Confronting Whiteness

I have been vocal on social media regarding whiteness and skin lightening. Being Indonesian-American it was a norm for family members and other Indonesians to say, “I don’t want to get under the sun”, as well as, “look, I’m getting so dark.” I didn’t think much of the terms, they were ideals to look up to, to be. Even when I began college I had that mindset of not going under the sun. When it was summer, I would wear a shawl and avoid getting dark as much as possible.

I first considered skin lightening products when it was introduced to me the summer before high school started, my first time traveling to Indonesia.

Indonesia was a huge culture shock, I look undoubtedly Indonesian when being there however it was hard for me to adjust. I spoke very little Indonesian even though I could understand it, I was not used to the everyday customs and the calling of prayer.

Everything was different.

I remember watching the media and noticing that everyone was light skin Indonesian, most likely Chinese-Indonesian, half Indonesian the other half most likely Australian - which were regarded so highly.

In markets there would be aisles and aisles of skin lightening products that were used for every part of the body.

Coming back home from Indonesia I brought back a skin whitening cream. At this point I still did not think anything was wrong, I wasn’t even really insecure about my skin, I just thought it was the norm.

I thought I was being Indonesian.

And honestly, it was not until I got into college when I started learning about whiteness, and how different cultures try to achieve western-beauty standards is when I internalized and unlearned this idea. (Still a work in process) These steps towards confronting whiteness are steps I am ready to take however, I am not entirely sure if I am ready to confront it in my friends.

The Whiteness Project and White People had many accounts of those who identify as white. And many of those examples are ones I have experienced with my white friends. There is a constant battle between how to confront whiteness to your white friends. One, you want to educate and teach a new perspective for your friends but how do you do that without sounding like an attack or a trying to find something to blame. How do you prove your best intentions without being to aggressive and to defensive. It is a constant battle, one I am trying to figure out as well as learn more about in order to open the conversation.

As Eric points out in his white perspective, the act of tip-toeing conversations in front of his non-white friends. Is what I feel my friends are somewhat doing. And there is a tension when one is tip-toeing, you know that there comment was racist but they claim that there is no other way to put it. It is hard always confronting especially those you care about.

So, I am asking how would one open this conversation with the white friends you do care for and make slightly racist remarks?