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To the editor:
Congratulations to Martine Watkins on being the first biracial mayor in Santa Cruz. I hope she will step aside so we can also congratulate our first Black mayor, Justin Cummings.
How sad that Watkins hasn’t done the work to understand her position and privilege as a light-skinned biracial person in America. How sad that with her privilege and her platform, she chooses to say, “What about me?”
To society at large, she appears to be a white woman. Though her father is Black, I’m confused why she mentions “colorism” while also denying that she benefits from it. Maybe we can call it “light privilege,” since it would appear that she cannot accept that she benefits from white privilege.
I have a Black dad, too, and most people think I’m white mixed with something they can’t put their finger on. I understood my privilege at a young age, while my father also taught me to “never forget that you’re Black.” I’m sorry this lesson was never taught to Watkins, since she also walks the complicated line of being biracial. Race is a social construct built around how you’re perceived based on the color of your skin. I would guess, like her high school teacher, most people perceive her to be white or maybe a light BIPOC.
Watkins, to deny your whiteness (or lightness in this case) means that you deny the lived experiences of BIPOC and how they navigate institutionalized racism in a country built on white supremacy. You have every right to talk about the complexity of being raised by a Black father and white mother. You have every right to talk about your experience as a BIPOC who appears to pass as white.
Most people might be surprised to hear that you have a Black dad. That’s racism for you; people make an assumption based on the color of your skin and, in your case, I would be really surprised if people see you as a Black woman.
I’m so happy to see you shed such a bright light on your complicated racial and ethnic history, but please let our first Black mayor shine in his historic moment.