I pass as white most times. I’m the lightest skinned in my entire family, which is pretty diverse by blood and marriage that includes Tupi/Brazilian/Mayan/Taino/Jamaican-Black and then some.
I have to start out with saying these differences that I notice don’t matter much to me, I only notice them because I have an uncanny attention to detail and am trained in studying body language and mannerisms. It’s one of the few things I have going for me.
When I go out by myself, people are generally kind to me. I get into clubs with no problem, bumped up on the waiting list at a restaurant with a little flirting with the hostess, etc. If I’m pulled over, I’m either let go with a stern warning or given a basic ticket for whatever I allegedly did. You get the point.
When I hang out with my friends and my family, I see general changes ranging from subtle to overt. We are pushed to the side in line at the club. It never fails that if I have a cousin or other relative in the car with me and get pulled over, we are checked for warrants while we sit on the bumper of the cop car after getting frisked and my car searched. I’m a former police officer and a US Army combat veteran with a clean service record and no arrest record (until recently), mind you. When I’m out with friends and family, I get the label from others of “that white guy who likes to hang out with minorities so he can look cool.” I had one guy ask me, “Why the hell are you hanging out with those niggers and spics?” in the bathroom of a restaurant a while back. I’m still on probation for how I handled that incident.
Even acquaintances will say, “Oh, I thought you were white.” When I ask them why, I hear “Oh, because you look white (except for your nose and ears)… You’re smart… articulate.. you carry yourself well.” They don’t even know that they are expressing racism to me even after I’ve informed them I’m not white.
But social settings are where this ‘passing privilege’ ends for me. Anything in the modern world outside of hanging out that involves paperwork that would have my last name, Vega, on it and forget it. It’s difficult to prove racism on things like loan or job applications when such bureaucracy is involved, but you have to imagine it has to happen on some level. Especially since if I started off with a face to face interview with the owner/manager as a walk-in before giving them my resume, my chances were much greater.
You can chalk that up to whatever you want. Are there subtle differences in how I’m treated in looking white? Sometimes. Do they matter where it really counts for equality? Absolutely not