Illustration by Joelena Despard
In a world with discussions surrounding diversity within the media to fight to retain ethnic studies on campuses, you would think that a certain term would enter these discussions more often. Unfortunately, this does not occur — leaving an unspoken truth left untold.
This term is none other than White Adjacency.
White Adjacency can be defined as a person coming from a marginalized background within society in terms of race, and at the same time, receiving benefits similar to those identified as white.
Now, I know the first thing on your mind is “How can this be true?”, and you might be experiencing a mild form of cognitive dissonance with this subject. But it is true.
A way to understand White Adjacency is by examining racial hierarchy within America as a totem pole. At the start of the totem pole, you have the dominant culture as white or reflecting those of European descent, non-black people of color, and then you have black people who are at the bottom.
This racial hierarchy being enforced in society connects to various forms of racism that are individual and institutional. For instance, an educational institution that is founded upon White Supremacy can continue since its policies are set to keep a specific structure. The result of this is quite simple. White Adjacent people from marginalized communities have positions of power in an institution, thus becoming enablers of this racism that was historically committed by those of the dominant culture.
Determining your status as someone that is defined as White Adjacent is by examining how you are treated in comparison to other marginalized people and taking heed of this. In this process, discover your own biases by questioning what you believe and why were you taught this. Once you acknowledge that you are White Adjacent within a certain space, realizing it does not mean that you are without struggles. What the term does is highlight how every struggle of a marginalized group is not entirely at the same level or some experiences specifically belong to one group.
For conversations regarding diversity, White Adjacency needs to be considered as a factor when trying to dismantle institutional racism. If it remains unspoken, then there hardly will be any truth told.