Typically when we speak of American nationalities represented in America, there is a breakdown that goes something like this: White, African American, Hispanic, Asian, etc…
The only problem is that “White” is not a nationality; it is a color.
What I’ve been learning is the term “white” is a historically nuanced term. When America was beginning to boom, a big part of that boom was the availability of a strong labor force. That impressive labor force was unfortunately comprised of slaves ruthlessly imported from other counties. The importers were, of course, people who immigrated here from Europe. At some point, the people in power had to come up with a way of differentiating themselves from all the African slaves (who were considered to be second-class humans) that were coming and reproducing in their land. The result was the conglomeration of the European nationalities into a single vague term called “White”.
White, as I said earlier, is not a nationality, but a color. And it is not a real thing; it’s a social construct that has had immense implications for living in the United States.
While a lot of things have been done to reverse extreme racism e.g. stop the lynching, let African Americans vote, etc.. one of the most important ones that have remained today, occurring ever so subtly yet very powerfully is the reality of white privilege. It is the reality that “white” people have a privileged living over those who aren’t “white”. As a result, people who are in the United States today who fall into the same qualifications as those when they coined the term, undoubtedly get the upper hand living in the United States.
It’s a strange phenomenon isn’t it?
Germans, French, English, Italians, Polish, Australians, Kiwi’s, and any other nation with fair-skinned, imperial blood in them, when they immigrate here to America today in the 21st century, automatically get a leg up living in America versus those that don’t. The social mold that formed back in the day still exists today, and people who immigrate here will fit perfectly in it.
This diagram demonstrates perfectly what I’m talking about:
It is true that we are a nation of immigrants, but the rules are different for each immigrant. It’s quite strange to me that people with pink skin immigrating today will have a leg up over people who have been here for generations yet don’t have pink skin. It’s quite strange to me when people of pink skin lament about the persecution their fathers and mothers faced when coming here when any such persecution for them trickles off in light of the new social rules in America while those who don’t have fair skin still receive unfair treatment.
And it’s even stranger to me (hence why I am writing this) that the reality of the present-day unfairness is under looked by “white” Americans who (sometimes not their fault) live under the illusion that racism is not real and affecting the lives of their friends around them.
If you’re reading this and you’re “white”, please be mindful while you may not be racist, the systems of this nation are still bent towards favoring your people and disenfranchising others.
I can only speak on my experience of being Chinese-American, but I don’t know if you know the feeling of being treated like a second-class citizen. I don’t know if you know the feeling of recognizing that you’re primary language is an inferior language (like omg, you don’t speak English?). I don’t know if you know the feeling of worrying about being pulled over by the police, or being followed around in the store, or wondering if you’re homeless, of if you’re dangerous and will mug people, or being designated to certain neighborhoods, like my black friends experience.
I don’t know if you know what it’s like to walk into a restaurant and receive second-hand service. I don’t know if you know what it’s like to have your cultural foods identified as “ethnic” and American food as “normal”. I don’t know if you know what it’s like to have people look at you and wonder if you’re a terrorist. I don’t know if you know what it’s like to suppress your cultural heritage like many of my Asian friends do, because in order to succeed in this country, you have to conform to the people in power (read: pretend like you’re white). And I don’t know if you know what it’s like to be hushed or ridiculed when we celebrate an athlete, politician, or professional who actually succeeded (Jeremy Lin, Barack Obama) because we knew their chances were very slim for succeeding in a “white”-dominated society.
I don’t know and I don’t think you ever will have those experiences.
And so I don’t think there’s such thing as “white” people because I know there isn’t–it’s a social construct which allows for people of fair skin to have a sizable advantage in this country. And without a reversal of the construct of “white”, our country will never see the fairness we envision it should have.
I know I’m writing as a Chinese-American, but I am also writing as a Christian. And here’s my thought on that, just to conclude this article:
In the kingdom of heaven, we’re all equal, and that’s an amazing feeling. But I want to write to draw our attention to the fact that sometimes living in America, even amongst Christian brothers and sisters, it doesn’t feel like heaven, it feels like hell.