What comes to mind when you hear the phrase "white supremacy"? For actor comedian Peter Kim, it's facing the commonplace cultural assumption that white is the default race in America.
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Finally tonight, a look at the subtle ways our society often equates being white with what's normal.
It comes from Peter Kim, who was a member of Chicago's famed Second City comedy troupe.
It is the latest edition of IMHO, In My Humble Opinion.
PETER KIM, Comedian:
When you hear the phrase white supremacy, what picture comes to your mind? Maybe it's Adolf Hitler screaming into a microphone. Maybe it's white-hooded figures marching around a burning cross.
For me, it's a lot less dramatic and a lot more commonplace. So, if I may, I would like to offer an updated definition of white supremacy. It's the idea that white is the ideal, and we are all consciously and subconsciously working to achieve whiteness.
For example, I'm an actor. And, once, I was sitting in the waiting room of a casting agency with a fellow actor who happened to be white. And I was telling him how I keep getting called in for roles looking for all ethnicities, but are clearly written for a white man, like characters named Vincent Daniels.
And he says to me, "Well, Peter, you're almost white."
OK, let that sink in for a second. If you haven't flinched yet, you should take a deep look inside of yourself.
Me, an Asian-American, being almost white? Meaning what? That I'm not black or Latino or any skin complexion darker than white?
In saying so, he's assuming that white people are the default race in this country, that I am almost normal.
And this isn't some ignorant racist. This is a liberal creative person living in Chicago.
You see, this happens to me all the time, even in places I never thought would exist. See, I'm a Korean man who's also gay. And when I finally came out and downloaded the dating app Grindr — spoiler alert, ain't nobody dating on Grindr — I was overwhelmed by profiles saying no fems, no fats, no Asians.
And I would say to myself, well, that can't be me, because, according to my mom, I'm not fat, I'm husky.
I have been lucky enough to travel and perform all around this country. And when I get asked the question where are you from, and I respond, oh, New York, most of the time, well-meaning white people get upset and ask, you know what I mean. Where are you from-from?
My boyfriend, who is from Minnesota, whose family has roots in Sweden, never has to explain where he's from-from.
So, my definition of white supremacy is embedded in the fabric of our everyday lives. It's in our schools, in our movies, and on our televisions.
Look, we all need car insurance, but you will likely never see someone like me in ad for something like that. It's clear to the average American that it's more persuasive to be sold insurance by a cheeky foreign gecko than a fabulous husky gaysian.
Well, we're going to remember that one.