As White-passing POC, don’t erase my identity

Cultural identity has always been a touchy subject for me. As someone who was raised in a multi-ethnic neighbourhood, I understood the privilege I’ve had since a young age. Living in Japan opened my eyes to xenophobia, which hurt more to those with a darker skin tone than me.  Just to be made clear, I’m 50% English and 50% Colombian, so it’s not hard to understand how my whiteness is a key element of my upbringing; the colonized with the coloniser. But for many biracial or multicultural folk, the non-white side can be the area of the family we identify more with.  Maybe because it’s exotic, maybe because we raised more or less in that foreign culture, or maybe we cling to it so tightly because it has been pulled away from us so many times.

But while I accept my privileges I also feel that doesn’t allow me a free pass. I want to assert myself as I am.  Representations are important, that there are people who don’t want their identity wiped clean. For a long time,  people were skeptical of my credentials–basically believing I was waving the wannabe flag. You’re probably wondering why I care so deeply about representations? This is why I care. Because all those people think that your identity is tied to looking like something off a t-shirt.

So many people with white privilege get stuck in the guilt and anger stage.  More conversations need to focus on the ways white privilege is eradicating people’s identities and how it can be used as tool for good.   I want to leverage my skin privilege in order to build and amplify my voice, so that others are now hearing me talk loudly and clearly on social justice issues.

Why hunting in Africa is a white person’s privilege

Rebecca Francis smiling next to a giraffe she had just killed.  Photo from her website.

Rebecca Francis smiling next to a giraffe she had just killed. Photo from her website.

Let’s be honest how many times do you see the natives of Africa smiling with glee after killing a giraffe, lion or elephant? Not many. Why?  Let me explain the concept of a canned hunt: Canned hunting is a trophy hunt in which an animal is kept in a closed off area, such as in a fenced-in area, increasing the chances of the hunter obtaining a kill.  Africans who indeed hunt for subsistence, do not have the luxury of an enclosed area. The hunt can take days, and requires precision and skill.

There is no such thing as a fair chase during a canned hunt. The animal’s death is an inevitable result.  So who are the people who ultimately pull the trigger?  Statistics (Lindsey et al 2007) show that the majority of the “hunters” going to Africa for a kill are white Americans, with a selection of white Europeans.  Now listen, I’m going to be quite controversial here because I believe this practice is quite racially and classed based. In simple words: It’s a white person privilege.  Don’t get this confused with racial prejudice,  for the same amount of white people who go around hunting, there are people trying so hard to conserve and protect our earth, our home.

“But black people hunt too!” I hear your white privileged self scream. Let’s get down to it then shall we? There is a noticeable difference between black Africans who “kill”, and white foreigners who “hunt”. When the native Africans kill elephants, it’s called illegal poaching. Poaching although wrong, is a way of trying to survive by making a living in the illegal ivory trade business. When the white tourists kill animals, it’s called legal hunting. White tourists are allowed on game reserves where they pay big sums of money to hunt and kill privately owned animals for the sake of sport and trophies.

While Africans are out there risking their lives to stop African poachers being funded by terrorist groups and Asian countries, who believe Rhino horn has some sort of medicinal properties, white Americans and Europeans are happily killing animals a few miles away because they have the dollar to do so.  By using this argument you’re  justifying privileged white people hunting lions, elephants and rhinos.

Ricky Gervais (Yes! A white conservationist!) recently caused some media frenzy when he posted a picture of Rebecca Francis an “experienced” huntress who killed a giraffe and laid next to it in a mockery of nature, land and life.

“What must’ve happened to you in your life to make you want to kill a beautiful animal & then lie next to it smiling?’ a furious Gervais tweeted.  As a conservationist who lives within the means of a restricted budget I attempt to live within the borders of the basic laws of ecology. I’m not here to be liked, I’m not here to make friends, I only want to be reveal the truth, just like Mr. Gervais.

In his book, Tourism and the Consumption of Wildlife, Brent Lovelock states that over 16% of the adult population in America participates in some form of hunting. Canned hunts are strongly concentrated in Texas (Lovelock 2011, p.20),  which includes animals such as coyote, deer, wolves and a number of endangered species.  The majority of people who participated in canned hunts in Africa come from Texas. Hardly surprising.

South Africa has an established hunting tradition but few people express much enthusiasm for its corrupted canned alternative. It is still legal to bring a lion carcass back to US (or anywhere in Europe or North America) as a trophy, and much of the demand comes from overseas.

Kendall Jones posted a photo of herself riding a lion corpse.

Kendall Jones posted a photo of herself riding a lion corpse.

But people like Francis, who epitomise this trade, will not comprehend or even accept responsibility for their actions.  Rebecca Francis has argued that she did it for conservation purposes as well as to “feed a village”. But her out of the salon hair and made up gleeful face says otherwise and that is the problem. Kendall Jones, a teenage cheerleader caused similar outrage last year, when she posted a photo of herself riding a lion she had just killed. This pattern has not gone unnoticed by social media, or the media in general, and there are many calling out the end of this privilege blood sport.

As a proud advocate for the “sport”  Francis has travelled the world in search of the latest ‘trophy’.  But by calling it a ‘sport’ – this gives it some small veneer of respectability when there is none at all.  It goes beyond the one blonde hunter. It represents that canned hunting points at a flawed system of values and corruption, a bunch of incompetent leaderships completely unworthy of their mandates and powers.

It’s not simply about being self righteous, its about showing empathy and compassion towards animals (and humans) helpless against human barbarity and white supremacy.