White Pride, Melting Pot, Hold the Phone

Photo by Henrique Oli on Unsplash

One crux of the culture and knowledge gap between white people who understand race and race issues differently, is the undercurrent of individualizing racism vs. systemizing racism. But another crux is the ability of one white person/community of white people to experience white pride, and the inability of the other white person/community of white people to experience white pride. That second one is a generalization, super complicated, and extremely taboo, but bear with me.

When these two cruxes of mental-experiential disconnect come to a head, that’s where we start seeing arguments about how, “All of this change POC are demanding is just going to make white people marginalized.”

Whoooooosh. Deep breaths. I know. Bear with me.

In one perception of reality, of course, there’s this completely objectively false conclusion that any form of reparations for black people are somehow at the expense of white people and will further exacerbate a weird imaginary version of (non existent) inequality, or render a weird imaginary version of (non existent) equality, unequal. There’s a lot of dissonance there — truly astounding levels of mental gymnastics. In the other perception of reality (i.e. systemic racism/racism exists), there tends to be hyper-identification with what is commonly called “white guilt.”

I should know, because I have a shit ton of internalized distaste for white people/my own culture (or lack thereof). I also find cultural appropriation distasteful. I also cling to whiteness, and attempt to “do whiteness right” and correct the past by “doing what my ancestors forgot how to do, or didn’t know how to do properly.”

My affinity for white Christian mommy vloggers and very near foray into the intellectual dark web was, in part, compelled by my desire to “do whiteness right.” Now we’re in the territory of intergenerational trauma and family dysfunction. Bear with me.

Okay, actually…hold the phone. Back it up.

So, what do I mean when I say I long to “do whiteness right?” I mean, the deeper you go into whiteness as a social-cultural-spiritual phenomenon, the more you expose the void and dysfunction. The void is the “orphan mindset” or “orphan culture” that white people often embody, especially in the United States. The melting pot plus the youthfulness of this country means most of us experience cultural orphaning in a mere one to two generations, if it didn’t happen long, long, long before then.

On my father’s side, my great-grandparents were immigrants who spoke fluent Italian. I know exactly zero Italian and have little to no identification with Italian culture. On my mother’s side, my great-grandparent’s generation are longtime Kentuckian farmers. I don’t even know how to garden. This experience of cultural annihilation is common for white people in the U.S. With each generation it becomes more pronounced. My kids have even less connection with my cultural roots than I do, and they have their father’s genes further complicating (diluting?) the legacy.

And that’s just culture. Consider the way white people relate (don’t relate) to our own sex organs. Consider the way white people relate (don’t relate) to materialism. Consider the way white people relate (don’t relate) to creativity and thrival. Consider the way white people relate (don’t relate) to land, space, place. Consider the way white people relate (don’t relate) to sanctity and spirit and realms beyond the veil.

We have nothing. Which is why, despite having access to everything, we feel like we’re starving. There is a difference between abundance and excess. And lest we forget: most white people still come from peasant stock, and that poverty haunts us in our DNA and our upbringing.

The melting pot is an American mythology that people rightfully point out is (or is in close relationship to) assimilation, which people rightfully point out is problematic. But the melting pot mythology is also a manifestation of the relationship white people have to our “non-culture.” The idea that whiteness is a “non-culture” comes with its own set of problems. But bear with me.

Whiteness is a culture, but anything tender and real and still standing, becomes representative and mass produced the moment it’s touched or absorbed by consumer culture. If whiteness were in illness, it would be consumption. If whiteness is not an illness, can we remember what that would look like?

I was raised in white middle class suburban America, where the name of the game was disillusionment. Folks were disillusioned from their church, their politics, and their grocery store chains, but they didn’t know it and so they continued to go through the motions. Consider the way most white people who call themselves “Christian” have never read the Bible. This empty facade of doing whiteness makes no promises of fulfillment.

Photo by Robin Schreiner on Unsplash

One non-solution for this problem is cultural appropriation at worst, and sort of cultural adoption/creative collaboration at best. Our maps are incomplete, other peoples in/of the world have the pieces of the map we need. So we use their cultures to fill the void; their yoga, their rap music, their kundalini exercises, their personal style, their prayerfulness whatever. The other non-solution for this problem, is the quest to “do whiteness right.” Ah. We have returned.

If the problem with whiteness is that it is performative non-culture, doing whiteness “right” looks like finding actual faith in god through an actual devotion to religious philosophy. It looks like striving to achieve in academia and workforce, a beguiling devotion to personal responsibility. It looks like lifestyle puritanicalism; vegan plant based detox smoothie paleo boom ra ra. It looks like minimalism, or a great revival of Judeo-Christian family values. It looks like New Age gender essentialism, or radical identity politics. All of it is reaching, reaching, reaching for the Motherland.

Many of my deep red Appalachian neighbors have something my suburban middle class college educated half Italian white girl self does not: white pride. I have something they don’t: white guilt. It’s a group-to-group codependency. Each group of white people carries what the other cannot, will not contend with. Some of us say, “Yes. Give us the white guilt. We know how to hate ourselves. We’ll do that.” Some of us say, “We will not relinquish pride in our people. We’re not all bad and no other group is all good. We get a place at the table.”

Look, I don’t know what I’m talking about. As per usual. But I think I’m onto something. Because after over a decade of knowing how racist I am, I can no longer rely on hating my whiteness to make some kind of contribution to well being or social progress. I need to not hate myself. I need a clean break from the hyper vigilance and the puritanicalism and the false achievement. And I don’t think I’m the only white person who feels this way.

So can I find a kind of white pride that does not entail dissociation from racism, scarcity mindset, the effects of colonization, the destruction of the earth? I believe I can. But I can’t yet remember what that feels like. Can you?

Mystic housewife. Memetically queer. Reluctantly human. Purveyor of the Ancient Pussy Goddess.