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- Growing Up Bronx
As I a kid, I had never heard the words “white privilege.” It just wasn’t a thought concept that was ever used where I come from. However, the “thing” itself, white privilege, that absolutely existed.
White privilege showed itself in many ways back then. It factored into who got picked for the lead in school plays, who was put into leadership roles in class, and it was most prevalent in who all the little boys and the little girls liked. Black and white alike.
By default, the rubia (blonde girl) was the prettiest and most popular girl in class. Next up, it was some other blanquita (white girl). I remember that in this little hierarchy of who was cute, I fell somewhere in the middle of the spectrum. It was never stated outright, I mean no one ever came up to me and said, “Hey Angel, you are 8th most good looking kid in this class cause you have light skin and straight soft hair.” It wasn’t like that, but it was said loud and clear all the same via actions and microaggressions. Again, another word we never knew, yet lived through everyday.
We all simply accepted it as fact that the kids with the green or blue eyes were the best looking among us. The little girls believed and acted on this truth all the way. Similarly to how us boys all accepted the rubia as the prettiest girl. We were never told that light skin was “better,” or that having light eyes made you a better looking person. This was just somehow ingrained into our deeper psyche, we weren’t taught it per se, but it was just a known thing.
Recently, I’ve seen videos of innocent children being asked to pick a doll, and then they were asked to choose which one was pretty and which one was ugly. The children were both black and white by the way. Watching those videos broke my heart, but further cemented the reality that these things are ingrained at a deeper level. It’s not to say any one of those children is racist, or that any one hates their people, it’s just to state that our society conditions us from early childhood to think that white is pretty and black is not.
It wasn’t until some time ago that I remembered these thought processes from when I was a young man. I was a kid, and the furthest thing from a racist, yet I was benefiting from white privilege before I even knew it was even a thing. The thought process of being “entitled” to white privilege was ingrained in my mind, I mean, I believed that I was better looking than some of the kids solely because of my skin color and hair. I didn’t think this because I was a racist child, but this is what I was led to understand via our unspoken societal agreements and standards.
I will say this, being perceived as white in the hood wasn’t always a privilege. There were many times that I was violently assaulted growing up, and I mean violently. They didn’t just take my lunch money, or give me a wedgie. I got the crap beat out of me, robbed, pistol whipped, and all sorts of disrespected growing up. By my own people, because I looked white. In case that any of you doubt that my skin color was the reason, when that happened, the beat downs were accompanied with statements such as, “Get that fucking white boy,” or “Light his bitch ass pretty straight hair on fire.”
Those violent experiences made me very resentful towards my own people and contributed towards my moving away, and subsequently my brief stint with the GOP. It also illustrates how others perceived me to have some “pretty, straight hair” that was deserving of being burned cause it looked white and therefore made me an enemy. That’s some fucked up shit right there, but it shows that they too had the understanding that my hair was perceived as “better” than theirs. Again, before any of us ever knew of the words white privilege.
In Spanish they’d say, “Tu tienes cabello bueno,” which means, “You have good hair.” Conversely, some would say, “Yo tengo cabello malo,” which translates to “I have bad hair.” I’m telling you folks, the shit is ingrained deep into us, right from the cradle to the grave. In any case, many people don’t like to acknowledge that white privilege is a real thing, but accept it or not, it’s real.
Growing Up Bronx