Sometimes it surprises me how internalized my internalized racism is. I think we’re all constantly learning to recognize new ways that systems of oppression have hurt or have privileged us. For folks who don’t have the vocabulary of privilege burned into their bones, I think it happens in different ways and different words, but I think it’s still there.
I’ve always had slightly uncomfortable feelings about white girls (and now, white women), or at least some of them. And while I fully recognize that it’s gross, it both stems from and perpetuates the concept of placing value on women’s bodies/personalities and their (in)ability to match the idealized form of a woman as portrayed on television. When I envisioned myself as a child, I envisioned a girl who was conceptually white. I didn’t see myself, I saw a translated version of myself. My brain converted my wider, flatter nose into something tiny and pointy, or perhaps just a blank white face with brown hair. I don’t know; this feels quite difficult to explain.
I get inexplicably jealous of white women, women who have somehow figured out how to win a game that I have been torturing myself to learn. In reality, they haven’t –they never had to. I am confident that they have struggled with feelings of inadequacy, of self-doubt, of striving towards some impossible concept of perfection. But I have also felt deeply that they have something desirable that I can never achieve, and that is simply the virtue (?) of being white, or being read as white.
While, if I could afford it, I could go get a bunch of plastic surgery and bleach my hair and skin all of those things, it would never soothe the feelings of inadequacy. As much as I like to pretend otherwise, I know that external changes don’t heal the internal crap that we’re wrestling with. Being able to magically look “white” feels closer to completely side-skirting the issue than fixing it.
Now when I envision myself, I still usually envision a conceptually white girl, but there is also a quiet me in the corner, who is fuzzy but ever-present.
Sometimes I believe I was born with these kinds of thoughts, a swath of darkness sewn inside my skin. Like there’s some weird, dark-horse inadequacy breeding inside of me, so I can never be as happy and carefree as those white chicks on TV. Their complicated mess is even cooler than my complicated mess. When I tell you, in passing, “that I forget sometimes that I’m Asian,” it’s probably because I am trying so desperately hard to be a Beautiful White Woman. I think it may be the only person I have wanted to be.