“Do you think America doesn’t totally accept you, or you don’t accept it?”
I think that’s what he asked. If not, this is how I interpreted it. It’s a good question because it makes me bristle, put up defenses, prepare to argue. The underlying accusation being that part of this chip on my shoulder is self-inflicted. Maybe I’m scrutinizing, searching for differences and injustices to prove a made-up theory. I don’t want to think of myself as Angry Asian Girl, but in these moments, I realize how easily that anger pops up from underneath the surface. I value them. It shows how confused I still am. How quickly I can be contradicted, just as I think I have it figured out.
At the time, I answered, “I don’t know.” Because I needed to think about it and because how does one explain something this complicated without going into tiny subtleties, fleeting moments and glances, historical and cultural details that have totally escaped the other person? You basically have to teach them a new language before opening up the conversation. That’s what I call white privilege. It’s not just what white people *have*, but what they *lack* in terms of accessing the delicate space that lets them empathize. It’s not their fault–I’m not even invited to that space all the time, and when there, I spend a long time blindly grasping at air. (re: this blog) Someone with white privilege is spared from these (non?)issues that neurotic, angry, hypersensitive people like me worry and wonder about. They have the luxury of exploring their individuality without the burdens of race.
My answer to the question is “yes and yes.” Since it became apparent that America didn’t totally accept me, probably when I was like five, I’ve been ashamed. When I got older and prouder, that shifted to anger, which is more productive and easier to deal with. Now I’m like a jilted lover–it doesn’t matter how good America treats me compared to my motherland, or how well I’ve assimilated–I’m not falling for it. To me, totally accepting America as is would be admitting that I want to be American like the ignorant people I grew up around. If there was a racial sensitivity Olympics, America would win, but that’s not saying much. I have higher, perhaps unattainable standards for this country.
A. 100 – someone who is 100 percent at terms with their black identity. More often than not, you’re not any one of these types, but you can’t be “just yourself” either.
B. oofta – someone who adjusts their blackness depending on the environment.
C. nosejob – someone who tries to hide their blackness in exchange for whiteness.
This is one of my favorite parts from Dear White People, because I think all minorities have embodied each of these personas at some point. And how their community reacts will absolutely affect that choice. It’s ridiculous to say that someone can be totally secure that they’ve chosen the “right” person to be, when their social standing, professional success or ego might be on the line.
Just like it’s ridiculous to totally accept a country, or feel any pressure to entertain such a ludicrous concept.