The prominent voice we hear

Let’s talk about white privilege and the distinguishable difference between race and ethnicity.

Julien Halabi, Guest Columnist

In America, we are surrounded by a biased culture that prefers the “white voice.” It is ingrained in our schooling, legislation, history, news, and everyday actions of the people. Individuals perceived as white have a stronger and more prominent voice than those with darker skin tones and less eurocentric features. There is a discernable difference between race and ethnicity, and often people forget that they aren’t the same. 

I am a Lebanese-American who passes as white. While I don’t like the term “white-passing,” for consistency and clarity, I will use that. My dislike of the term boils down to if “white-passing” you are white despite your ethnic background. You carry the privilege of your whiteness. 

Personally, I am no expectations from this rule. I grew up bringing hummus to school with the taste, texture, and smell grossing my classmates out. Now that hummus is popular, you can find the once-taboo food in popular grocery stores and the same people begging for my recipe. While the fear of ISIS and Osama Bin Landin was happening when I was younger, kids would call me a terrorist. While it was mostly fun and games, it sometimes turned into bullying. These circumstances make me feel frustrated that a part of my identity would make people be so hateful. These are the results of my ethnicity and culture, not my race. With these experiences, I can’t help thinking of my Dad, with more prominent olive tones than my pale olive that you have to squint at. I remember the stories of people calling to support and stand by his side in case something happened to him after 9/11 due to all the Islamophobia. I think of my eldest brother, who gets stopped at airports for having Arab features and his name. I think of my friends who get stopped by police for no reason other than the color of their skin. 

As I started to speak about these issues, I slowly began to realize the perspective of my voice. The strength it carries, its weaknesses, its bias, its privileges. My voice, my whiteness, was able to overtake students advocating for their needs—people hearing my voice as more important than others. People use my experiences and white privilege to ignore the wants and needs of those that have darker skin tones and less eurocentric features. People continually use myself and others that are white-passing to dismiss others or do the bare minimum.

So, what can we do as people that are “white-passing?” We need to unlearn our biases, listen to perspectives, understand others, be aware of our privileges, and use what privileges we do have correctly. Don’t be afraid to go into new spaces, break down learned behaviors, and ask yourself “why?” Call someone out, do your research, and more. We need to be comfortable being uncomfortable. We actively should be held accountable for our privileges and how we oppress others. Be aware of how much space you take up.

Even with this article, people will read this and listen to me over countless others who have been saying the same thing. This article isn’t to put down anyone or dismiss anyone’s experiences, and more so to call attention to the privileges that “white-passing” individuals have.