We live in a world where racial hierarchy regulates the majority of social constructs.
Due to colonialism and the subjugation of people of color; being born white automatically boosts one to the top of the racial ladder. Consequently, white privilege is founded on the exploitation of individuals whom are considered as not white.
A white individual can be aware of their privilege, and not play an active role in marginalizing people of color. However, the systematic and institutionalized white privilege will still give that individual priority. Therefore, it’s important to keep in mind it’s not based on individuals rather than an entire system built on oppression and savior mentalities.
The case of Arabs
Growing up in the United States, when filling out exam papers or applications there was always the section where you were to choose your ethnicity. Among the choices were: African American, Hispanic, Asian, Caucasian or “other.” Being Arab, I never knew which choice fit me, until I was notified to choose Caucasian because of my fairer brown skin color, as is the case with most Middle Eastern individuals. To my other Arab friends, being able to identify as Caucasian was like a badge of higher racial status. Contrastively, if I were to have been identified with other choices and other people of color it’s as though I’m degrading myself.
(“You have the ability to be white, why don’t you take it?”)
The need to be identified and recognized as white by Arab communities manifests itself through the massive efforts taken in order to fit in. For instance, when we move to the west, especially the United States, some of us feel the need to change our names to shorter and easier versions. Thus, Osama becomes “Sam,” Maher; “Mike,” Ibrahim; “Abe” or Sawsan; “Susen.”
There is no need to make our names “easier” let the white man learn our names as they are. They are not inferior or barbaric, regardless of the subliminal propaganda pitched by modern media. We’re compromising our identity in order to be molded by another that has oppressed us and continues to marginalize us.
Furthermore, one of the attributions of the amplification of skin whitening consumerism is a colonial one because the influences of former exploitive forces remain indoctrinated within us. Yet the colonial ideals of white supremacy are not behind us, they still play an active role as seen in the media’s presentation which favors institutionalized white privilege.
50 shades of shunned out
Not only do we as Arabs favor being associated with whiteness, but we have reverted to subjugating other communities of color. For instance, our labeling of the black community as “abeed” literally translating to slave, is both abominable and disgraceful. The projection of one inferiority complex by inferiorizing another group is offensive, inappropriate, and needs to change from its roots.
The aforementioned is not exclusive to Arabs’ stance towards the black community, but the attitude of people of color towards each other as well. There is an internalized racism promoted at each other, as is a trait of most communities of color. Where if the individual is “lighter” they’re shunned out because they’re not truly black, or not truly Arab, or not truly South American etc… Then there is the darker individual that is looked at as the epitomized presentation of the barbaric/savage.
This phenomenon continues to be seen greatly in communities of color that are marginalized by institutionalized white supremacy. The hatred begins to manifest itself within the oppressed communities causing a schism in identity within the individual as they are further shunned out by their own community as well as the dominating white community.
Stepping out of the house slave mentality and the inferiority complex
The oppression caused by institutionalized white supremacy may not be physical anymore however the psychological affects remain as seen with the growth of the inferiority complex within communities of color.
Not only do we begin to associate the white individual with success and greatness, but we begin feeling inferior and unworthy about ourselves and our communities. This thought process is a result of the intensification of the feeling of inferiority.
Accordingly, people of color are constantly attempting to assimilate through the mimicry of the white man and his values. This is evident in communities of color through the constant attempts to belong to the white community by acting or even attempting to look white/ “civilized.” Not only are there attempts to assimilate, but there is a presence of hatred and repulsion towards our own communities by holding them liable for not being “civilized enough” and not assimilating correctly, thus placing you through humiliation and embarrassment according to the standards of the white system. With this attitude not only are we mimicking the values of white supremacy but even legitimizing rather than eliminating them.
The call for amendment
As an impulsive reaction to the suppression communities of color have faced from white colonialism, the need to prove our humanity rose through massive actions.
However, when we attempt to attest our equality and humanness to the white system, then we are taking a submissive stance. There is no need to ask those that created the very system of exploitation and continues to partake in it to rewrite the system. We ourselves must reshape the structure, rather than placing immense efforts at demonstrating the need to amend it, as though it only possesses a few flaws. On the contrary, entire system is flawed and we ourselves need to defy and destroy it.
Applying the standards of civilization and modernity to that of white ideology further enforces the dominance of white supremacy. As people of color, we must not question our humanness or strength and should not attempt to assimilate by playing within the system of white supremacy and privilege.
Strength in togetherness
We must begin by acknowledging the racism that is has been internalized by us in order to break free of it. The subconscious feeling of inferiority is being projected through the active role of degrading and oppressing other communities of color. We’re playing within the system of racial hierarchy by attempting to reach the stature of white privilege, rather than eradicating the entire system of racial capital and domination.
It is important that we, all people of color, provide and reciprocate solidarity towards each other in defiance of white privilege and its institutionalized racism that indoctrinates the inferiority complex within us.
There is no such thing as “fairer” colored people getting more privilege, regardless of the false advertisement that promotes racial capital. On the contrary some individuals are exoticised because they’re not completely dark nor are they classified as white, however that remains to be a form of inferiorizing. The scale remains to be one created by a white system for white people.
This is where people of color must look at each other not as which step of the racial hierarchy one must belong to, but as an entire whole. We are people of color and as Loretta Ross suggests, this phrase should be looked at as a political designation opposed to a biological one. The white system does not care if you’re brown and not black, if you ain’t white; you ain’t white.
Therefore, rather than focusing on fitting into the scale of white privilege and colonial ascendancy with our post-colonial subconscious, we must focus on empowering each other and annihilating the entire scheme that feeds off of the perpetuated exploitation of our communities.