If an ethnic person listens to rock music, attends rock shows, wears skater-brand clothing and has white friends, he or she could be racially labeled as “whitewashed.” The term could be detrimental to a young person’s upbringing, especially during which he or she is attempting to discover themselves.
“Whitewashed” is a term that was created to categorize people of ethnic groups, who do not fit the stereotypes of his or her culture, and is characterized by stereotypes of white Americans. “Whitewashed” is a metaphor for an individual of a certain ethnicity, including his or her culture and traditions, that was painted over and replaced with beliefs and ideas from mainstream America.
As a young girl growing up in Koreatown – an ethnically diverse neighborhood in Los Angeles – the ethnic groups I primarily encountered were Korean, Latino, and Armenian, so I mostly had friends of different ethnic backgrounds. Whites are rarely seen in Koreatown. When my parents made the decision to move to a new neighborhood that is predominantly white, I stood out like a sore thumb. Eventually, I made friends, but most were white, and unlike the people I grew up with in Koreatown.
It wasn’t until high school that my friends and I parted ways. The separation, however, was due in part to the ethnic pressures in high school to fit into the ethnic group that he or she belongs to. No longer were my friends and I friends because of common interests. The color of our skin dictated the group in which we had to hang out with.
I remained unscathed by the transition and made friends with mostly everyone I met. No matter who I met that was of an ethnic background, however, always called me “whitewashed.”
Prior to being called “whitewashed,” I regarded myself as a person who was well aware and proud of her cultural and ethnic roots. As a young women, who was insecure with herself, I refuted the term and was offended by being called by such a racist term. When I asked the people who called me “whitewashed” how they characterized someone who was or was not “whitewashed,” they said, I was “whitewashed” because ‘I listened to white people music, dressed like a white person, did not speak with an accent’ and in fact spoke ‘like a white person.’
What the term fails to address is what and how the white way of living is characterized. If a person is deemed “whitewashed,” it means that he or she has essentially disrupted the natural progression of his or he ethnicity. In essence, the term is a direct betrayal of one’s own ethnic group.
Negative terminology, such as “whitewashed,” fuels racism among people, and allows for stereotypes to continue to drive the way humans view and engage with each other.
The existence and preservation of such negative racially driven terminology is now decidedly in the hands of the next generation of ethnically diverse youth, and it is up to our generation, however, to educate our future youth to be socially conscious that terms like “whitewashed,” rouse negative stereotypes of a race and culture.
Veronica Rocha can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.