Accepting My Pale Complexion

Daniella Cressman
Solomon Soh

Throughout history, white people have not built particularly good reputations for themselves. This demographic has done horrific things.

We have white Americans to “thank” for slavery, the genocide of the Native Americans, and countless other violent and oppressive acts throughout history.

Sure, in many cases, some Africans sold others, usually from warring tribes. That was wrong. Did white people have to buy them and treat them so cruelly all in the name of money? No. Absolutely not.

Sometimes, it’s easy for me to feel ashamed of my whiteness.

The problem is that’s not helping anyone. It’s definitely not benefiting me in any way to start looking down on myself because of my complexion: That’s not my fault, and white skin is beautiful too.

The problem is that, although there are a lot of incredible white people, there are also quite a few extremists and racists.

Watching clips featuring Rachel Dolezal brought up a lot of emotions for me.

Apparently, the woman “identifies as black” even though she was born to two white parents.

This was quite a perplexing social situation to me.

When she said that race was a social construct, I certainly did agree with her, but I mean, why would she have to be one race or another if the whole concept was a fallacy?

“If I have to be black or white, I’m black philosophically, culturally, etc.”

I mean, I think she could have just said that she was a proponent of social and racial justice in all areas. That doesn’t mean she has to be black.

She says she’s culturally black.

I don’t know. That seems like a stretch to me.

I really was having trouble wrapping my head around the whole thing until I saw this interview with Mel Robbins.

Then it all came together.

Note: I’m paraphrasing here.

Mel Robbins: “I admire that race is a social construct and you’ve studied this subject in depth. I agree with you actually, but unfortunately we live in a society where most people do judge others by the color of their skin and we do categorize people based on their race and ethnicity. You have offended many people with your claim that you are a black woman, even though you were born to white parents.”

Rachel Dolezal then said something along these lines: “I can’t be who I am and be white. White doesn’t describe anything about me.”

Finally, I understood it.

It seems to me that the woman was suffering from shame about her whiteness.

Well, I guess whiteness can be whatever a person makes it. It can be a privilege in many cases, but it can also be a signal of perceived ignorance and malice.

It really depends which room you’re in.

There are also so many different facets of white culture, some of which are actually quite wonderful in a myriad of ways, if you consider European, Norwegian, and Danish societies, for instance.

This woman was an enormous advocate for the black community. She bent over backwards to stand up for important justice issues, and she admitted to Mel that she got more done when she was seen as a black woman.

Quite frankly, I believe her: I’m sure it would be a lot easier for a black woman to relate to many of her students if she was lecturing about racial justice issues.

This road would be a much harder one for a white woman to navigate, because it seems to me that people may, at times, perceive her as ignorant, privileged, and hostile before she even stepped foot in the room.

Would a white lady have privileges in other areas? Of course!

Again, it all depends on the room she’s in.

Furthermore, I do not think that not getting anything done is a reason to suddenly “identify as black.”

The rumors that she darkened her skin make the whole issue far more controversial, because it appears as though she has, and a lot of people compared this to blackface. I can see why so many folks were offended by this woman!

Rachel Dolezal is a very complicated individual. She seemed like a well-meaning person though, and I had to keep watching interview after interview before finally figuring out what her true motives were.

Mel keeps drilling her on issues of race and identity in a respectful manner.

“Why not just be a white lady who’s a really good ally and supports the black community?”

“That didn’t work. There were two white women there, and they didn’t get anything done.”

That statement said it all for me: She’s willing to appear as someone of a different race in order to get the job done and be accepted in a different way by many of her students.

It’s okay to be white. White can be beautiful just as every color can be.

White culture can be incredible in quite a few ways, although there are aspects of oppression within many Western societies that are problematic.

It’s all about what kind of person you are on the inside and how you use your place in this world for good. If you’re white, embrace your whiteness. This doesn’t mean you have to subscribe to disgusting ideologies or agree to the oppression of others, but it might just mean you can finally start feeling comfortable in your own skin.

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Canadian-American author writing about local politics, personal finance, & dining in Albuquerque.

Albuquerque, NM

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