White, Black, and Mixed all over

I’m not sure how I would identify with the term “Whiteness.” An article written by Robert Jensen, titled White Privilege Shapes the U.S., mentions that white privilege is complex, and I couldn’t agree more. Maybe that is because I’m only half white. I know I’m privileged to an extent but sometimes I feel lost and confused because I’m not just one race. Only recently have standardized tests and surveys allowed me to choose more than one race as an option. When tests don’t have the option of choosing multiple races, I have two choices, pick “other” or identify with only one race. I always end up picking Black/African American, because my complexion is definitely not white and who wants to be put into an “other” category!

While I was reading these articles I kept trying to think if there is some sort of spectrum or criteria for Whiteness. What do other people think? If you are half White do you still get Whiteness privileges? My answer to the question is sometimes. I think it all depends where I am. I look around in my classrooms here at JMU and in most classes I’m the only person with a natural tan year round, everyone else is White. When I share experiences I’ve had with discrimination and racism there is always a hand full of people who are like the “Torpefieds” in John T. Warren and Kathy Hytten’s article, The Faces of Whiteness: Pitfalls and the Critical Democrat, who can’t believe that racism is still active and powerful. Before I came to JMU I didn’t think much about Whiteness privilege because I come from a diverse area at home. I’m right in between Baltimore and Washington D.C. so it’s always been a melting pot for me. Then when I came here I started to have a feeling like Wendy in the Wizard of Oz, where I wasn’t at home anymore. Everyone is segregated for the most part, you see mostly Black people hanging out with other Black people and White with White, Asian with Asian and so on.

When I go to where my mom is from, about 25 minutes from JMU, and I catch people looking at me like I’m from a different planet! Then when they find out who I am they’re like “Ohhh you’re her daughter.” Her meaning my white mom, then suddenly I don’t get as many looks. I’ve never asked anyone but I guess I don’t get the looks because they find out who I am or what I’m mixed with then suddenly I’m labeled “safe” or something? I see that as White privilege.

-Kerry

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