Racism, Pretty Privilege and Running From the Law

Racism, Pretty Privilege and Running From the Law
Relationships, Race & Safaris
Cut by: Davita Cuttita

Ladies and Gents, today we’re gonna talk about “Pretty Privilege”, Racism and all those irking things about relationships.

In the past, particularly the post of Why Romance Must Die! I touched on the commercialization and “commodification” of human emotions and love. To surmise, I spoke a lot about how from childhood, we are all programmed to believe that love has some sort of “formula” to be unquestionably followed and any deviation from it, would result in said deviator becoming a crazy old spinster/recluse lady with a lot of cats. Of course, that’s not true: emotions are emotions and as such, they are unpredictable and pretty volatile so there is no love formula; it kind of just happens like getting punched in the dark or mugged in an alley.

A big problem I have with the romance ideal is the stereotype that one must follow certain norms and “steps” to find a mate; particularly the suggestion that one must be pretty and if you aren’t, you’re doomed to be alone forever (i.e. Ugly duckling is ostracized, becomes a Swan and is loved). We all see the magazines on the racks at the store; we know that even those who fit the Eurocentric paradigm of beauty—blonde hair, blue eyes, almost no ass, skinny, big (fake) tittays—do not all live happily ever after. I’m sure many of us here have known a couple who we secretly envy and we say to ourselves “Look at them; they’re such a happy, beautiful couple. They’ll last forever,” until they break up the next week, that is.

However, the biggest problem I have with the romance ideal is how pretty privilege and my Blackness come into play.

By most definitions “for a Black girl”, people generally consider me pretty. I get asked out on the regular by mainly White and Black men, many of whom I decline because they’re usually really creepy or obvious members of the Pussy Patrol. I have never been called ugly my entire life. A nigger? Yes. An ugly nigger? No. Since my gene pool is so complicated with Scottish, Syrian and Black immediates with a dash of Chinese and Indian, some people tend to find me “exotic” looking. I really fucking hate that word used to describe me though because it sounds like they’re on safari.

I find that the “exoticness” of my Blackness which in turn, translates to “prettiness” (because it seems as though Women of Colour, Black women in particular; either have to be light-skinned or “exotic looking” to be considered beautiful) tends to put certain people at ease.

For example, when Grandpa Dinosaur’s sister-in-law first came to Canada from Cambodia a few years ago, I was the first Black person she’d ever met or seen in person. We took her to the mall one day and as a group of Black teenagers passed by; she grabbed my arm and held on tight; staring at them with a mixture of fear and apprehension. I didn’t take offense because as I said, she’d never seen any other Black people in person before other than myself. When we got home, she asked me “why they looked that way” and “why didn’t they look like me?” I explained that since I was a mixture of so many other races; I tended to look a little different compared to some other Black people. I also told her that not all Black people look alike or are supposed to look a certain way nor do they all act or speak the same way as the Blacks on BET.

Further in regards to prettiness, some people tend to assume that if you’re a pretty girl, you are capable and intelligent but at the same time, you are complacent, un-opinionated and yes, even stupid. Conflicting? Yes. Allow me to explain.

I don’t date much or even very often, but I was going out with this White guy about seven months ago and was in the “ideal” relationship. He fit the stereotypical list of “What Women Want” as he made a lot of money, had a career, was well travelled, was highly educated and intelligent, good-looking, spoke another language, had his own apartment and vehicle. Yeah, I know; ridiculous but true. Of course, since this was only my second dating experience, it took me a while to figure out he was simply an undercover agent of the Pussy Patrol trying to force me into putting out (which I never did), but other than that and his racism things were peachy.

WAIT A MINUTE…no they weren’t! Racism is never peachy!!

And he was still an asshole on top of the racism anyway.

I recall one day we were at his apartment, being all romantic and “coupley” and whatever until he started going off about Asian people, talking about how he hated them coming to Canada and “not paying taxes” and taking up *his* side walk (White Privilege, anyone?) when he went around town for walks and then he went into a tirade on immigrants. I decided to call bullshit on all of that but since we were developing feelings for each other at the time and he’d been fairly unoffensive beforehand; I tried to do it a little gently.

I reminded him that hey: I’m an immigrant. He fanned my words aside.

“Oh honey, you work! You pay taxes, you’re landed. You’re one of us now,” (who the fuck is “us”? That’s some “Body Snatchers” shit right there *side-eyes*<_<)

“They pay taxes too on everything they buy. It’s not like they’re here killing people, they’re going to school, working, paying bills and getting by just like everybody else.”

“I just don’t like them on my side of the road. When I walk they should get out of the way.”

“It’s common courtesy that people should get out of eachothers’ way when walking and it’s not your sidewalk. We all pay for the roads.”

“Oh honey, you just don’t know what you’re talking about. Besides, you’re not like them.”

The most ironic thing was that before me, he’d had a slew of Asian girlfriends and had spent over a year in Japan and Korea “not paying taxes” and teaching English.
Anyone can be racist, even smart people!! Who knew!?!

Of course, this relationship deteriorated into nothing shortly thereafter but before then, I became used to “Oh honey” being followed by some sort of passive aggressive put-down afterwards. “You’re not like them”, “You don’t know what you’re talking about”, “Just listen to me”, followed by a reassuring tight squeeze or kiss on the cheek (much in the same way as one would pat a dog for obeying orders) as I racked my mind for words that couldn’t come. I’d even gotten the dreaded “When I look at you, I don’t see a Black girl, just a girl” comment which I did call him out on; I even e-mailed him this post and he apologized but I don’t think he truly understood why he did so.

It became an inner torture, as I racked my mind each time against my own denial, knowing that our relationship would fail, knowing that nothing I said would get a second thought from him, knowing that he was not going to change, knowing that at the end of the day after all those kisses, dinners, laughs and good times, I was nothing more than a trophy; a decorative armrest for him to flaunt his White Privilege and petty “anti-racism”. I was the pretty Black girl he could parade around to his friends; bragging about how smart I was but never truly believing it himself. Bragging about how pretty I was but only on the outside…so he never truly saw it.

Oh well, his loss. I dumped him and moved on.

These experiences do not sour me. I still feel free to date whomever I wish from any race (and no, my parents don’t care). However, I have learned from them and wisdom is far more powerful than knowledge.

The “fetishing” of more clearly mixed looking Blacks is also a double-whammy; as they have to not only deal with the Black “exotic” racism from Whites but also must endure the by-products of internalized racism from Blacks. My father is an excellent example.

Coming from two biracial parents, my father is light-skinned with curly black hair and hazel eyes. Raised by my Jewish great-grandmother while growing up in Jamaica, he was hassled less by police compared to his other friends. Many women wanted to date light-skinned men for “prettier babies”, him included. My father told me that while dating, he purposely tried not to date women that were his complexion and tried to talk to those with darker skin to avoid having his children come out looking “too cast”. At first I thought it was a bit shallow of him until I realize the things my father goes through: some people consider him White, so much so that other White people mistake him for White and will go up to him and begin passing racist remarks about Black people. However, he considers himself Black. He lives a really complicated life wherever he goes; always in between worlds but never “good enough” to reap all the benefits of White privilege while at the same time, being treated as though he does do by those whom he identifies with (Blacks) with thus creating a purgatory. Almost every family member on my father’s side lives like this and shares his experiences and I am sure other Mixed Blacks could testify their feelings and experiences of this racial paradox as well.

I wonder: do my White, female counterparts ever think of this when they date? Do they ever worry about their Whiteness being an exotic fetish to their White or Coloured suitor?

It’s a lot of pressure! You just can’t escape race or your appearance and really, it’s futile to try at this point.

So what to do?

Ladies and Gents: Never, ever sacrifice your ideals for someone who doesn’t even think they’re important enough to acknowledge. Don’t be afraid to call a person out on their shit because how they respond will show you who they truly are! If they want something “exotic” to carry around and brag about to their friends, tell them to fuck off and go on safari. If a man or woman wants to do some “discovering” in your fun pit or on your long island, tell them to hit the road, hard and face-first: you’re not the fucking Discovery Channel. Keep a positive attitude and don’t be afraid to talk about your thoughts, beliefs and feelings.

Never settle for less and always remember to respect and love yourself no matter what.

Image courtesy of wicked German artist Haida on .O00O I love her tons, check her out.

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~ by davitacuttita on August 31, 2008.

12 Responses to “Racism, Pretty Privilege and Running From the Law”

  1. I wonder: do my White, female counterparts ever think of this when they date? Do they ever worry about their Whiteness being an exotic fetish to their White or Coloured suitor?

    I look about as white as they come (ancestry: Irish and Jewish Ukrainian), and i have had to deal with the “exotic” thing, but not because of my whiteness. It was because of my Weirdness. I’ve had people wanting to date me because i was an oddity. I didn’t dress like anyone else, was interested in the sorts of things other folks had never heard of, i have a tendency to remove all of the hair on my head (or dye it interesting colors), and i said (say) strange and bizarre things if i don’t keep my inside voice in check. I tried to date a few people who were attracted to my weirdness, but once they found out that i wasn’t weird on demand (and that i wouldn’t be weird for their friends), things tended to end rather abruptly.

    My first long-term relationship was with a guy who would get starry-eyed when i talked about the strange things in my head, and my serious thoughts on deeper things would get a response equivalent to a pat on the head and “oh, you’re so CUTE when you’re weird!”

    Eventually, i met and married someone who’s just as weird as i am, if not weirder. So it all worked out. BTW, he’s something of a genetic throwback – likes to play the “guess the nationality” game. Depending on how he has his hair/beard, he looks white, middle eastern, or Mediterranean. First time i saw a picture of him (we met online), i thought he was Arabic.

  2. Hi Lindsay!

    Thanks for that interesting comment, your persona gave me a bit of a chuckle cuz I’m pretty similiar with the whole “weird factor”. Your husband too, hahah. I’d never stop messing with people if I was him.

    Anyway, the “this” I was referring to in the quote was an amalgamation of the Black and Mixed person dating experience within and without their races.

    For Blacks, some people will date you out of sexual curiosity (which I believe, is a form of sexual exploitation) or as leverage over others; like my Ex did. “Ooh, lookit me; I have a Black girlfriend, I am so not racist!” Yeah right.

    For mixed people, it’s more complicated because they face the same problem as Blacks combined with overt internalized racism from the Black community as well. For example, the women I mentioned who want “better looking” babies from Mixed/White men. Doing a google search for chatrooms on Halle Barry is also a good example of something present. On them, you will see many Black women congratulating her not just on her baby; but on the fact that she had it with a White man thus ensuring it’s beauty (and inferring that Black is not beautiful; more internalized racism) and in a way; “moving” up in the racial stratus. Very alarming stuff.

    Um…is that more clear?

    So, I was just curious as of to whether White women (or even men I should add) have to take that possibility into account dating. That they are being dated by other Whites/PoC to “move up” in the racial stratus or because other Whites find them “exotic”—and vice versa. In all honesty, I don’t think White people think about it much since many of them don’t have to think about their Whiteness much.

    Not to mention the fact all us girls have to also look out for the Pussy Patrol, some men/women will also exploit you for your race; which was what I was trying to say.

    What’s a girl to do!?! I need a manicure.

  3. Yeah, i recognize that my comment was a bit of a tangent, sorry about that.

    My mother, unfortunately, is very racist. Not white-hood wearing, and not n-word saying, but… yeah. When i was in first grade, my best friend was a medium-light skinned black boy named Woody. One time i wanted to invite him over to play, and my mother said no. I asked why not, and she said, “i don’t want you thinking it’s okay to date a black man. If you ever did, you might marry him, and you and your babies would be outcasts.”

    … *blink* THE HELL YOU SAY, WOMAN?!?!

    So yeah. ‘BOUT that. Luckily i moved in with my dad when i was 11, and he’s the exact opposite of my mom. There’s a history of interracial/intercultural relationships on his side of the family, and it’s very much seen as a No Big Deal kinda thing.

    My first boyfriend (lasted all of three weeks) was a gorgeous Philippino boy. He made me weak in the knees, for serious real. His parents liked me as a person, but the didn’t approve of me dating him because i was white. Ultimately, that’s what ended the relationship.

    Everyone else i’ve dated has been white. Not by design, just by circumstance. I’m pretty oblivious to it when people flirt with me, and for a long time had the insane notion that i wasn’t acceptable relationship material. So most often, the person i went out with was the one who actually managed to get it through my thick skull that they thought i was good times.

    In my limited experience, race wasn’t ever something i thought about either way with who i found to be crushworthy. I had crushes on white people, black people, asian people, etc (using the gender neutral there because i’ve always been too picky about personality and brains to limit by gender). My first experience taught me that some cultures won’t approve of me dating amongst them because of my whiteness. I generally took that to mean that crushes were okay, but dating Philippinos was just a no-go because their families wouldn’t approve.

    Oh, i just remembered: when i was a teenager, the only people who would hit on me (that i noticed) were older black gentlemen. Invariably, i was running late somewhere and saw they had a watch and asked them the time. They’d respond by asking me out. Given that i was 15 and they were easily 30-40, that was always an “um, NO.” But it mostly becase “um hi, you’re an OLD person and dude, i just wanted to know what TIME it is because i think i’m LATE for theatre practice.”

    Okay, and that Halle Berry thing? DUDE, WTF. That’s messed up as hell.

  4. Hi Lindsay,

    I have the SAME experiences with Black guys, LOL. Men old enough to be my Dad asking me out. So sad, so sad. White guys, too!

    But yeah, the whole Halle Barry thing is like 25% of the post in a nutshell. It’s not about who’s dating who really; it’s more like for one group the racial reprocussions are more evident and are coming from both sides exploting you for your race/racial status in a sexual or intimate manner. Which is fucked; I don’t care who does it, lol.

    I really appreciate you leaving those stories (and the linkage). I think Grandpa Dinosaur would be a prime candidate to discuss the Asian issue as she is Asian and far more knowledgable. I also admit my curiosity on it, too. I threw the suggestion on her desk screaming so I hope she gets it. Thanks again for dropping by!

  5. I don’t hear this anti-Asian stuff, because white people aren’t going to say blatant stuff like that to my (Asian) face. If you don’t mind me asking, whereabouts is your ex white bf from? (Does he live in Toronto?)

    Also, was GP’s sister-in-law afraid of white people too or other people of colour, or just other black people?

  6. Oh, you’re lucky, Restructure! I get anti-Asian sentiment when I step into the area of my old high school.

    My sister-in-law is totally afraid of all other Black people, Davita Cuttita and a high school friend of my brother are the only exceptions. [edited to add:] She also hates Indian people, hilarious because we’re Buddhists and Buddha was from Indian. orz||

    Davita is like, my BEST friend, and her name is pretty English sounding. Side by side, we don’t seem like such good friends and most people are surprised that Davita is Black when I introduce her. The expression on my sister-in-law’s face when she met Davita… you could bottle it.

  7. Hey Restructure!

    My Ex was from Niagara Falls (lives in T.O). And yeah, GD’s sister in law was pretty much afraid of most other Black people. It’s all just crazy go nuts.

  8. Hmm, my high school was mostly people of colour, and Asians were the largest group, so I didn’t experience that, luckily.

  9. I’m half-Portuguese/half-Irish, but I probably look more obviously meditteranian. I’ve had the idea that men were exoctising me and my whiteness who flirted with me in the street. I’m white but ‘exotic white’. These were mostly black men and some asain men (probably indian or pakistani considering the area I live, but I never asked, so I couldn’t be certain, most old enough to be my father)

    I couldn’t say whether the fact they mostly weren’t white was because of the reasons in this post or because it’s mostly been around where I live and there aren’t that many white people around (note: something I’ve nticed other people who live in areas like mine don’t get: in this specific area I live white people are possibly a minority, but we still get white privilige!).

    Grandpa Dinosaur: What you said reminds me of a story. I was playing in the park with a friend from primary (grade?) school talking about my induction day to my secondary (high) school the summer between the two. She’s black and I’d spent ages rambling about the people I met and my new friend who was totally awesome, Elizabeth. Because of various fuckery in the school system I was going to a private school in quite a posh area and my friend asked, “Are there any black girls there?” I then explained that the girl I’d been talking about all day was black.

    I made me pay attention though; having been in the local primary school it actually freaked me out to notice just how white my secondary school was. My sister was once accused of racism for commenting on how few black students there were, in that way of sayin ‘colour blindness’ is best.

    Eeep, sorry for the novel.

  10. [Restructure!:]
    Yeah, that is lucky. I was at prom and this drunk, White 10th grader (why was she even there? She was actually a troubled student too) and she shouted (because Asians were winning a lot of awards one after the other): “IT’S AN ASIAN INVASION!!!!”

    YUP! That’s mah redneck, Canadian high school. ::cue banjo::

    [Acceptable:]
    It’s partially my fault for coming off as a traditional, prudish Cambodian girl. It happens a lot with my co-workers, I’m so all business and I talk about Davita Cuttita and then they meet her and they turn to me after and are like “you didn’t say she was Black!”

    And I’m all like, “it’s a problem/it matters?” It’s not going to change the fact that she’s Black. Sometimes I have to mentions she’s Black and I get the same reaction. SERIOUSLY!

    It’s cool, I read the comments like Romance Novels… Srsly hawt.

  11. I wonder: do my White, female counterparts ever think of this when they date? Do they ever worry about their Whiteness being an exotic fetish to their White or Coloured suitor?

    White privilege means not having to think about those things. (Of course, I can’t speak for all white women). For one thing, I look like the norm in this society, so I don’t have to worry about being “exotic”. For another thing, well, it kind of ties into your colorblindness post, I’m not used to thinking of myself as white, because white is just the default so I just think of myself in the default. I’ve never been in an interracial relationship but when I’ve been interested in guys of another race I’ve thought about what their race means to me but not what my race means to them. You’ve given me something to think about here, for sure.

  12. Hiya Becky,

    Thanks for reading and clearing that up so nicely–everyone read Becky’s comment, she’s smart!! But yeah, it’s definitely a messed up system. Interracial dating is not an unfair system, it just comes with unfair tactics one has to work through with one’s partner in order to build a common groud. *Le sigh* I digress, but it certainly hasn’t stopped me from dipping in and out of the snow and chocolate. ^_~

    I find the more comfortable and aware one is of these things, the stronger the relationship and one’s self-esteem becomes.

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