Beyonce Janvier (@sexyrichlibra), a 21-year-old makeup and lifestyle content creator, is airing her grievances about being referred to as “the ‘whitewashed’ Black girl.”
In a recent “get ready with me” video, Janvier criticizes the ways in which individuals undermine Black women, and women of color in general, by calling them “whitewashed,” and her words have resonated with TikTok users who feel similarly.
“Nothing pisses me off more than when people label Black girls, or just women in color in general, as whitewashed,” Janvier begins. “Because literally my whole entire life I’ve been told I act like a white girl, I talk like a white girl, I dress like a white girl, my taste in music is so white, as a method of, like, insulting me.”
To “whitewash” is “to alter (something) in a way that favors, features, or caters to white people,” says the Merriam-Webster dictionary.
“That s*** makes you feel so self-conscious ’cause now you’re, like, hyperaware of how you act and how you dress. You become so insecure.”
These comments, which may be flippant in nature, can have a lasting negative effect on the person receiving them.
“That s*** makes you feel so self-conscious ’cause now you’re, like, hyperaware of how you act and how you dress. You become so insecure,” she reveals. “I had this friend in high school, let’s use the word ‘friend’ very loosely, who literally would make me feel so self-conscious about myself. Like, she literally one time was like, ‘If you want to act like a white girl and get perfect grades and be a Goody-Two-Shoes’ — what are you saying?
“Like, do you know how wild and honestly harmful it is to say that? Like, doing well and caring about school is white?” Janvier adds.
In a similar vein, Janvier says she’s had people, specifically on TikTok, “try to take away” from her Blackness. She’s received criticism for being in a relationship with a white man.
“Like, that makes me any less Black? I literally just remember, like, crying over the comments I would get,” she recalls. “Or honestly feeling so self-conscious when I talk around, like, a new group of people. … ‘Cause I just thought people were going to be like, ‘Why do you act like that? Why do you talk like that?'”
While acknowledging that her insecurities may be “all in my head,” Janvier admits that all she wants is to be comfortable with who she is, and to be herself authentically and without receiving backlash.
“At the end of the day, I just want Black women to feel comfortable being themselves, however that looks like,” she explains. “Because it is the most detrimental and honestly harmful thing when your own people make you feel bad about yourself.
“So to all my whitewashed girls,” she urges, “just keep to yourself, mama.”
‘It definitely makes me feel less welcomed of my ethnicities. I try to speak Spanish but get made fun of so I get discouraged to learn.’
Commenters who have had similar experiences feel seen after watching Janvier’s video.
“i’m biracial and sooo many people call me whitewashed bc i live with my WHITE mom like i’m sorry???” @taylynn.m wrote.
“I literally don’t understand why people care so much, why don’t we let people just be themselves ugh,” @kalieelizabeth_ replied.
“Literally just experienced this at drinks with some friends and I cried on the way home.. I’m just being myself like damn..” @katet2876 said.
“It definitely makes me feel less welcomed of my ethnicities,” @arleneherrmann1 wrote. “I try to speak Spanish but get made fun of so I get discouraged to learn.”
Janvier replied to @arleneherrmann1‘s comment, “ohmygosh I saw this happening in the comment section of one of my mutuals regarding her Spanish and it PISSED ME OFFF.”
Janvier, along with the other TikTok users that have voiced their own experiences about the derogatory term, isn’t alone. In fact, referring to a person of color as whitewashed isn’t exactly uncommon — it’s become this relatively normalized and nonchalant, albeit undermining, way to refer to certain people.
“This month a friend was introducing me to someone who later asked what my ethnicity is. I’m Indian, but my friend said, ‘She’s pretty whitewashed though, she’s like basically white,'” Deepika Shewaramani, a former journalism student at Toronto’s Ryerson University, wrote.
“Well, no, I’m really not. I may choose to go by Deeps instead of my full name, I may have a standard Toronto-girl accent and I may have been dating a Greek guy for two-and-a-half years, but there is certainly no way I am ‘basically white,'” she added.
“Personally, I think of the calling someone ‘whitewashed’ as a derogatory way of telling minority groups they’ve forgotten about their roots in order to assimilate to western culture,” Elizabeth Alvarado wrote for the Seattle Globalist. “It’s ironic. As Latinos we’re constantly faced with the pressure to assimilate in order to fit in. But somehow we’re also supposed to ‘stay true to our culture.’ It’s a game we’re destined to lose no matter what we do.”
“Being called whitewashed says that it’s not okay for Black women to be vulnerable, feminine, and protected,” Arlene Ambrose wrote for An Injustice. “Being called whitewashed says you can’t explore another culture without hating or abandoning your own.”
Describing an individual as whitewashed, regardless of the intention behind it, can lead to a persistent, internalized sense of lack or disconnection from one’s culture. Words hold weight, and this particular one — rightfully so — generates major insecurity.
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