I Am Not White, and I Have Less Power.

The heading for this post is a grim reality that I face.  Here in America, white people are the dominant political and cultural forces in society.

You can look at any magazine rack at any supermarket and drug store.  The vast majority of magazine covers has beautiful white people on them.  Every major film release and television show predominantly features white people in leading roles and  explores the stories and experiences of white people.

Of the forty-five Presidents of the United States of America, 44 of them have been white.  The members of congress, the senate, and the supreme court have been primarily white people across this country’s history.  This counts for all three of branches of our federal government.

It’s clear to see who has the power and who has control of our media, popular culture, and government.

If none of this is directly intentional, then isn’t it at least eerily pervasive?  In the most ethnically diverse country in the world, why is it that one specific skin color is so dominant in virtually every facet of life?

White people are the standard of beauty in this country.  I have often been passed over in favor of the pretty white boy and have been told that I suit more “exotic” tastes.

I have performed at countless open mics as a musician in Nashville and been treated like some sort of novelty because of how foreign I look.  I am more than just a novelty.  I am more than just a token.

White people have won the vast majority of Oscars, Emmys, Grammys, and Tonys.  They are well represented among talk-show hosts, newscasters, successful pop stars, and CEO’s of multi-national corporations.

I am a person of color from a family of immigrants from the Philippines.  I am currently a straight-A honors student in college.  When I graduate with my well-earned diploma someday, I go out into the world knowing that I am not part of the privileged elite.  I look different no matter how qualified I am.

I am not white, and I have less power.

I say all of this not because I want sympathy or a handout.  Everything I have in my life I have earned through my own blood, sweat, and tears.  My modus operandi is to work hard, and I would not have it any other way.

I say all of this because it bothers me.

In my lifetime, I want society to evolve out of this paradigm.  I want equal opportunity for EVERYONE and not just the white people.  I want representation for all people and not just the white people.  America is vast and rich with cultural diversity.  You would not know it if you watched the Oscars or sat in on a congressional meeting.

Surely this is not the best we can do?  Is this as good as it gets?

I sincerely hope not.

So, where do we begin?  We can start by acknowledging how our privileges affect others.  The place you hold at the table is a place that has been denied to someone else, and there is only so much room at the table.  There are only so many voices that can be heard.  There are people, perspectives, stories, and experiences that are all but invisible in places where important decisions are made.

We need to constantly ask ourselves whose voices are we not hearing?  Whose faces are we not seeing?  Whose lives and experiences are we dismissing in favor of an all-encompassing status quo?

I am not white, and I have less power.

This is the truth that I face, but I will take what little power I have and use it.  If I have to work ten or twenty times harder than a white person just to be noticed or valued in some substantive and meaningful way, then so be it.  It’s what I have always done.

I am a person of color, and I will use my power.

-Roqué

 

 

One Reply to “I Am Not White, and I Have Less Power.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *