HOW TO AVOID WHITE PRIVILEGE & GOING PERMANANTLY COLOURBLIND
How to Avoid White Privilege & Going Permanantly Colour Blind
Cut by: Davita Cuttita
So to answer the first question, how does one avoid profiting from White Privilege? The simple answer I can offer you at this time is: you can’t.
To answer the second question of how not to go permanantly colour blind, it’s: listen to Coloured people and not only accept that you have White Privilege, but question it and recognize it.
Whenever I as a Coloured person, mention to a White person that “Hey, what you are saying or suggesting is suggestive of your White Privilege” they get defensive. I can see why they would be hurt, it hurts especially if you’re trying really hard to be anti-racist but y’know what? Buck up and admit you fucked up, my homie. Rather than getting defensive, a more positive and constructive response would be as simple as asking said Coloured person why they feel that way and chatting it out over some tea and Public Enemy albums.
I find that being colour blind is something that only White people can do and I, as a person of Colour, cannot. Why? Simple.
Being colour blind, in my opinion; runs in the same bracket as love and respect: one must be able to love and respect oneself in order to properly reciprocate it to others. White people have the option to be blind to their own colour in modern society because for the past 700 years; it’s been set up to accommodate White people and ONLY White people—Coloured people have just been given their basic human rights about 50 years ago and we are still trying to get on our feet and take responsibility not only for what has been done to us for hundreds of years but for what we do to one another.
Furthermore, it is easier for White people to be colour blind to themselves because for the past 700 years, Whiteness has meant every good thing in the book: intelligence, normalness, beauty, morality, kindness, ingenuity, and godliness while non-Whiteness has and continues to mean the opposite of those traits. We, as coloured people have many things to conquer such as internalized racism AS WELL AS the already established stereotypes of negativity of our Colour which, like the positives our White counterparts; is reinforced everyday and everywhere all the time.
I always think first of my hair when it comes to things such as White Privilege and being colour blind and I am sure many Black women out there can attest to my situation with similar ones of their own.
When I moved in with Grandpa Dinosaur and her folks for my first year of University, it was difficult for me to maintain good hair. It began to break, fall out and was extremely unmanageable and barely even “style-able”. A testament of my biracial father and Black mother, it is not quite “Black hair” but not quite “White hair” either; it is thick, brown, wavy and tall. I looked all over Grandpa Dinosaur’s neighbourhood (which is primarily Italian) but there were no salons that could do my hair.
I cannot go to a “White” salon because they do not do my hair. There are certificates all over the walls detailing their achievements and education but for whatever the reason, I guess it wasn’t important enough for them to learn to care for “Black hair”. They cannot do my hair and refer me to the closest “Black” salon whilst apologizing profusely and seeing me to the door. A White person can come to a Black salon because hey; if you haven’t noticed, once our hair is straight it’s pretty much like theirs.
I have never been to a Black salon that didn’t carry at least three or more (many more!) books filled with White hairstyles you can choose from. I have been to Black salons where White customers are served amongst the Black ones, male and female; I’ve even brought my White friends to them to get their hair done.
Anyway, not wanting to pull off a Homer Simpson look in Freshman year, I had to take 4 buses back to town and endure a journey spanning a bit over 3 hours to get to my usual hair salon. Since by the 3rd bus I was thoroughly exhausted, I went into the nearby mall and searched for a hairdresser. I went into the only place in the mall (at the time) and asked if I needed an appointment. Everyone stared at me, the lone Black face amongst all the White yuppies getting perms and faux hawks. Yes, the receptionist replied; I needed an appointment with Ms. J (no, not the runway coach…unfortunately). She gave me a card and it was now sunset so I had no choice but to ride the 3 buses back to G.D’s with my hair falling out. I called Ms. J, booked the appointment and returned at the end of the week.
Ms. J was a Black woman. She washed my hair, treated it and answered all my queries on make-up and proper hair care. Occasionally, she would whisper about how the rest of the staff were generally nice but would sometimes “treat her differently”.
Let us look at two other scenarios involving hair that also exposes the flakeyness of behind being “colour blind” and touts White Privilege.
Grandpa Dinosaur and I meet a friend of hers at a salon as she was getting her hair done for her birthday. We go into the salon: Everyone is White except for myself, GD and her friend who is Asian. As we made chit-chat, a White woman with a biracial daughter came in demanding that the closest stylist “do something!” about her daughter’s hair. Poor girl looked like Simba from the Lion King on a bad day. The male hairstylist looked at the little girl and started stuttering, but the woman DEMANDED that “something must be done about her hair!” so he puts the girl in the chair and starts blow-drying and brushing her hair a lot. Right. And what were you hoping to accomplish with that, Mr. Hair School? They were there for a good half hour and the little girl’s hair remained the same, the mother became frustrated and angry with the hairstylist and the little girl started complaining and fighting back tears. I wanted to say something helpful (such as the place didn’t even possess the proper tools to do her hair and that the woman and stylist were both morons) but the lady was obviously a bitch and at the time, I was a…we’ll say “quieter” person.
I was at my regular hair dresser getting my hair did when two White women walked in. One with two children and another with one child: all three children were biracial. The White lady with two kids, who we’ll refer to as “Mama”, asked to talk to a hairdresser. Two Black, female hairstylists went up to her and she started asking questions about different hairstyles and how to do her children’s hair. She asked all the questions: “How do you get it straight? How do you braid it? What is that style called? How long does it take?” and looked through Black hair magazines. At the time, I was thinking “Wow, these are really stupid questions” but then I thought “Wait a minute…she’s White with biracial kids. It’s GOOD she wants to know what to do and what WE do”. Mama asked about the hairstyle like she sees “the basketball players on TV wear”. “You mean cornrows,” (Cain rows to us Caribbean folk) responded a hair dresser. Yes, Mama answered, she wanted everyone to have long ones that touched their back. Her friend agreed; they looked nice. So one by one, the hair dressers sat everybody in the chair and began braiding but THAT WASN’T ENOUGH FOR MAMA! Mama sat down in the chair too, picked up a magazine and got her hair braided the same way with one of her daughters. I remember Mama feeling shocked at the look and the tightness of her hair, but she never stopped smiling and neither did her kids (who looked like Don King before but now rocked braids). Everybody left the hairdresser happy with heads full of cornrows. The hairdressers gave Mama a card and told her to come back if she had any other questions or wanted the kids’ hair styled for another occasion. She thanked them.
Hair. That’s all it takes for me to realize my Colour and what it means to other people. All because of my hair, a whole bunch of zones invisibly marked “enter” and “no entry permitted” open up and I have no choice but to obey them or I will not be served.
I cannot be “colour blind” to myself although I can certainly believe racism is bullshit and do not perpetuate it. You can, too. I don’t get why being colour blind should be a pre-requisite or even a requirement of the non-racist; to me it’s something only a White person can do efficiently and a Coloured person cannot. Therefore, it’s just White Privilege Lite at the end of the day.
I go to work where I am actually the first non-White person to be employed there and am currently the only non-White person working there…my company has been around for decades, the branch I work at has been open for over 11 years.
Do you think I do not criticize my actions each day, wondering if hopefully, they will encourage them to hire other Coloured people? Certainly. Do you think I do not deliver even harsher criticism to my myself if I make any mistakes? Of course.
If something goes on negatively in the news about how a police officer beat/shot a Black man or woman to death for no reason, do you think I do not tremble inside that day when a cop car passes me by and slows down for a moment? When I was eight, my biracial father nearly joined that body count for the innocent crime of “walking home with a bag of milk for your children while biracial”. And yes, those cops won the case against him, the jury was mainly White except for ONE Black member and my father barely spoke “proper” English, he’d only been living in Canada for three years. I remember his blood on the kitchen floor. I remember my mother’s sobs. I remember my own fear.
I always remind myself that he went into that store colour blind and came out with clear vision through black and blue swollen shut eyes.
The colour blind can stay in their Disneyland surrounded by landmines of “I’m doing this for you!”
No, you’re not. Why can’t you do something with me instead of for me? Why can’t you just listen?
The White Privileged can stay in their Happy Place and deny what the world has given them before any of us were born. You are not chastised because you have the privilege; we know it’s not your fault and that you didn’t ask for it. You are chastised because you ignore us when we cry, you ignore us when we beg, you ignore us when we write and you ignore us when we speak: all you do is defend yourself against the people who you are “trying so hard for”, but you never submit to our cries for mercy, for one second of your time. I will leave you to fight alone in the dark and shake hands with the colour blind.
If you’ve read this far, I thank you and have only one request:
Dear reader, please clear your vision.