It came as a complete surprise when I learned that I am white. I have been a dark-skinned person all my life. I am Lebanese on my father’s side and Italian on my mother’s side. In the summer I get darker than Barack Obama.
I have always received positive comments about my skin color. “Nice tan”, people would say. A few white friends – sensitive progressive types – thought it would be rude to say such a thing to a person with dark skin color, especially if the person saying it is white. It never bothered me. I knew they were paying me a compliment because I had watched white people I grew up with spend countless hours and hard-earned dollars looking like me: tanning booths, spray tans, and long days lying on the beach, trying to get close to what God had given me free. I was neither white nor black. I was something in between.
Some whites had problems with my skin color and my ethnicity. I grew up in a city of 20,000 people in New Jersey and was the only person with an Arabic last name. I was cornered and sometimes ridiculed. Fortunately for me, my parents did not intervene. They refused to organize the world according to my feelings. There were no calls to the office of the principal. They taught me to take matters into my own hands and ignore ignorance. To take such claims seriously, they explained, would only give power to the perpetrator. Besides, I could lose sight of all the good white people who didn’t care that I had an Arabic surname or brown skin.
The fact is that the vast majority of white people I have met in my life have been extremely good and decent. Many kept their fingers crossed for me because I was different.
I thought about my skin color as much as I thought about my eye color. Instead, I focused on the things I could control. Things that were important to me and my parents. My grades. My behavior. And my future, which would be determined by my decisions. The people I surrounded myself with. And my attitude.
For my Italian and Lebanese family, personal responsibility and capacity to act were a big thing. It was taught without ever having been taught – it was that fundamental.
With this in mind, it was quite astonishing – and amusing – to discover recently that I was no longer considered a colored person by the diversity educators in Seattle. I was, they explained, “white”.
The training was part of that, and the course was entitled “Internalized racial superiority and interrupting whiteness”. According to Christopher Rufo of the City Journal, the sessions were intended to reinterpret traditional American values and to inform white participants that “objectivity”, “individualism” and “comfort” are “remnants of internalized racial oppression.
The trainers explained that whites have a deep sense of racial superiority, which has made them unable to access their “humanity” and has inflicted “harm and violence” on the colored people. The session ended with instructions for whites to challenge white friends for their participation in “our culture of white supremacy” and to encourage white workers to work to “undo their own whiteness,” Rufo concluded.
How humiliating, I thought to myself. Why should white people submit to this garbage for one minute? In front of such completely racist stereotypes about themselves?
Had I attended these sessions, I would have had some questions for the coaches, especially about the ease with which I was excommunicated from the Club of Blacks, Indigenous and People of Color (known publicly as BIPOC) and demoted to the Club of Whites.
Were we now considered “white” because Lebanese and Italian families like mine committed the heresy of adopting the values of our new homeland? Or because we have overcome prejudice and bigotry without bitterness or bitterness?
Was it because we worked hard, embraced capitalism and prospered? Or was it because we assimilated, married among ourselves, and put the love of the land – and the love of our common humanity – above our tribes and above ideology? For where else is it customary for the children of Italian and Lebanese immigrants to marry and have children? And to marry one of their sons – me – to a woman who is partly Irish, partly French and partly Viking? That’s right, Vikings!
Our 15 year old daughter is a walking UNO. The Pluribus in e pluribus unum. The way we live and love in America and how we green families