Tuesday, January 25, 2011

11/21/10-- RE: The White Chamber

(This post barely edited by Rena, who is lazy, 99% complete by Alex, who is thoughtful.)

I read this blog post today and it really resonated with me. The link was put in my path by Justine Larbalestier, author of Liar and other YA books, and someone who I find has a lot of interesting things to say about race and fiction writing, particularly for young adults.You may want to follow the first link and read Victoria's post before continuing. It's worth it.I found the blog well written and concise.

It sticks with me because I know exactly what she's talking about. And although it made me kind of uncomfortable to be constantly referred to as a white person, I've been thrown into those same situations she spoke of. It was nice to hear her response, a simple "I disagree with that," because I have found myself frozen in wanting to respond and make it clear what is and is not okay with me but not knowing how to word it. I'm on the watch for future "White Chamber" moments now so I can test the waters.

(That sounded kind of weird to me, like I'm wanting the people around me to make racist remarks but that's not what I mean and I don't know how else to say it. I'm more keenly aware of such occurrences. How's that?)

Personally, I haven't had a lot of experience with acquaintances making comments on stereotypes and "those people are always so _______" situations. I've been there, I'm sure, but I've compartmentalized. What I have had experience with is people feeling a need to extraneously label people for race.

What I mean is when a friend is telling a story about another friend who I don't know and she has to relate the fact that this person does not have the same colour skin as us. I mean, yes, sometimes race is a relevant factor to the story, but when you throw in stuff like, "He's the hottest 'brown'* guy in my grade," yeah, I'm going to take offense. That's not okay with me.And why? Why is it not okay when even "they call themselves brown" all the time?

It's not acceptable to me because if you were telling a story about me, I don't want you to describe me as, "This white girl, Alex," or "That homeschooled girl," or even "weird." I'm not saying I don't identify with those labels; it's not the fact of whether they're true of false that bothers me. It's the fact that you find them necessary at all. Why do you feel the need to clarify? Honestly, if you're telling me how your friend's dad won't let her go to a party after grad because her dad is strict, you don't need to say he's strict because he's brown or Asian or whatever. There are dads of all races all over the world that are strict and don't want their daughters drinking and partying all night. But when you add that detail, even if you think it's unimportant and meaningless, you're doing a lot more than trying to paint me a picture of the girl in question. You're alienating her. You're removing me from her. You're pointing out how she's different. And I don't want or need to know where her parents were born.

You may think it's one word of description, thrown in because it feels natural, but it's racism.Sometimes, when friends of mine say such things, I can't help thinking about how they describe me. If they're telling a story do they throw in that I'm about as pale as people come? Do they open with a sentence about their white friend, Alex? Somehow, I think not. And that, I guess, is the root of the problem. Labeling some people and not others. Like, if I'm Caucasian, it's assumed but if I'm from Saudi Arabia, you need to mention it. There's something very wrong with that.

*I don't know if you two have that term in your high schools to label people of Middle Eastern origin. Yes and no. The "brown" people I know may use it to refer to themselves, but I don't and I don't hear it much either. I have friends of all races; racism and race in general doesn't factor into our friendship. At least, that's what I think. ("Racist" has become the common comeback to any criticism, no matter who's receiving it. JKLOL and all that.) Is this the White Chamber talking? Do I have friends with different levels of skin pigmentation than my own so I can feel good about myself? I don't know, metacognition is hard.

p.s. Alex here. I went in and added some paragraph breaks so it'd be a bit easier to read. Sorry for intruding.


Vita said...

In my opinion, separating people on the basis that their skin is a different shade is literally THE stupidest distinction one could ever dream of making. The fact that race matters AT ALL fucking pisses me off. In fact, the fact that people consider different skin colors to be different "races" pisses me off. The fact that most people are still somehow vaguely racist, or at least race-conscious, regardless of their own skin color, is a) fucking ridiculous and b) fucking depressing. There are beneficial and disadvantageous elements to most groups of people (religions, cultures, sexes, ages...) -- nothing that *validates* discrimination, but that at least makes discrimination more understandable -- but the fact that the fucking color of your skin is EVEN a THOUGHT on anyone's mind is THE FUCKING STUPID STUPIDEST THING ON THE PLANET. Nobody, I don't care who you are, *nobody* should have to worry about shit like the color of their friends' skin. Fuck, I know that racial minorities are still treated differently, no matter where you go, but the point is that they fucking shouldn't be. Hot damn.

(Sorry for swearing. :P)

Vita said...

Also there is no fucking biological difference between people of different skin colors. There isn't even a reason for different skin colors other than some people a long time ago lived closer to the equator and got more exposure to the sun and therefore needed darker skin for more protection. Didn't alter their brains. Didn't alter their human nature. Doesn't have any fucking relevance to anything other than the relevance that people have fabricated.
Also if my friend who is much tanner than me is considered the same race as me then why is someone who is 2 shades darker than my friend considered a different race? Answer: THERE IS NO GOOD REASON.