Opinion: It’s OK to be white; not a white supremacist

Tamlynn Torchon

As reported by UNF Spinnaker, white supremacy has been on the rise on campus. “The ADL report finds a 77 percent increase in documented propaganda during the 2017-2018 academic year compared to 2016-2017.” It is very alarming for some, and means almost nothing for others. As uncomfortable as this discussion will get for many, it is time to understand why white skin should never equate with white supremacy.

Firstly, yes, it is OK to be white. This statement is correct when talking about skin tone/color. Humans have white skin because of evolution that dark skin underwent when they migrated to places that did not have as much sun as tropical areas. What makes a person darker is simply melanin. Clear, right?

Yet, subconsciously people know that saying “it’s okay to be white” is not about skin color. Rather, it’s about a social construct (race) and the ideology behind it.

Whiteness is a social construct related to “race” that is defined as “a dominant cultural space with enormous political significance, with the purpose to keep others on the margin.” Whenever people bring up whiteness, there’s always a rebuttal followed by “well, what about black pride or blackness?” This argument could have been valid if only blackness was created with the intent of stating superiority over any other race; this is not the case. Blackness is a resistance to the notion that it is inferior in the first place. It exists to defy Whiteness as the norm and perfection.

One doesn’t chose to be born white or not. Yet, a person born with white skin (or even lighter skin tone within a predominantly dark-skin community) has higher chances of success and more benefits than others. Also, everyone suffers, but not everyone suffers the same. And, yes, skin color is a major factor of that.

Why does any of this matter? The harsh reality for many folks sharing that skin color is that whiteness has an extremely violent past and present. As explained in this article, many people of that skin color are only recently realizing the horrible and inhumane legacy of their (indirect) ancestors.

Again, it is not the physical skin color that created this unfair social factor, but it is the society which chose to enforce that unfairness around that skin color. There is an entire system built around preserving injustices onto non-whites. Whether people like it or not, this is a consequence of a horrible past barely challenged. Today, more than ever before, people are becoming vocal about denouncing those things, which can be mentally draining but absolutely necessary.

The issue is not the individuals having the skin color; the issues are the refusal to acknowledge a horrific past, and the unwillingness to dismantle the unfair system built around it. Why would anyone hesitate to bring equality and equity into society? If we are all humans, shouldn’t we actively work to make things better? Believe it or not, many people do not want things to change for others because there might be a possibility of losing all those benefits (the very ones that people seem to be ashamed to possess).

To reiterate, it is OK to be white, physically speaking. No one should change their skin color to become a forced “norm.” What is not OK is to defend false superiority based on things that were disproved, simply because of ignorance or misplaced pride. What is not OK is to state that the “other side,” which are human beings as well, are causing division when really they want to be heard and their struggles to be acknowledged. What is not OK is to embrace an obviously violent ideology claiming purity, high intellect and other fallacies based on nothing factual.

It will only be detrimental to that community itself if no steps are taken to call out ridiculous notions such as those ones. Do not feed into that fragility. No one needs shame or guilt. No one needs actions deriving from those two things. What many people need in societies like the U.S. is an honest allyship with no pretense or self-gratification. Calling out the community you happen to share [physical] attributes with is an enormous step to progress, especially for those who do not look like you.

Individuals belonging to minority groups have to constantly deal with being lumped in with extremists, and they are constantly asked to be the face and voice of a community they may not even know well, or that is not homogenous (or does not think similarly). They do a great job of listening and understanding context, and everyone should be able to do the same.

It is time for the majority to face criticism or scrutiny with a hopeful realization that they are not the norm/standard but a part of a bigger society. Yes, there will be discomfort when discussing the past and even the present. If that feeling is present, there is hope for change. Nothing calls for change better than discomfort, and oh boy, do we all need some change towards progress.

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