Let’s get straight to the point; people of color have to deal with a lot. There are still many ignorant people out there that say things that get on our nerves. Add being a woman to the equation and we have a whole list of groan-inducing ignorant phrases we have to listen to. I decided to condense them all, and talk about the most obvious and important no-nos.
1. “Wow. You’re really pretty/beautiful for a _____ woman!”
Okay, I get that you’re trying to give me a compliment, but you’re also insulting my entire race when you say it. By saying I’m pretty for someone of my race, you’re saying that people of my race are inherently ugly and aren’t as pretty as the ideal (but really white) standard of beauty. Yes, we get that you’re trying to compliment us, but if you ever want to say this to a woman of color, please refrain from doing so, because it is more of an insult. If you think someone is beautiful, just tell them so. Don’t say they’re pretty in spite of their ethnicity/race.
2. “You’re really exotic looking!” (Or any variant of this.)
Again, I understand that you’re trying to compliment me, but you are pointing out that there is something so outwardly different about me that you need to point it out. You’re saying I’m foreign, and although that’s not always a bad thing, it can be seen in the same sense as, “You’re really pretty for someone of your race.” Once again, it feels like you’re surprised you can find something about me to compliment in spite of my race or ethnicity.
3. “You could pass off as white!”
I feel like all these are coming from the same point, but saying I can pass off as white is basically saying that I should be happy I can pass off as something other than my race. Once again, you’re inherently telling me that me being a woman of color is somehow inferior and I should celebrate the fact that people look at me and think I’m white.
4. “You don’t act like a person of *insert race*.”
This is the opposite of “You could pass off as white.” First of all, you’re saying that you’re expecting me to act a certain way because of my race/ethnicity, which means you have a stereotype about my race that you’re not willing to let go. You have a specific set of behaviors that you’re associating with my race and stripping me off my own individuality. Secondly, what is wrong if I act like what you are stereotypically attaching with my race? What is wrong if, I, as an Indian, really like curry? Let me be. I’m not judging your life.
5. “Yes, but you (women) are being oppressed in your country/by your people.”
You have no right to tell me anything about my country or the people of my race. You’re not enlightened if you tell me everything that is wrong with my people. If women are so oppressed in my community, how did I make it to America or college for us to be having this conversation? You don’t grow up in this community, you don’t know how it works, you don’t know what works. You can’t decide what is right and wrong in a community that you haven’t grown up in. Furthermore, everyone has different experiences so if one woman you met told you that women are oppressed, you cannot generalize it to everyone and push your views onto me. Also, if women are being oppressed terribly in my community, I promise you it has very little to do with race/ethnicity/nationality and a lot to do with inherent sexism and patriarchy that everyone has been influenced by over the years.