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It is odd that someone who considers themselves to have no culture to be having a crisis of cultural identity. I am (in no particular order since I don't know them) English, Irish, Welsh, Scottish, German, and 1/16 Native American. Goodness knows there could be something else thrown in there. And aside from the occasional bout of Irish pride, I really have no connection to any of these cultures. I mean aside from being catholic, celebrating St Patty's all of the Irish heritage we talk about has been vastly Americanized.
My family has a great history in this country and have been here for quite some time. My first ancestors to move over (aside from the small portion of Native American blood I have in me) were Hessian soldiers hired in the revolutionary war story goes they liked it here and decided to stay. And the rest of my family has been here for well over a century. Yet there is this part of me which feels incorrect when calling myself American.
I suppose at some point there is a statute of limitations which passes on when you can call yourselves a culture after kicking out the originals, I'm not sure if the US is old enough for that yet. Now adays it's not good enough to say you’re American, you have to be Italian American, Cuban American, and African American. And I mean that’s cool people should be proud of their cultures, and it’s good to see that traditions are kept alive in this country.
But what about the rest of us. What about the generic white people whose families moved here so long ago, and who moved in at a time where assimilating to American culture was the normal thing to do. We are at a point in history where most of us can't claim to be proud of being American, and most certainly we are not allowed to proclaim that we are proud of our own heritage.
I know it's really not my fault or my choice that I was born into such a generically white American family. Due to some work done on our family tree I am positive that none of my German ancestors (Revolutionary war Hessians, and Pennsylvania Dutch) were anywhere near the place by the time Nazi's rolled around. And no one would argue that Native Americans were the oppressed (and we also have proof that at least one of my ancestors really loved the Native Americans), and many agree that the Irish were too. But this still leads me racing back to the beginning of time in fear that there were some oppressors in my family. We have no proof to support this in any way but much of my family is from Maryland, there is a small chance that they owned slaves. And I have ancestors form England; the English oppressed a lot of people.
I am sick of feeling so guilty, and getting so defensive every time people bring up race. No one living person can take responsibility for the fact that Western Europe became the most dominant influence on the world and did a lot of messed up things. It would be absurd to put that type of pressure on people, and it would be even more absurd to hate people because of things that happened long before they were born, and that they clearly had no choice or control in.
But it's like I am in a situation where I can't be proud of who I am, I can't have any sort of cultural identity. I mean is white guilt all the culture I can manage to scrape together as an American? I feel like I am on the defensive although no one is really attacking me. I'm not ashamed of where I come from; I shouldn't have to feel that way.
It's just a weird position to be in. I kind of hate the term white but I know nothing else really works for people like me who have been so mixed. I guess what offends me is when my Jewish friends say thing in jest like "kill whitey" when their skin is just as pale as mine, or at least a similar shade to the average white person.
I don't have a culture I have a skin tone. And yes, Black people obviously have this issue as well but they have a culture to back it up they have a history that was unfortunately shaped by this fact. And yes, many white people do have a sense of cultural identity that goes far beyond this beyond this unintelligible mess I am trying to define.
I am just sick and tired of being told that I have to feel guilty about who I am. That I can't be proud to be me, that because I am an upper middle class white Christian American. I am proud of my family; I'm not going to be ashamed to come from a group of very honest and hard working people. And I hate most of all that in saying I am ok with being white that I will somehow be seen as raciest. I was born into the main stream of this country; I don't remember being given a choice about it.
I feel almost like I am part of a lost and silent generation. We were raised without the idealism of the 1950's where Americans were the good guys of the world; we were born by parents who had seen the horrors of Vietnam. Maybe if nam hadn't happened, maybe if we weren’t involved in the endless and pointless war, maybe then it would be good enough to say that I am American and leave it at that.
Sadly I don't know where this leaves me as being anything but overly guilty about things I have no control over, and being determined to stop apologizing for who I am. Even if I am one of the more privileged people in the world.
I try not to feel bad about something that was not of my choosing. Sometimes it works. In Indy, I don't run into strictly racial problems as much as I run into cultural differences and intolerance for them. I have seen some crazy stuff. At the Kroger on Tenth and Euclid: It's pretty crowded, and this white mother of three or four kids who had apparently been cast as Mexican jumping beans for the school play and wanted to make sure they practiced enough. (Point, she has a bunch of goblins and they were frazzling her.) She also had a big big purse, a diaper bag, and a baby in a carseat thing. "Excuse me," she asked the nearest person without looking, "my hand are very full, would you mind grabbing me a shopping cart?" I thought this a reasonable request, those things are hard to pull away from the other carts, and I'd been intending to offer when I was getting my own. I was about five feet away when this happened. The nearest person was a well dressed middle aged black woman. She went nuclear. "What? What the fuck did you just ask me!? I ain't your slave, bitch, I ain't some nigger to be bossed around! You want a cart, HERE!" and she shoved hers at the woman, who had to quickly move two kids so they wouldn't get hit. The lady with the kids started apologizing, saying she hadn't intended to sound that way, certainly didn't mean it that way, etc. The black lady said something to the effect of "yeah right, cunt." and stalked away. I grabbed the cart the mom had deflected and held her bags while she put the baby in. I didn't know what the hell to say, and neither did she. She thanked me, and looked like she was fighting back tears.
On the flip side.
Filing into the Murat for the Keller show this year, I got separated from the people I was with because stairs are slow torture for my knees. Any way, coming out of the stairwell, on whatever floor the Egyptian room is on, I heard: "You bitch!" (unmistakable sound of someone clearing their sinuses so they can spit, and then PTOOEY) Everyone had piped down at 'You bitch!" It wasn't the word, but the tone of voice, the way the words came out giftwrapped in maniacal hate, that got everyone's attention. I'm looking around and I see a white woman and a black woman being held back by the crowd, screeching at each other. I asked someone what had happened, and apparently the black lady had squeezed in front of the white lady as the hallway narrowed. The white lady had grabbed her, whipped her around, yelled at her, and spit an enormous batch of lung butter on her.
I am, in some strange way, ashamed of being White. I say "in some strange way" because I don't think it's appropriate to be either proud or ashamed of something that you didn't do yourself (I likewise think that it's inappropriate for anyone to be 'proud' of their ancestry). But for what it's worth, when I think about my skin color and my Anglo-Saxon ancestry, I'm embarrassed that I'm part of the oppressive ethnic majority. I don't oppress anybody, as far as I can tell, and I do my part to support counterculture and oppose unethical authority, but I still regret that my appearance immediately associates me with White Folk, the Great Satan, the Man, etc.
Sometimes, I wish that I could be of something other than White so that any success that I have can stand as a big "fuck you" to the oppressive majority. Instead, it sometimes feels like every success that I have is a big "fuck you" to the oppressed minority. "Lookat me, I'm White and successful. SUCKS TO BE YOU."