What It Means To Be 'White'

What It Means To Be 'White'

This is the defining characteristic of whiteness.
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One afternoon I was finishing watching a documentary called "I Am Not Your Negro." It had been nominated for an Academy Award, so I thought it would be worth my time to watch and learn something about race. In summary, the documentary connected the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s to the Black Lives Matter Movement of the 2010s. I did learn something indeed, but it was not exclusively from watching the film.

I had begun watching the film one afternoon but had to stop halfway through, as I had a closing shift at my summer job. I resumed it the next day, a family joined me in watching the film about halfway through, and the narrator began speaking. She asked me who was supposed to be speaking and I said it is someone portraying James Baldwin. They said they had never heard of Mr. Baldwin, and I explained to them that he was an author, literary and cultural critic with deep ties to the Civil Rights Movement. They nodded and continued watching the film with me, but not long before taking out their iPad.

In one graphic sequence, "I Am Not Your Negro" shows a series of lynchings from America in the 1920s and 1930s. It was at this point that I temporarily stopped watching the film because I noticed something quite worrisome. As the lynching sequence continued, I looked over at my family member who was still deeply entranced with their iPad. They had no idea that grizzly images of death and suffering were displayed on the 70” television standing less than ten feet from them, and if they did, they were doing well to ignore it. That, I soon realized, was whiteness. Slavery, segregation, disenfranchisement, lynching, and police brutality, are all things that have little to no concern to white people in the U.S., as they have rarely been victims of those phenomena. I continued watching the film and soon enough the documentary came to a conclusion.

As the credits began to roll, my family member and I learned that the narrator of the film, the voice of James Baldwin, was Samuel L. Jackson. This surprised both my family member and myself, as we had no idea the solemn, reflective, and sometimes sorrowful voice on the television was the same voice that recited Ezekiel 25:17 from Pulp Fiction. I jokingly said, “You would have never known it was him because he didn't say ‘motherf***er’ at the end of each sentence.” My family member laughed in amusement, but then I soon discovered that I am white too.

In short, by watching and not watching this documentary, I learned that whiteness means allowing oneself to be unaware of the atrocities and injustices suffered by countless members of minority communities, particularly in the United States. This is not to accuse the white community of willful ignorance, but rather to urge them to educate themselves on the inconvenient history of slavery, expropriating native land, and the impact of segregation.

Cover Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

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9 Queer Pride Flags That You Probably Didn't Know About

The rainbow flag is certainly the most recognizable, but it isn't the only Pride Flag there is.
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It's Pride Month yet again and fellow members of the LGBTQ+ community and their allies are celebrating. Normally around this time of year, we expect to see that all-too-familiar rainbow colored flag waving through the air, hanging from windows and sported on clothing of all types. Even when not strictly a flag, the colors of the rainbow are often displayed when showing support of the larger queer community. But what many people do not realize is that there are many, many pride flags for orientations of all kinds, so Natasha and I (Alana Stern) have created this handy guide to some others that you may not yet be familiar with:

1. L is for Lesbian and G is for Gay

The most recognizable letters of the entire acronym, L (Lesbian) and G (Gay), represent the homosexual people of the LGBTQ+ community. Homosexuality is defined as being exclusively sexually attracted to members of the same sex. Again, although the rainbow Pride flag is easily the most iconic and recognizable, there is a Lesbian Pride Flag as well. Specifically for "Lipstick Lesbians," this flag was made to represent homosexual women who have a more feminine gender expression. Here are the Lesbian Pride Flag (left) and Gay Pride Flag with the meaning of each stripe (right).



2. B is for Bisexual

Bisexuality is defined as the romantic and/or sexual attraction towards both males and females. They often go unacknowledged by people who believe that they cannot possibly feel an attraction for both sexes and have been called greedy or shamed in many ways for being who they are, but not this month. This month we recognize everyone and their right to love. Here is the flag and symbol that represents the big B!


3. T is for Transgender (Umbrella)

Gender identities are just as diverse as sexual orientations. Transgender people are people whose gender does not necessarily fall in line with their biological sex. That is to say, someone who is born male may not feel that calling oneself a man is the best way to describe who they are as a person; the same can go for someone who is born female or intersex (we'll get to that in a bit). Someone born female may feel that they prefer to be referred to as a man. Someone born male may feel that they don't mind being referred to as either a man or a woman. And someone may feel that neither term really fits. Identities can range from having no gender, to multiple genders, to having a gender that falls outside of the typical gender binary of man/woman, to anything in between. The colors of the flag are blue (the traditional color for boys), pink (the traditional color for girls) and white (to represent those who are intersex, transitioning, or have a gender that is undefined).


Okay! Here's where we get into the lesser-known letters of the acronym. You may have heard of some of these before but didn't quite know what they meant or how they fit into the larger queer community, or you may not have heard of them at all. Either way, we'll do our best to explain them!

4. I is for Intersex

Intersex people are people who are have a mix of characteristics (whether sexual, physical, strictly genetic or some combination thereof) that would classify them as both a male and a female. This can include but is not limited to having both XX and XY chromosomes, having neither, being born with genitalia that does not fit within the usual guidelines for determining sex and appearing as one sex on the outside but another internally. It is possible for intersex people to display the characteristics from birth, but many can go years without realizing it until examining themselves further later in life. Here is an older version of the intersex flag which utilizes purple, white, blue and pink (left) and a more recent one that puts an emphasis on more gender-neutral colors, purple and yellow (right).


5. A is for Aro-Ace Spectrum

The A in the acronym is usually only defined as Asexual, which is a term used to describe people who experience a lack of sexual attraction to any sex, gender, or otherwise. People who are asexual can still engage in healthy romantic relationships, they just don't always feel the need or have the desire to have sex and are not physically attracted to other people. If that's confusing, think of it this way: you are attracted women, but not men. You may see a man and think, "He's kind of cute" or "That's a pretty good-looking guy," but you still would not feel any desire towards that person, because that's not what you're into. Asexual people generally feel that way about everyone. That's the "Ace" half of "Aro-Ace."

"Aro," or Aromantic, is a term used to describe people who do not experience romantic attraction. Aromantic people still have healthy platonic relationships, but have no inclination towards romantic love. The reason Asexual and Aromantic are together is because they are very heavily entwined and oftentimes can overlap. Underneath that spectrum are also other variations of asexuality (including but not limited to people who still feel as though they are asexual but experience sexual attraction in very rare circumstances, or only after they have a romantic connection) and aromanticism (including but not limited to people who still feel as though they are aromantic but experience romantic attraction in very rare circumstances).

Below are two versions of the Aromantic Pride Flag (top and middle) and the Asexual Pride Flag (bottom).





6. P and O are for Panseuxal and Omnisexual

Pansexual and omnisexual people are not limited by gender preferences. They are capable of loving someone for who they are and being sexually attracted to people despite what gender their partner identifies as. The word pansexual comes from the Greek prefix "pan-", meaning all. Pansexuals or Omnisexuals will probably settle for whoever wins their heart regardless of that persons gender.


7. But what about the Q?!

The Q can be said to stand for Queer or Questioning, or both. "Queer" is more of a blanket term for people who belong to the LGBTQ+ community or who identify as something other than heterosexual or cisgender (a term that has come to describe people who feel that their gender does fall in line with their biological sex; i.e. someone born male feels that he is a man). It is also possible for someone to identify as queer, but avoid using it to refer to specific people unless you know they are okay with it; some people still consider it insulting. Questioning means exactly what it sounds like: it gives a nod to those who are unsure about their sexuality and/or gender identity or who are currently in the process of exploring it.

There's no one flag specifically for the letter Q, as all of the above sexualities and identities technically fall underneath this term.


This list is hardly comprehensive and there are a number of other flags, orientations and identities to explore. Pride Month is still going strong, and there's always more to learn about the ever-changing nature of sexuality as a whole and the way we understand it. It's a time for celebration, but also a time to educate and spread the word.

For a more in-depth description of different types of attraction and how they work, click here.

For more complete lists of gender identities throughout history, click here or here.

For a general list of commonly used words in the LGBTQ+ community and their definitions, click here.


Now go grab a flag and fly it high--you've got a ton to choose from!

Cover Image Credit: 6rang

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Let's Agree On One Thing: Cultural Appreciation Isn't Cultural Appropriation

Please stop creating more divisions between cultures.
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Our contemporary world is crowded with hate, criticism, and anger; thus, I choose to wake up every day to do my part to spread peace, love, and acceptance. Within this positive theme, I believe it should be stated that there is a difference between respecting cultures and clearly making fun of cultural traditions.

The latter is blatantly wrong, and no one is accepting it. However, immersing in another culture by making traditional Mediterranean food, wearing Asian prom dresses, or sporting classical African jewelry has advantageous influences on our ever-dividing society.

Cultural appropriation is when a dominant culture, most notably the "white culture," adopts elements, usually with great meaning, from a minority's culture. The key factor to appropriation is disrespecting another's culture—being ignorant and insensitive.

Yet, let me adore cultures without it being called cultural appropriation. I love learning about the way people grow up and live life differently than me. I enjoy learning and exploring the various ways of life that I'm not accustomed to. I grew up in a very small town away from a lot in this world - hence, now I am immersing myself in diversity, and I want nothing else than to respect those around me. However, there recently has been a scandal where a Utah high school teen, Keziah Daum, was attacked on Twitter for her choice of prom dress: a qipao, a beautiful, traditional Chinese dress.

Backlash, which included Twitter comments, such as "My culture is NOT your goddamn prom dress," stormed the Internet and generated a lot of discussion about cultural appropriation.

The controversial dress shouldn't be so shocking since it's a gorgeous dress with tremendous amounts of history behind the design, and Daum acknowledges this elegance. Her words about the dress only garner respect and love for the traditional Chinese culture: "Really gave me a sense of appreciation and admiration for other cultures and their beauty.”

Daum stands by her decision to wear this prom dress as she responds to the criticism: "To everyone causing so much negativity: I mean no disrespect to the Chinese culture. I’m simply showing my appreciation for their culture. I’m not deleting my post because I’ve done nothing but show my love for the culture. It’s a fucking dress. And it’s beautiful."

Many find this dress in bad taste.

However, many individuals in China are actually applauding and appreciating the gesture as Daum is celebrating Chinese culture.

So, it is our view of the representation of cultures. Let's come together and begin to celebrate the appeal of cultures.

Celebrities such as Kylie Jenner, Gigi Hadid, Nikita Dragun, Katy Perry, Rihanna, Lady Gaga, Taylor Swift, Beyonce, and many more have all been accused of cultural appropriation. In certain cases these individuals or others may have made a mistake by exhibiting a culture different than what it should be, but, in general, having big-name celebrities display the beauty of various cultures is a beneficial, diverse idea.


A noting, understandable, and upsetting challenge is the idea that when the dominant culture takes on the traditional cultural accessory or whatever it may be, it is looked upon positively while on the minority culture it is criticized or shunned for being different. This idea is evidently unjust and I believe the way to positively change it is to come together and celebrate all cultures. Historically, the dominant white culture attempted to wrongfully whitewash the world. This must be stopped in our modern civilization since a rainbow is much more special than a white fog.

See also: No, White People, You Don't Get To Claim 'Cultural Appropriation' For The Met Gala's Latest Theme

I don't believe criticizing others for appreciating different cultures will create peace and acceptance in our divisive world. Please stop creating more divisions between cultures, instead, we should be uniting and putting our hands together no matter our backgrounds. We should share our stories and customs and not feel attacked when someone is attempting to do so.

Cover Image Credit: naki.post on Instagram

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