As the title suggests, I have quite a bit of experience of being the only white person in the room. A lot of my uni friends are Malaysian (mostly Chinese), so I've been to many birthdays/christmas parties/Chinese New Years where everyone else has been an ethnic minority. This has resulted in a good bit of banter about white people being the minority for once, especially when I visiting a friend in her town in Malysia and I really was the only white person for miles. (I've never felt so fat in my life, it was awful!)
However the more time I spend with my amazing friends, the more I'm reminded that I'm not really experiencing what it is to be a minority at all, in fact its more like the opposite. My privilege doesn't decrease when I'm with them, in reality it increases. There has often been a somewhat akward vibe (mostly from people that I don't know well) of gratitude that I, as a white British person would actually take the time to be friends with foreigners. Almost as though I've been willing to take them on as a project (far from the truth, I sometimes get fed amazing Chinese food, always makes me wish I ate meat). I'm not treated as wierd or different in the group dynamic, I'm treated as special, with thanks. I'm increasingly concerned that my desire to be in charge and patronise people is increased with my asian friends, reminding me that I'm not immune from the racist attitudes I've inherited from wider society.
Its the same when I've been in places where white people (especially fair people like me) are very rarely seen. Yes, I've been stared at (like a black person might be in very middle class areas), but no-one is ever looking down on me, or being scared I'm going to steal from them, or that I might be a terrorist, I've never been yelled at by strangers because of my ethnicity . In Thailand strangers came up to me and said I was beautiful because I was so fair. In reality I'm not that attractive; I'm just white. (I was also subject to comment about my weight, I really have to stop going to Asia.)
This post is my repentance for ever having thought that I had in any way experienced knowing what being an ethnic minority is like. Its not about skin colour, its about status, steriotypes, your level of privilige. Even when I'm the only white person for miles my privilige is clear.
P.S. My quiet confession is that I'm always scared of talking about issues around ethnicity and racism in case I'm accidentally racist (I'm aware that I'm an idiot...), please tell me if I am!