Being White

Most days I don’t notice my skin color. Other days I get insanely sunburned, and the blisters and peeling over the subsequent week constantly tells me that I have a very fair complexion. Still other days I love my skin because my freckles look cute or I have absolutely no zits that day. And then there are the days when I see Facebook posts that call out “white privilege”, or articles that explain why an all-black movie cast is amazing but an all-white cast is racist. I’m told that my life must be easy because of the color of my skin, or sometimes even that I’m naturally a racist because I’m white. I have to ask: Does that not seem racist in and of itself?

Now, I’m not saying that I feel personally attacked because of my race. I live in Utah and grew up in Idaho, where the vast majority of my neighbors were at least 50% white. One of my best friends in high school is 1/2 Thai, and that was one of the coolest things ever. It wasn’t because his skin was different but because he had that heritage, that bit of history that he could use in his definition of himself: “I’m half-Thai.” And yet when I say, “My ancestors came from England on the Mayflower,” it’s not nearly as cool. “Sure, but so did everyone’s. You probably had ancestors that were slave owners, too.” (I don’t actually know whether I did or not, so I’m not going to address that personally.) No one’s ever said that, but that’s what I think because of the emphasis on WHITE=BAD. White people invaded North America. White people owned slaves. White people are racist and privileged.

But are we? Yes, lots of white people are racist. But I’m sure that if you look at any group of people of any race, there will be at least one person who is racist against some other race. I don’t like it, but bigotry is something that we have to deal with in our imperfect world filled with imperfect, and sometimes cruel, people. But just because I’m white doesn’t mean that I’m racist. Just because someone’s black doesn’t mean they aren’t. It depends on the character of the person, not on the color of their skin.

As for white privilege, I don’t believe I’m qualified to make a judgment on that. I don’t know if white people are more privileged in some areas, but I know that my being white hasn’t made my life easier. I got jobs because I was the right candidate and I got into college because my grades were good, or I didn’t get other jobs because I wasn’t the right candidate and I didn’t make plays because I wasn’t what they wanted. None of it had to do with my skin color, and I know this because in my life I have been surrounded by probably 99% other white people. There was no competition based on race, and because of affirmative action any bias is legally supposed to be in favor of minorities, not against them.

I am not bothered by the races of characters in movies. I only care if the acting is good. When Noma Dumezweni (a black woman) was cast as Hermione Granger in the play Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, I wasn’t upset that she was black. It took some getting used to, yes, because I was used to Emma Watson from the movies. In fact, it wouldn’t have bothered me nearly as much if it hadn’t been such a big deal. In my mind, Hermione in the books is white, but I don’t care if a black woman plays her. I’ve seen Noma in a couple Doctor Who episodes, and she’s a great actress! Be excited about Noma playing Hermione because of her talent, not because of her skin color.

I’ve heard complaints that not enough actors of different races are in Hollywood movies. When you factor in the fact that 77% of Americans are white, the disparity doesn’t seem like that big of a deal. Unless a decision is made with racist intent, casting a white person isn’t actually racist. We make it into a big deal, and then the arguments between people start, and all of a sudden there is so much more hate than there ever needs to be based on skin color.

I understand that there are still struggles in the black community, but I believe that if we focus on the people, and not the skin color, then we will be able to do more good and fix more of the problems. People say that age is just a number? Well, I say that skin is just a color.

Everyone should be proud of their heritage, whether they come from Africa, Asia, Europe, South America, or Antarctica. When we look at the history of any people there will be good things and bad things, some of which may be bigger than others. What is most important is who we are now, not who our ancestors were. I am proud of my ancestors who came over on the Mayflower, and those who came to Utah with the Mormon Pioneers. I am thankful to have those strong stories, and I am thankful to know the negative stories so I can live above them and become better than any generation before me. I love to hear about the different peoples in Africa, or my friend’s great-grandmother in Thailand. I also love to hear about Irish traditions and the history of the Russians.

We are more than our skin color. We are made up of our heritage, our choices, our circumstances, and our future. I want to be proud of who I am, proud to be me, and maybe even proud to be white, not because of the color but because of the heritage that comes with it.