Stop Calling Me 'White' For Having the Wrong Opinions | Opinion

Growing up, I was often accused of being "white." My taste for Led Zeppelin and Queen over Puff Daddy and Busta Rhymes was called "white." My appetite for reading was called "white." Even my wardrobe, which failed to reflect the norms of late 90s hip-hop culture, was "white." It was intended as a pejorative, one that denied me my identity based on my cultural preferences.

And it hurt. I'm Dominican, but was constantly told I didn't act Dominican. And in response to these insults, I made a clown of myself trying to get the "right" clothes and force-feeding myself the "right" music so that "my people" would accept and include me.

It didn't work. Though I, too, had immigrant parents, ate the same foods and shared a first-generation American experience, I was too different from my peers as a person. They mocked my manner of speaking, sneered at my sense of humor, and found these "un-Dominican" things about me profoundly uncool.

Today, I still find myself called "white" as a pejorative, often to silence or shame me for speaking heresies. A recent example is instructive: While filling a sign-up form for a workshop, I noticed that the question of my race featured a blank field rather than the usual multiple choice. I took the opportunity to proudly write in "human," and shared this anecdote on Twitter. The response was telling.

"Funny how we still know exactly what race this person is," wrote one woman in response.

"One of my favorite facts from answering psychology surveys," another woman replied, "is the knowledge that in this instance, 'Human' is always coded by researchers as 'white,' since only white people ever write that."

Of course, they didn't feel the need to find out whether I was actually "white" or not. After all, the necessary evidence was in what I had written. It was inconceivable to those women that anyone voicing that sentiment could possibly be "black" or "brown."

The idea that race—specifically, blackness—should entail a certain ideology or viewpoint and that veering from that viewpoint is a sign of unfortunate whiteness is, sadly, a common one. In a since-deleted tweet, New York Times journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones insisted that "there is a difference between being politically black and being racially black"—a sentiment later echoed by then-presidential candidate Joe Biden, who said in an interview with the popular radio show The Breakfast Club, "If you have a problem figuring out whether you're for me or Trump, then you ain't black." Most recently, a Los Angeles Times story called Larry Elder, a conservative black radio host and gubernatorial candidate, "the black face of white supremacy."

Angel Eduardo, the author.
Angel Eduardo, the author.

This penchant for taking away people's blackness if they don't agree with your politics is pernicious, a cynical gatekeeping that's as rampant as it is deplorable.

I call it the One Thought Rule: Disagree with the orthodoxy and your "of color" card gets revoked. Toe the line or your very being will be called into question by the ideological powers that be.

Well, my being doesn't belong to you, and you can't take it away from me.

My failure to fit in in high school was painful, but it gifted me with a perspective that I now cherish. I was forced to discover and eventually grow comfortable with who I really am, whether anyone wishes to accept me or not. I learned to see things from the outside, to notice how constricting tribal membership and the pressure to conform can be. If Groucho Marx didn't care to be a part of any club that would have him as a member, I'm not interested in any club that would reject me—as I define myself.

Audre Lorde decreed that we can't dismantle the master's house with the master's tools, and yet here we are, using the same cudgels of division, exclusion, and shame that tortured and oppressed generations of people in our nation's history. Even the concept of race itself—the ultimate tool of the oppressor, and a disgusting, debasing, and divisive fiction—we actively reify rather than reject, reinforce rather than revile, with what Barbara and Karen Fields have dubbed "racecraft."

I, for one, opt out. I'm not "white," but I'm not "black" or "brown," either. I am human, and I will proudly say so when prompted. I will not toe that ideological line. I refuse it, and I refuse its imposition upon me.

As for my "of color" card, you can have it. It's meaningless to me anyway.

No doubt I will be pilloried for what I've written here. I'll be told as I have been countless times before that I may reject race but I'll be racialized anyway by a white supremacist America. To that I say that yes, racism exists, even though race doesn't; but I don't need to believe in race to fight racism any more than I need to believe in God to fight religious dogmatism. Union is my project; division is not, and I refuse to divide myself from you—or for you.

I'm free from that nonsense.

And the best part about not being in any club or tribe? Now, everyone is in mine.

Angel Eduardo is a writer, musician, and visual artist based in New York City. He is a staff writer and content creator for idealist.org, and a columnist for Center for Inquiry. Find him at angeleduardo.com.

The views in this article are the writer's own.