Woman. Asian American. Millennial.
These are just a few of my identities. They intertwine with all the others, weaving the fabric of the flesh I live in and the skin I present to the world.
Skin that is white.
As a result, I’ve benefited and will continue to benefit from the privileges of a white-passing woman in America. The color of my skin has not slammed doors in my face or threatened my life. It has never barred entry to white spaces. Because I can tick the box for “Asian, Asian American, or Pacific Islander” on applications, some might even argue the whiteness of my skin has brought me preferential (albeit tokenized) treatment.
But it is exactly because of the whiteness of my mixed race, Korean-American skin that you might listen and hear what needs to be said. We live in a society that deems whiteness to be all things virtuous, aspirational, and superior. But given that the voices of Black, indigenous, people of color are muted and discounted unless amplified through a megaphone held by white hands, I beg to differ.
This inequality is not about numbers. It’s about power and dominance.
Though a group of people may be “in the minority” based on numbers, they should not be labeled “a minority” or “the minority.”
My instructor in my anti-racism course, Monique Melton, made this distinction clear to me. I was responding to one of her questions and began with, “For Asians and other minorities…”
She stopped me there. “I don’t like the word ‘minority’ because that’s incorrect. Call it what it is: marginalized groups of people.”
And my mind was blown. It was the first, and still only, time I was given permission to reject the minority label. It dawned on me that I had internalized the hierarchy of white supremacy so deeply that I couldn’t even see myself for what I was until she called me out on it.
Since then I’ve been hyperaware of each time I want to use the “minority” label for myself or anyone else. I’m more attuned to hearing it in news reporting and it sticks out…