inner world

white privilege makes me sad

When I saw a fb friend’s status as “Doppelgänger week on Facebook. Change your profile pic to someone famous you’ve been told you look like!” I thought it would be fun. So I immediatly changed my profile picture to this:

barbara eden from "i dream of jeannie" if you're too young to have seen it- google her.

At first it was fun to see my other friends join in this little game. I told one of my colleages that I thought she resembled Pink, another person posted a Sean Connery picture. And then I saw my friend Joyce’s comment: “hmm.. out of the <5 asian american actresses that are out there, i look like none of them.” And then I saw my friend Gracee’s update when she joined in “alicia keys, my doppelganger? Or are we just two biracial chicks with white mama’s, a black daddy, braids & an afro puff?”

I started to think about how much I assume the world is about me, looks like me, and puts people who look like me on t.v., in magazines, on greeting cards, public service announcements, an endless list beginning to run through my mind. I started to feel so sad that the culture that I take for granted everyday is geared towards me as a white women and that too often I take it for granted. Moments like reading Gracee’s and Joyce’s update remind me that every single day I have the choice to use the power that is unfairly distributed for people who are marginalized because of the color of their skin. It uncomfortably reminded me of my white privledge. If you’re unfamiliar with this term or have no idea what I’m talking about- check out this article on white privilege.

I actually started to google “asian actresses” and “korean celebrities” to find someone who Joyce could use as her profile pic.  It was a quick search.  There wasn’t anyone, not just because of hair color or chin shape that there isn’t someone  famous that she doesn’t resemble. There is simply no one to compare her to (partly because Joyce is beautiful, smart, funny in the best sort of quirky way, and wears a really sharp green vest that I always admire. She will be totally embarrassed that I said this in my blog) because most of the celebrities are women from my ethnic background.

i pathetically commented to joyce "you could pull of lucy liu." Lucy's got nothin' on joyce!

If you’re wondering why I said “ethnic background” instead of white it’s because of a book I read a few years ago. As a white woman, I can either choose to be guilty about this unwarranted power I’ve been given culturally, try to pretend it really isn’t there and do nothing about it, or use this power on behalf of others. The book Being White by my friend Doug Schaupp deals with a lot of these issues & explores what it means to be white in a multi-ethnic world.

When was a time that you became aware your ethnicity? Can you remember a time where you realized that you were being treated better or worse because of your race?

This has been one of the things I’m most grateful to God for using InterVarsity; for teaching me the ways that scripture has so much to say about racism, social injustice, the beauty of God choosing to make himself known through the diversity of people, and the power of the gospel to break down barriers. Thanks be to God that justice and reconciliation are actually possible through Jesus- the one who broke down every dividing wall of hostility!


  • Devon

    Great entry! I’m hoping a lot of my facebook friends will read it. White privilege is something none of us wants to admit but we all need to if we are truly going to be anti-racist.

  • laterain

    this is absolutely awesome. I love that InterVarsity focuses on this, too. I have (and frequently use) an article from (I think) Christianity Today from several years ago that talks about the growing pains InterVarsity went through as it was striving to become an organization that was diverse in its leadership and to share power. I think it’s a great case study, because it acknowledges that it’s hard work giving up that privilege and power. But we are missing out if we don’t take that journey . . .

  • Kristin

    Jess! Rock it girl! I am soo sooo grateful for InterVarsity as well. I must admit, when I saw your fb post, I never even thought about non-white celebrities. How quickly we forget. Thanks for the thought provoking post.

  • joyce

    thank you for posting this, and thank you for speaking up!

    steph told me tonight that you posted about this, and then i saw my face right there on your blog! i started to google those two phrases, but then i was like hold on — “korean celebrities” all have had plastic surgery, and “asian actresses” will probably yield gross results with “exotic” looking females.

    and yes, i am totally embarrassed and sheepish right now 🙂 kind words jessica!

  • Lisa

    i am not saying this in anyway to undermine the discussion here about ethnic minorities. when there are only 2-5 people to choose from in an ethnic category that speaks volumes.

    but as a curly haired, freckled, brunette, there aren’t many of us on TV either. if i straighten my hair, i could say Tina Fey’s Liz Lemon, only because of my glasses. Otherwise, the only other celebrity I have ever been teased that I look like is Darlene from Roseanne. Not flattering. Just depressing.

    • Jessica

      Lisa, yeah this issue touches on more than white privilege, though that was what struck me from Joyce & Gracee’s comments. It’s a whole complicated mess of what society values as beauty, the role models we’re supposed to emulate, etc. The first person I thought of with you was Keri Russell, but I think that’s just because of the curly hair.

    • joyce

      yeah, i think this doppelganger thing is pretty unfair & complicated.

      lisa, you would make an amazing tina fey! haha. she’s my hero…

Leave a Reply