Being “White” and of Mixed Heritage

At the Working Together to End Classism Workshop [see previous article], I interpreted into Arabic. It was the first time I had done that at a Co-Counseling workshop. I did it thanks to amazing support from the translation team, People of the Global Majority, and white people, and with the crucial support of the Israeli people (a big thing for a Palestinian!). Thank you all very much!

I have a light-skinned Palestinian parent and a white Swedish parent—and have a “white” skin. From the age of three I grew up with only my white parent and her family. I have always had a little contact with my Palestinian parent, and in my late teens I lived with him and his family in Egypt for eight important months. It always felt difficult to know where I belong at Co-Counseling workshops. In the beginning I went to groups for white people and was silent about my mixed heritage. After that I went to several workshops as a Person of the Global Majority. Now I identify as a human with mixed heritage.

When I participated in People of the Global Majority groups, I did not feel safe to work on my material [distress], and probably others in the group felt the same. I did not dare to work on feeling unsafe. I did not want the others to have to listen to a person with “white” skin counsel on feeling unsafe as a minority, on feelings of not being welcome with “white” skin, and on feelings of not belonging. It meant that I did not show myself, which added to the feelings of unsafety for me and maybe also for others.

In the July 2018 issue of Present Time, on page 42, Barbara Love (the International Liberation Reference Person for African Heritage People) answers a question about which caucus group to join if you “pass” as white and have one light-skinned parent of the Global Majority and one white parent. I read the text with great excitement—this is about me! According to Barbara Love, with my “white” skin and most important my experience of being raised white, it makes sense for me to work in groups with others who have mixed heritage, and not in groups with People of the Global Majority.

Since not many Co-Counselors (that I know of) have a “white” skin and are of mixed heritage, from now on I need to contact the workshop leader before a workshop—even if I feel uncomfortable in doing so—and together we can think how that particular workshop can work well for me and for everyone of the Global Majority.

If People of the Global Majority and mixed-heritage people do have a group together, it is good to state clearly that the group is for both, and later divide the group into smaller groups for discharge as needed.

Earlier in my life I mostly pretended to be only white and Swedish. Even if I mentioned that my father is Palestinian, most white people forgot this at once. Now I am more persistent in speaking Arabic and telling everyone around me about my Arabic family and friends. Today I use Arabic at my work. I think this is thanks to being in groups with People of the Global Majority and discharging on my identity as a Palestinian. I still have more to discharge about this.

It is restimulating to talk about my “white” skin color. We are born with different colors. They are only colors. It is only the oppression we meet early in our lives that makes us believe something else. I have felt grief that wherever I go I am always looked upon as only a Swedish person with only Swedish experiences. Nobody knows that I am also Palestinian if I do not tell them, and then everyone is surprised. At the same time, I have avoided being targeted with racism, because of my “white” skin. I want to discharge more on my white oppressor material.

I am so grateful for being part of the RC Community! We understand more and more how to get rid of the things that stand in the way of being close to everyone. I’m happy to be creating a new society that works well for all humans, for everything alive, and for the whole universe!

Johanna Ghattas

Råbäck, Degerfors, Sweden


Last modified: 2019-05-13 15:12:23+00