Passing Privilege

Hi, my name is Melissa McKinney. 

Based on that single sentence no one would ever guess I’m Asian American. I can see the surprise in their eyes when I catch them off guard as they try to comprehend my Anglo-Sazon name belonging to my Asian appearance. I can’t even remember how many times I’ve been told that my last name doesn’t sound very Asian as if I didn’t know that already. It is my name. Someone once suggested to me that I go by my middle name (my Chinese name) in order to come off as more Asian. I’m not really sure why I need to come off as more Asian. In fact, to change my name in order to fit into these people’s narrow minded expectations would be ridiculous. 

 I’m more than my name. It doesn’t matter if it’s “Asian sounding.” Also, when you consider the amount of effort it is to change one’s last name, (changing Social Security documents, driver’s bluehost优惠码 license, passport, ect.) it’s a wonder why anyone does it at all. I certainly would not want to stand in any of those lines just to change my last name so it’s “more representative” of my outward appearance. 

For most people, my name is just the beginning of my long offenses of not being “Asian enough.” I don’t think I’ll ever understand the need others have that compels them to project their small-minded categorization onto others. It’s not my job to conform to their expectations, and it’s not my fault that I don’t. 

As frustrating as it is to constantly have people feel like they need to share their unsolicited opinion on my name with me, my name is a privilege. In today’s socio-political climate, it’s certainly a privilege to have a name that literally could not sound any whiter.

It means I never have to worry about a because my name sounds ethnic. It means on paper, I control to some extent the mental image people conjure up when they look at my name. I rarely have to worry about someone stumbling over my name (a surprising amount of people though cannot read properly and assume my last name is McKinley, which is sad for a different reason). 

It’s a privilege that so many people do not have access to, and I am determined to use mine to shatter these absurd expectations others project onto me and every other person who falls outside of the box in which they’re so determined to put us. 

It’s important to remember this privilege is passing in two ways.

1. I literally get to pass at least on paper as white.

2. It’s passing or fleeting. It doesn’t last.

When I introduce myself in person, that privilege is taken away. My physical being negates the whiteness in my name. This privilege gets snatched away even though nothing about me has changed, which means no one really has privilege. Privilege is not earned. It is given, and unfortunately for people of color, we aren’t the ones responsible for giving it out.

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