In America, whiteness attached itself to my Eastern European skin like an invisible protective shield. I didn’t choose to be white; I was just shown and told that I was. When I move to a new city, friends tell me what "safe" neighborhoods to live in and what neighborhoods to avoid. You can guess the racial composition of the two.
Whiteness is arbitrary. It’s insidious. It breeds privilege. And violence. And fear. Black and brown people in America may have shaken off their shackles, but whiteness continues to crush their best efforts to be free. Or to be.
It occurs to me that, like me, my white American friends did not choose to be white. But wishing whiteness away doesn’t work. White guilt doesn’t help either: it is self-indulgent, stifling, and pointless.
But I submit that the helplessness we feel is a sign of hope. The very arbitrariness of whiteness might also be its undoing. As we stand among the sea of black and brown people demanding their right to be, our whiteness may finally start to wash away.