The Truth About Racial Identity From A Privileged White Girl

I am a privileged White girl. The amount of melanin in my skin is nowhere near that of my father’s. I’ve always had two loving parents, a roof over my head, food to eat, clothes on my back, access to education, and a million things that I don’t need. I am a privileged White girl.

It’s so weird to call myself White. I’ve never identified as White. But, as I learned about a year ago, race is simply what you look like to other people. Ethnicity is your cultural affiliation. This is best explained by the words of Dalton Conley in a paragraph from a PBS article.

“While race and ethnicity share an ideology of common ancestry, they differ in several ways. First of all, race is primarily unitary. You can only have one race, while you can claim multiple ethnic affiliations. You can identify ethnically as Irish and Polish, but you have to be essentially either black or white. The fundamental difference is that race is socially imposed and hierarchical. There is an inequality built into the system. Furthermore, you have no control over your race; it’s how you’re perceived by others. For example, I have a friend who was born in Korea to Korean parents, but as an infant, she was adopted by an Italian family in Italy. Ethnically, she feels Italian: she eats Italian food, she speaks Italian, she knows Italian history and culture. She knows nothing about Korean history and culture. But when she comes to the United States, she’s treated racially as Asian.” – Dalton Conley

So, this is how I sort the terminology simply in my head.

Race = what you look like.

Ethnicity = what countries your family is from/which cultures you associate with.

Nationality = the country that you call home, (the country you were born in OR the country in which you reside that you associate with your identity).

Many people may be thinking, “why do I care?” or “this is unnecessarily complicating something so simple.” It is imperative for us all to firmly understand this system of identification, though, because this country has an extreme problem with crime and discrimination associated with these labels.

Police brutality is a huge issue in this country; young men are losing their lives right and left simply for being Black. Men and women, simply for looking Middle-Eastern or wearing a hijab (head scarf worn by women who practice traditional Islam), are stopped in security lines at airports and their privacy and humanity is violated simply because they follow their religion and look the way they do. Latinx children are cornered at school since the election of our current American president, towered around by other children chanting “build a wall.” This is heartbreaking, yet becoming normalized. These are just a few examples, on a larger scale, of the problem we have in this country – the fear of the other.

Why is dark considered dangerous? I have a separate blog post coming soon discussing this in more detail, but I feel that the general question needs to be posed in this context. There are several historical answers for this question, but my question in for right now. Why is dark considered dangerous in 2017?

The simple question that I ask you to start with is, who are you? That can be a loaded question, but let me narrow it down for the purposes of what this piece is getting at. What race are you? What ethnicity are you? What nationality are you? How is your racial group in your area of residence expected to act? Do you fit into that expectation? Are you proud to fit into that expectation? Are you proud not to?

Racial, ethnic, and national identity is not as simple as passports and paperwork; nowhere near it. My racial, ethnic, and national identity has had a huge impact on my life and my personality, as many others can probably state. My identity is a bit complex, but I’m starting to figure it out. There are billions of words that I want to write about these topics, but I’m just going to open the can of worms today. The first step in journeying towards a world that is not so discriminatory and violent on a basis of race, ethnicity, and nationality, is for each individual to establish their roots and where they stand. 

So, to be fair with the request I’ve made of you guys, I will answer the questions that I posed for you all with my answers. Please stay tuned for a ton of posts to come breaking down this huge issue.

Indira Kaur Midha

White Girl Smiling

What race are you? White.

I look White. I don’t feel White in a lot of ways, but I am. This is simply about the pigmentation of my skin and how I look to people. I get sunburns if I don’t wear high SPF in the sun, I buy my face makeup in one of the lighter shades available, and the privilege I experience as a White-looking female in this country (something that a post is coming very soon to discuss) is unmistakeable. I’m White.

What ethnicity are you? Spanish and Indian.

My mom was born in Madrid, Spain, where her family is rooted. My dad was born in Delhi, India. His family is rooted in the region of Punjab in northwestern India, and an area of Pakistan that was India before the partition. After the partition in 1947 (19 years before my father was born), my father’s family moved to an area that remained a part of India. I belong to two ethnicities – Spanish and Indian.

What nationality are you? American and Spanish.

I have two passports, an American passport, and a Spanish passport. So, legally, my nationalities are American and Spanish. When I am usually asked this question, I simply answer with American out of reflex. I was born in Lansing, Michigan, USA. Also, my primary residence (11 months of the year) is in the United States. I visit my family in Spain for about a month every year. However, I don’t feel like a tourist in Spain. I am fluent in Spanish, I look like a lot of other Spaniards, and I feel a special kind of comfort that only comes with having spent a lot of time in a place. So, I am American and Spanish.

How is your racial group in your area of residence expected to act? In the area that I live in with my parents, a relatively affluent suburb of Chicago, Illinois, White females are expected to be well-educated, well-mannered, “well-dressed,” wealthy, heterosexual, long-haired on the head but hair-free everywhere else other than the eyebrows, thin, “feminine,” family oriented, obedient, passive, and dainty. I think this can be said for the expectations of American White women in many parts of the country. I have several problems with this, but that’s another blog post of its own. In the college town that I live in now during the school year, these expectations also hold true, but I find that socially it is expected for white girls to be a part of social Greek life organizations (sororities), and for them to not be in STEM majors. I’m not a fan of these unspoken guidelines, not a fan y’all.

Do you fit into that expectation? I like lists. Let’s break everything that I just said above into a list.

Well-educated = Yes.

I’m pursuing a bachelor’s degree from a prestigious university.

Well-mannered =  Yes and No.

I think that I am polite, but also, it isn’t always considered polite to speak your mind (something I do a lot). This is subjective. In my mind, I am very well-mannered, in that of others maybe not.

“Well-dressed” = No.

This is another subjective one. I often don’t wear outfits that society considers to be “well-dressed.” I dress to wear what I like, not what Teen Vogue likes. Also, I like oversized sweatpants a lot. So, I guess this one’s a goner.

Wealthy = Yes.

My family is socioeconomically middle class. I, on the other hand, am a broke college student. But, my family’s socioeconomic status qualifies us as financially wealthy in the eyes of society.

Heterosexual = Yes.

I like boys. (Hella heart-eyes @ Rashad Jennings)

Long-haired on the head but hair-free everywhere else other than the eyebrows = No.

My hair is relatively long on my head, but I have hairy arms (as do most humans and mammals). I hate shaving my legs. I’m societally conditioned into believing that I have to if I am going to wear something that exposes them, so I shave them when that’s the case. But, in the cold midwestern winter, it’s leg-hair central, and there’s nothing wrong with that. It doesn’t bother me.

Thin = No.

“Feminine” = Yes.

I like dresses and makeup, so society has decided that that makes me feminine.

Family Oriented = Yes and No.

I love my parents more than anything or anyone in the world. I love my family so much. I spend hours upon hours on the phone daily with the ones who are far away. My phone background is a photo of my niece and I show everybody because she’s the cutest and sweetest little person. But, no, in the sense that I’m not sure yet if I want to have children of my own.

Obedient = Yes and No.

I have been pretty obedient my whole life, but I am trying to let myself be free and not feel restrained by what society expects of me.

Passive = No.

I’m very opinionated, in case if you haven’t figured that out yet.

Dainty = No.

Hahahahahahahaha. This one’s a hard “no.”

In a Sorority = No.

Not in a STEM major = Yes.

This isn’t because I feel like I can’t do it, I wanted to be a doctor for a long time, it’s because what interests me is media and social sciences. Hence the media studies major. I’m also applying for a gender and women’s studies minor in the fall.

Are you proud to fit into that expectation? Are you proud not to? I am proud to be Indira Kaur Midha – a person who fits into whatever molds she chooses.

I hope you take a moment out of your day to ask yourself these questions.

With love,

Indira


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