uncovering the “privilege” of being a white passing person of colour

uncovering the “privilege” of being a white passing person of colour


Niloufar Haidari

Photography Khashayar Elyassi

Why we shouldn’t let white people police who gets to be “white”.

I am a ‘white-passing’ person of colour; a white-passing British-Iranian woman of colour to be exact. I am in no way ignorant as to the privilege this gives me in a still very much racialised world in which the after-effects of colonialism and imperialism are all too evident and dark skin is seen as anything from unattractive to a reason to kill. I am aware that in a culture in which fair skin is still valued higher than those of brown people whether in the fashion industry, on the internet or just at family gatherings, I am lucky. I am white-passing, and I have white-passing privilege. In short, this means that I am not necessarily immediately recognisable as a ‘brown person’, an ‘other’. Make-up companies cater to my concealer and lipstick needs, ‘flesh-coloured’ plasters and crayons are roughly the right shade. Due to the fact that I have spent my whole life living in the UK, I suffer from Vitamin D deficiency and am therefore more likely to be mistaken for Italian/Spanish rather than Middle Eastern for 9 months of the year. I would like to make it very clear that I am in no way trying to claim I suffer the same kind of discrimination based on skin that black or dark-skinned Asian women do; I don’t even suffer the same kind of discrimination as other Iranian women who are darker than I do.

But I do suffer discrimination. I am white-passing, not white. And interestingly, it often seems to be white people rather than other people of colour who are darker than me who are quick to announce my non-eligibility for discrimination and to tell me I’m white. I have experienced a long and varied history of this from both white friends and anonymous white strangers on the internet…

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