin to roll out their subversively racist comments, or as I like to call em, low-key racist comments. I use that term because rarely do they come out with full-fledged racist comments but instead they ask questions, make statements or tell stories that, in their circle are seen as acceptable because nothing being said is overtly racist. So they feel no need to call each other out.
I feel like one of my biggest obstacles with people is the fact that subtle racism comes with an automatic defense. No matter how the racist statement is said, they will automatically make it clear to me, the Black person, why I should not be offended.
Case in point, on a group text, I am the only Black person but all of the other people are minorities. The chat is somewhat funny, not exactly something to drop my work and concentrate on but cute enough to make sure I'm keeping up. And then it happens........
in response to an innocuous picture, the "N" word comes out. No hard R, just the subtle A at the end. the thread immediately turns to silence, no one says anything. But my fingers are flying and I'm side texting someone because I can't believe what I read. The person I'm texting is already admonishing the N dropper. But the outcome is so predictable.
The offender becomes defensive and their response is??????............ You got it! - "But EVERYBODY says it. It's just a word! Of course, I didn't mean anything by it, you know me I'm not racist. " You know, the typical responses
what I want to say is - Naw Mutha Fucka apparently I don't know you because if I did I wouldn't be fucking with a racist!
(Image is from the article: Dear White People, You Have A Weird Obsession With The N-Word
And No, It Doesn’t Matter If The “a” Is Soft. - Marcus Donaldson)
I feel like I should walk around with the above chart stapled to my forehead. But something tells me that I would still have to have a discussion about why it's wrong.
Just because you love our music, emulate our clothes, our hairstyles, our language and you adopt the parts of our culture that you think "speak to you" doesn't mean that at any point you are Black. And let's be honest most people know this and I'm pretty sure they know this because when they come in contact with a Black Man or a Black Woman, you know, someone who fits the idea of what a Black person should look like. They become weirdly silent in their "Black" jubilance.
But when they see me the need to hold themselves back never enters their mind. I'm never sure if it's because I'm so light they forget I'm Black, or because to them, I'm so light that they have decided I'm not Black enough to make them uncomfortable in their racism.
They let their thoughts rip and I have to sit there and spend the rest of my time with them, waffling between teaching or canceling. I have come to understand that once again my lightness gives them a cover because even when I'm trying to teach them why their views are incorrect, or I'm letting them know why I'm canceling them. They still seem to find it necessary to inform me why I don't have the right to do so............. I'm not Black enough to have the right to inform them of anything.
So I walk around in a constant state of rage because I'm always waiting for someone to pop off simply because they aren't aware of what I am or they've decided I'm light enough that I won't care.
LET ME SET THE RECORD STRAIGHT
I am very very light, I don't look Black to most people who are not Black. My nose is "white" looking. Even though my hair is curly, the texture itself is as ambiguous as my face. My name is nordic and very bland. I am not what you have decided a Black person looks like, but here I am.
I will never be the depot for your racist comments
My Blackness is not up for your debate
I will not excuse the BS you said because you forgot what I was
I have every right to be upset when someone is racist, my lightness does not negate that
I will not be small and acquiesce to your older relatives racism simply because they forget what I am
I am not now, nor will I ever be your Black ambassador
I will not sit next to you and have conversations that start with "Not to be racist but" "I'm not a racist but" "You know how Black people are" "Why do they have to act so(insert racist euphemism for Black person)"
I WILL NOT BE QUIET AND ALLOW RACISM AND RACIST STATEMENTS TO FLOWER AROUND ME SIMPLY BECAUSE I MAKE YOU FEEL COMFORTABLE IN YOUR HATE