What Is The Deal With All These White Women Pretending To Be Black?
If white privilege exists, why would a white person give it up to be Black?
A few days ago yet another story broke about a white woman pretending to be Black for personal gain. I’m not going to link the article because I’m not interested in providing her, or any of the others with more attention. Her story, and similar ones that have come out this year and in previous years, are all Googleable. Of course, when you hear of something like this, the immediate questions are “how” and “why”? How can someone infiltrate a Black space and pretend to be Black without being caught and why would someone do it?
I don’t know any of these women so I can’t speak to their specific reasons but I have some theories.
Many of the white women who push themselves into Black spaces under the guise of being Black don’t have features traditionally considered beautiful by Eurocentric standards. They have curly hair and big noses. Combined with a slight tan, this can be enough to fool someone into believing they have African ancestry because, as we all well know, Black people come in all shades of brown — from light bright damn near white to blue-black.
As writer Lenee Voss implies in the tweet I shared above, beauty standards have a lot to do with this. In white spaces, these women would not receive any sort of privilege. They are the “ugly ducklings”, the throw-aways. But, thanks to colorism, within Black spaces they can be exalted and achieve some sense of importance and have their voice prioritized. So while they pretend to advocate for Black people, they are in actuality silencing Black people by taking up space where actual Black women’s voices could be heard.
White privilege. Yes, you read that right. These women are able to take up space in Black arenas because they are white. As whites people, if they say they are something, they are believed. Ironic, I know. White skin allows them racial ambiguity. She says she’s Black, why would she lie?
As a Black woman, I could never pretend to be white and benefit from the privileges that come with that embodiment. No one would grant me that grace. Even bi-racial people with one white parent are not accepted by white people. No white person would ever say Halle Berry is white. At most they might say, she’s mixed but I’m not sure that colloquially, white people have that language. In most cases, they would just say she’s Black and keep it moving.
So why would these women give up their white privilege to be Black? Well, the reality is, they’re not. They can switch between being Black or white as they choose. They can go back to being white whenever they want. They have given up nothing and they lose nothing. People will forget the story and forget their name and it will be as though nothing ever happened. No, they will not be “special” anymore but they will be safe. That is what white privilege affords them.
Kesia Alexandra is a creative writer from Washington, DC. She studied at Boston University. She’s on Twitter and Instagram. She’s the author of It Ain’t Easy, Eating off the Floor and Majestic and Lynn.