‘You’re basically white’: my blackness on debate

‘You’re basically white’: my blackness on debate

Media Diversified

Sam Kaner
Oxford, England

Sam Kaner talks about experiences of racialization as a person of mixed heritage

‘You’re basically white’

A phrase I frequently heard from white students at my school. They would tell me this after I had crossed a particular threshold in my relationship with them where their racialization of me as Other would soften. It was the point at which they questioned whether they should confer the same amount of respect to me as their white friends, operating under the assumption that being a light-skinned biracial person, I would receive their newfound perception of me as a compliment.

I recently fell into an argument with a white person because they had insisted to me that Mariah Carey couldn’t be black; she didn’t look black, she wouldn’t be racialized as black, and therefore, she should stop claiming to be something she’s not.

I find it concerning how white people will repeatedly make attempts to determine and declare who may claim blackness and who may not; and I wonder, in doing so, if they have ever instead critically considered how this interjection recalls the colonial imposition of blackness as something non-negotiable and as a marker of subjugation…

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