God created all men and women to be equal. Some of us are more equal than others, however. For a nation that has the line “In God We Trust” on its bills, the US has certainly become one of the last refuges of widespread racism. It is hard to believe that just 50 years ago, the majority of black and Latino citizens in the US were institutionally segregated from the majoritarian white society. It is still easy to see and feel the traces of such harmful and narrow-minded beliefs.
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Despite not stating it out loud, many white people hide their inherent racism by catering to individuals known as “ethnically ambiguous,” who are considered to be the most “white-looking” among indigenous populations. Having experienced the difference in treatment between ambiguous and non-ambiguous US citizens on my skin, I seek to oppose the acceptability of ethnic ambiguity as a concept. The claim I make is that the concept of ethnic ambiguity is used to subtly promote the ideas of white superiority as the standard of appearance, to further oppress the minorities.
The topic of gender ambiguity first affected me when I visited a cantina with a few cousins of mine, and the waitress refused to take orders from everyone except myself, with me being the least “Latino-looking” person out of three. Fresh from Costa Rica, I was shocked to experience that not only color but also the tone of the skin mattered in the US. This was 2017, Orlando, Florida, not Birmingham 1963. And yet, it demonstrated to me the power that ethnically ambiguous people were granted. Upon doing further research, I discovered how deep this rabbit hole went.
I learned many things about racial ambiguity, including the fact that it is a popular choice of fashion in the US, and that ethnically ambiguous people are more likely to be hired (Laer and Janssens 198). Many sociological tests indicate that individuals that appear to be of lighter complexion or have a European facial structure are viewed as more attractive by the majority (La Ferla). I also discovered attempts to pass ethnic ambiguity as for the next step in human evolution, with individuals carrying traits of different races being less susceptible to illnesses (Adams). All of these facts are used to subtly reinforce the notion that white blood somehow “improves” various indigenous people, both economically and biologically. It is a subtle and sinister way to promote and ingrain racism under the guise of economics and psychology.
During my research, I discovered that most of the articles do not take a firm stance on this matter. They either discuss racism detached from the concept of ethnic ambiguity or simply state the facts on how does lighter complexion improves employment opportunities, healthcare, and attractiveness in people without connecting it to the greater social constructs. At the same time, I found no scholarly articles that would defend ethical ambiguity as a necessary transitional phase between racism and inclusivity. It leaves me to analyze on my own, with an implicit understanding of the matter.
Ethnic ambiguity and the inherent racism of preferring lighter-skinned faces over ethnically indigenous often go unnoticed by many people who believe themselves to be non-racist. Exposing the underlying assumptions, tendencies, and trends would help many realize the unseen acts of discrimination and prejudice would help many realize their actions and repent. The first step towards fixing something is to realize that there is a problem. The current treatment of ethnically ambiguous people as superior to the rest demonstrates how the term is used as a band-aid to hide the prejudice towards blacks and Latinos that did not vanish anywhere.
Adams, William L. “Mixed Race, Pretty Face?” Psychology Today. 2006. Web.
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Laer, Koen Van, and Maddy Janssens. “Agency of Ethnic Minority Employees: Struggles Around Identity, Career and Social Change.” Organization, vol. 24, no. 2, 2017, pp. 198-217.
La Ferla, Ruth. “Generation E.A.: Ethnically Ambiguous.” New York Times. 2003. Web.