Tuesday, September 24, 2013

HONY Captures A Common Misconception

Everyone was telling me their ethnicity. (From right to left: 'Jew-rican,' Puerto Rican, African-Cherokee.) When it came around to the girl on the left, one of her friends said: "She's just a white girl." 

To which she responded: "I'll have you know my great grandfather eloped with a Gypsy maid!"
The HONY (Humans of New York) Facebook page is one of my favorite instant media outlets, in terms of how I'm able to get a better look into the lives of diverse New Yorkers around me in the form of stunning portraiture.

A few days  ago, HONY photographed this group of friends. They each told their ethnicity to Brandon, the man behind the camera and the work of HONY. However, the three 'ethnically diverse' friends on the right labeled their friend on the left as "just white." This really bothered me, because I feel that there is such an emphasis on the idea of the minority that anyone who is white is dismissed as being "just white." I'm making the point that no ethnicity is more important than another, and we shound't dismiss one because of the color of that person's skin.

This makes me thing of scholarship essays for students in college, as well. Many organizations that give out scholarships provide for minorities, or what they believe to be the minority. When I had to apply for college, the common joke around me was that everyone wished they were Native American or Chinese, because then at least they'd get a shot at a scholarship.

What do you guys think? Is the idea of "just white" a dismissal of the cultural background of an individual? And what do you guys think about the idea of a white student with scholarships?

Here's the direct HONY like, by the way:


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    1. I remember seeing this post on HONY as well, and I think that the comment in question is certainly dismissive of the girl's cultural heritage and background. Sure, she's white, but why say that she's "just white"? Everyone's story is valid.

      I've experienced some interesting generalizations that have been made on account of my race. People are sometimes shocked to learn that no, I don't live with my parents and actually, they are financially incapable of supporting me. I work two jobs to support myself. While there are a great deal more rich white people than rich black people, race, class, and privilege don't always collude so neatly. I think this is an important point to remember.

      With regard to your question about white people with scholarships, I'm a white person with financial and merit-based scholarships. I bust my ass in school and at work, so I think that I completely deserve them. But if someone were to describe me as "just a white girl," that would totally dismiss all of the other dimensions that inform my experience, e.g. my experience as a queer, my experience as a member of the working class, my experience as a female.

      I do believe in affirmative action policies, such as schools awarding scholarships to people who belong to minority groups. I believe that oppression in several forms--racism, classism, trans*- and homophobia, etc.--is built into the structure of our society. Although racism is not as prominent as it may have been say, ~80 years ago, with public lynchings and literacy tests being the norm, it still very much informs the workings of our political, social, and economic systems. (Need I cite statistics about poverty, prison populations/drug convictions, the education system, or child mortality rates to get my point across?)

      Affirmative action is not just about awarding someone money for having a certain skin color or sexuality, etc.--it's about trying, however meekly, to offset the effects of systematic oppression and structural violence that pervades the very foundations of our society.

      - amanda fox-rouch