Problems with cultural pride — if you’re white.

I had intended to reblog this last weekend but was interrupted by a power outage and then (yay fibro brain!) kept forgetting to go back to it. Thank the gods, my daughter and her boyfriend got through the march safely, and I’m proud of her for going. Jo neglected to mention (I think?), but my daughter is of mixed race, and this is one reason why my own privilege is often invisible to me. While she was growing up, I lived in one of the most racially divided cities in the US (Philadelphia), and was married to a black man, her father. So I became used to being “othered” right along with them–treated more or less as though I too were black (at least when in their company). Even beyond that, my adoptive father was black, and I only found out I was adopted at the age of 18 (he was light-skinned, but even so, yes, I know it should have been obvious; I was a kid, what can I say?) So growing up, I didn’t think of myself as “white,” per se, despite the white face I saw in the mirror. But the fact that my privilege has remained largely invisible to me for most of my life doesn’t mean it isn’t there, or that it doesn’t need to be examined. When I found out that I was adopted I also learned that I most likely have English and Scandinavian heritage through my birth parents. Am I proud of that? Hell, yeah. And I don’t think being proud of it is wrong. However, any kind of cultural pride on the part of white people like myself needs to be handled with extreme sensitivity, recognizing that yes, we DO bear responsibility for the deeds of our ancestors, just as we bear their genes.

Strip Me Back To The Bone

As I write this, Beth’s daughter (again, my not-quite-step-daughter) is in NYC taking part of the protests going on there. I’ve got various news sites running in the background. I’ve touched base with her before the march began, and I’ve been up and down all night, sick to my stomach with worry. She’s with her boyfriend, whom we haven’t met, and whose skin color I do not know. I found myself torn between hoping she was with him — because the idea of her being with a man potentially provides her additional security that being with a bunch of girlfriends may not provide — and hoping she wasn’t — because what sort of attention may she receive if she’s with a black man? We are proud that she’s involving herself with these very important protests, but I still want to curl up and cry, I still want to vomit, I’m…

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2 thoughts on “Problems with cultural pride — if you’re white.

  1. I respectfully disagree that we bear the responsibility for our ancestors actions. If so, then I, a 25 year old broke artist and writer, should be honor bound to make reparations for things my ancestors did. And they got up to some awful stuff. Some of my ancestors were Scottish highland rebels, others were Vikings. Many of those Vikings were of the “raping-pillaging-plundering” persuasion. Now how do I make amends for actions that occurred decades to centuries before my parents were even born? Or my grandparents?

    Awareness of the faults of those who came before us is our moral obligation, but things that have occurred before our time is not our concern. By being aware of the sins of our ancestors, we can promise to be better and more honorable than that. But we can do no more than that. We have nothing to offer those who suffered under racial and social intolerances in the pre-Civil Rights era than a solemn promise to do better by their remembered suffering, and to avoid mistreating anyone, regardless of race or religion, that way ever again.

    We make our reparations with a promise, an honored vow.

    And then we let the ghosts of the past stay there, undisturbed, where they can rest, and let the Gods sort out everything else.

    • Thank you for the thoughtful comment! I think we are saying very close to the same thing, in slightly different ways. I don’t think either Jo (the author of the original post that I reblogged) or I meant that you personally (or any single person) is responsible for singlehandedly righting the wrongs of the past. But orlog (the layers set down in the past by those who have come before us) helps to shape both who we are and the world we live in. It is, as you say, our responsibility to bear that, and to do the best we can to act with more conscience going forward into the future. Awareness is the key, and it sounds like you have that.

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