One day at dinner a (white) friend said to my other (indian) friend that she was basically a white Indian person. This irritated me deeply but it was not appropriate at the time to challenge this. What was surprising was that it came from a very socially aware politically liberal person who is extremely cognizant of the politics of marginalised peoples.
Firstly telling a person of colour that they are almost like a white person is not a compliment. In saying it like it is one you are positioning whiteness in place of supremacy to other races/culture. By framing this as a compliment you are being patronising, implying that we need to shed our cultures in order to be taken seriously and that our own cultures have no value.
Secondly in denying someone’s claim to a culture you are implying there is some specific authentic way in which to enact that culture. If you do not meet this specific and arbitrary culture you cannot claim to be properly of it. It reinforces a particular way of being any culture as the one true way and denies the fact that there are many ways of experiencing and enacting culture. By claiming there is only one way of experiencing and enacting culture you externally reinforce internal cultural power structures – ones that we as feminist women of colour are trying to disarm or transform.
You do this because you equate ‘liberal values’ with whiteness when they should not be. They are not uniquely white and you do not have ownership of them as a white person. Someone who expresses these values is not showing signs of renouncing their culture and embracing whiteness. Equating liberal values with whiteness also gives credence to those who claim that individuals who embrace them are turning their backs on their culture. This is something we fight against every day.
As women of colour we do not hope to embrace western universalism. Our cultures have a lot to offer both us as individuals and the world. We walk a fine line, and much of what is wrong in our cultures has only been strengthened as a reaction to colonialism in all its forms. Stop trying to white wash us. It is simply rude to demolish someone’s identity in this way and everyone should know bette