Why Anyone Can Be White
In response to the Wall Street Journal’s very bold and cutting edge, not at all senseless and irresponsible, recent op-ed titled “Why Anyone Can Be Chinese” by (surprise!) a white dude named Daniel A. Bell, now our most recent sacrifice on the altar of racial colorblindness.
Who is white? The answer may seem simple at first: white people.
But just to play the devil’s advocate: Imagine, if you will, a girl born to Chinese and Korean parents in Brooklyn. She has inherited their physical characteristics and absorbed some of their languages, but has lived in the States for her entire adult life, and interacts with many white people. She speaks the white language fluently, and is deeply familiar with their cultural practices, like watching television shows about England and posting pictures of Bernie Sanders on Facebook. She even dresses in traditional white clothing every day. We’re talking mules, sweater dresses, oxford shoes (for her!), those shorts with the weird crochet layer over them, the whole deal. Also, this person is me, except for the mules, which I will not wear, on principle.
In the 15-plus years I’ve lived in America, I truly feel that I have been accepted by my fellow white Americans, except for when they peer at my face and ask me what I am. “I’m you!” I always want to say. It just really hurts my feelings when some white guy at a bar tells me how much he loves Asian girls: that’s great, but I’m not Asian! Don’t let my appearance fool you! Can a white girl catch a break? I’m a citizen, I’m dating a white man, I watched three Wes Anderson movies last weekend, what is it about me that stops people from accepting me as a white? I just don’t get it.
I have worked for years to achieve the status of Fully White. In college, I took two classes about European film, and I’ve spent the past decade teaching myself about fundamental white American concepts, like capitalism and making reservations for brunch. If an ethnicity is something that can be earned, I’m in first place. So why do people still tell me to go back to where I came from, no matter how hard I smile at them?
It happens to everyone I know who’s white but doesn’t look it, those of us trying to take the ancient white proverb, “race is a construct,” to heart. I think it’s so weird that the cop who stopped and frisked my “black” friend didn’t understand when we told him that he didn’t have anything to worry about because we were actually white, like him. Whites would benefit from being open to those eager and willing to adopt the features of white culture, like thinking the police are just fun cartoon characters who will give you directions when you’re lost, or being able to walk into literally any room and not feel threatened or out of place. White people get to exist everywhere and own anything! Why wouldn’t they want to grow their ranks?
“Because they are all implicitly frightened by the idea that their power reserves will lessen should ‘outsiders’ achieve equal standing with them, whether socially or economically,” I hear you muttering in the background. Pah! One of my best friends is white, and she’s so glad that I’m her friend that she makes me be in every group photo with our fellow white friends. Now that I think about it, she always invites me to literally everything she does, and she kind of only started doing that after someone made this comment once about how she only hangs out with other white people? But there’s no way she’s just trying to use me as a response to that comment, because, like I have said, I am white!
My dream is a humble one: to be accepted as a white person, not only in my own mind, but in the minds of my fellow white people. For the people who shout fake-Chinese-gibberish at me to see through the facade of my straight black hair and narrow eyes and see the real, white me. Why don’t more people who are white on the inside come out and say it? Why isn’t everyone I know, black, brown, and yellow, sprinting down the god damn street screaming that they’re actually white? I mean, think of how safe we’d be, think of how secure we’d be, if everyone just realized that we’re actually white!
People of color know all too well that they’re only allowed to be one thing. White people are allowed to do anything.
I wonder when I’ll finally fit in! Talking about Boyhood wasn’t enough, and neither was reading and writing perfect English or hanging out with white people and listening to Fleet Foxes! Just the other day, someone in a cap with the American flag on it leaned out of his car and yelled “chink” at me. Oh, and this other guy with beautiful blue eyes once called me an “Oriental bitch” on the street! I really wonder why that keeps happening, when race is so obviously a construct, and people are totally allowed to just pick their identity! No matter what I do or say, it’s written on my face and my skin and hair that I don’t belong and that I’m not safe and that I won’t get to do what white people do, and neither will any of my friends who aren’t white, which I guess is why it doesn’t matter that I wrote this in the first place.