For the last almost three years, I’ve been a White person. A strange kind of White person, a White person with a funny accent, a White person who doesn’t ‘get’ all the inside cultural jokes, but a White person nonetheless.
When I shop, when I go the filling station, when I am stopped by the police, when I do anything and everything, I am White.
I became a White person when we moved here. I don’t remember exactly when it happened, but one day I realised – “OH! This is what it must be like to be White.” To be greeted every day by media that looks like you. To travel the streets and see police that look like you. To see politicians, teachers, engineers, doctors, accountants, street cleaners, homeless people, thieves – all of whom look like you. To go into a store and not have to look for the “black” section to buy products for my hair and skin.
Because my hair is normal. My lips are normal. My eyes are normal. My butt is normal. Heck, even the people smiling back at me from the toothpaste tube are normal – they look like me. For the first time in life I was the norm, my colour neither a barrier, nor a benefit – just an incident.
No one assumes anything about me positively or negatively because of the colour of my skin.
Since I’ve become White, I’ve never had to think about these things. It doesn’t even come to mind. Being White is nice – I can see why people wouldn’t want to give up the privilege. Because since I’ve been here and enjoyed some White privilege, my wife doesn’t get the same privilege.
She is the one to whom is attributed all the suspicion of her ethnicity regardless of the fact that she’s not at all like them. She is the one who is more likely to be pulled over because of the colour of her skin, or to be overcharged, or to hear a racial slur – or simply to be ignored and disrespected. My wife isn’t White.
We will be traveling back to the states in two-weeks for a long visit after almost 3 years living abroad. We will be returning to a “post-Ferguson” America. Of course America was post-Ferguson before Ferguson for many of us, so I’m not so sure what difference that makes.
It does make a difference though and I am admittedly apprehensive. Not because I expect to become the latest in a string of “unarmed Black man shot dead by police”. No, I don’t expect that. I am apprehensive because going home will be both a breath of fresh air – of returning to the familiar, of returning to abundance, and to the efficiency of life in the good ole’ USA – and also a breath of noxious air – of returning to a place where the first and defining characteristic for almost all who see me will be the colour of my skin.
I won’t be White anymore.