Monday, December 21, 2009

wish they were "ethnic"

This is a guest post for swpd by Izumi Bayani, who writes of himself, "I identify as a straight male who is 100% Japanese and 100% White and I am 25% deaf. Izumi is my middle name and Bayani is a word in Tagalog and Persian for 'Heroes of the people' and 'the Word' respectively."


The other day at work, one of my co-workers who identifies as a white woman (and implicitly straight and able) asks me "what are you?" I fend this question off, but eventually I reveal that my father is a white guy who was born and raised in Illinois and my mother was born and raised in Japan. As I fend off more predictable qualifying questions that focus on what makes me different ("yes I can speak it, yes we eat sushi at home sometimes," etc.), questions that consequentially ignore my whiteness, my co-worker finally ends her line of questioning with, "I wish I was ethnic."

This wasn't the first or the last time I've heard someone say this, and I don't think I have ever experienced anyone other than a white person say it. Most people of color don't have any reason to say it.

I remember when I first heard someone wish they were ethnic as a kid, and I was blown away. Based on my experiences, I couldn't understand why anyone who had it so good being normal, blending in, would want to give that away and become singled out, picked on, and labeled an Other.

I think what most white people mean when they say they want to be "ethnic" is that they want culture. In turn, this implies that white people think they don't have culture. So I started to try and identify what white culture is, and it is really, really difficult to even begin. I think that’s because I'm a victim of its invisibility. Although I live in America and see, feel, and experience white culture on a daily basis, I still can't define it. At the same time, I don't feel like I'm included in this culture because I am of mixed race.

This invisibility of culture in America leaves some white people feeling empty. And many conclude that since their family doesn't eat with chopsticks or take their shoes off at the door, it's a boring family. But the fact that they don't specify, "I wish I was Japanese," and instead say "ethnic," tells me that really it's "I wish I was anything but white."

I think what really puts me off when I hear this common white wish is how it's loaded with privilege. White people don't have the first damn clue what people from "other" cultures go through in the United States. They just want the "cool stuff" without recognizing the daily strain of being an Other. Statements such as "I wish I was ethnic" make it painfully obvious how unaware this culture is to the experiences of those who don't fit.

"I wish I was ethnic" makes me feel like I'm at a museum, where people walk by and go, "How cool is that? Can you imagine getting A's in school all the time?" "I wish I was ethnic" has such a voyeuristic feel to it.

In addition, I think it's reflective of white people's relative freedom to define themselves as individuals, to come up with their own identity. When I reveal that I am Japanese (read: Asian), I feel like who I am to other people are the stereotypes associated with it. When I see a Black man on campus, I have to fight off the assumption that he plays football or basketball. When I see a Latina, I fight off the assumption that she's a mother. When I see a white person, I don't think twice, which gives them the opportunity to be who they are, since there aren't any assumptions that I make right off the bat. So really, only white people can say "I wish I was ethnic" and have it make sense.

I was just wondering, am I way off base here? Am I looking too much into this? It'd be great to have some outside input.

102 comments:

  1. no, you're not looking too much into this. I've had comments like that from white people who said they wish they were Indian because "Indian culture is so romantic and exotic" which quite frankly, makes me angry.

    I don't wanna go off into a rant about how it's hard being Indian and the cultural barriers in my community (especially being Deaf, when many Indians look down at me), it's hard to meet other Indians with similar interests as mine, etc, etc...

    it makes me angry when white people say they don't have a culture. of course they do!

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  2. I think what really puts me off when I hear this common white wish is how it's loaded with privilege. White people don't have the first damn clue what people from "other" cultures go through in the United States. They just want the "cool stuff" without recognizing the daily strain of being an Other. Statements such as "I wish I was ethnic" make it painfully obvious how unaware this culture is to the experiences of those who don't fit.

    You are not off base as all. As a person of color who was adopted by a white family into a stiflingly white community, I'd say you landed smack dab on the nail's head, twice even!

    I'd like to add that some "enlightened" whites may be well aware of the pain and suffering of people of color on an intellectual level, BUT - not being able to truly experience this for themselves - they glamorize this oppression. Some white people not only wish to appropriate "exotic" and "hip" cultures, but also to claim our "oppression" in an absurdly shallow wish for profundity and denial of white privilege.

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  3. I just found your blog today and found it very interesting to read. I am a “white” female that actually also gets asked what she is all the time, because somehow I look like I have something “brown” in me. I can see how that would get a little annoying, but not so much to make me mad, I think people are just curious, and it’s a lame conversation starter. I like many white people are about 5 different things: German, Irish, Spanish, polish, welsh, and something else I can’t even remember which all amounts to being white. I am so fragmented that I have no idea really what cultural traditions I might have spawned from…so to me I am just American who grew up on mac and cheese with hotdogs. I assume a lot white people feel similar to me in the sense that our ethnicity has been so diluted you almost feel void of a past beyond your immediate family. You ask some white people what they are and it’s often a long list of crazy places that means nothing to anyone. I mean really what the hell does being “welsh” mean…nobody knows. I have a few friends who are very rich in their culture, be it Italian, Greek, Japanese, etc and I do somewhat envy the warm sense of oneness they seem to enjoy through a rich tradition of food, celebration, and language that has been past down to them from generations past. I feel like they have a story with roots.

    So maybe to give you an answer, your friend might just be wanting, “to be ethnic” because she wants to feel like she has a history. I see how you were offended but give her a little slack, i don't think she meant it as an insult:)

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  4. You've got it right.

    The cultural void some white people feel is sincere. Contemporary white culture in America probably has many origins: Settler colonialism, Christianity, slavery, consumer capitalism, multicultural liberal democracy. (A cliche litany.)

    "Other" culture is marketed heavily in white culture. Maybe it appears swappable (like a commodity), but that's just a fantasy.

    Have you ever confronted someone about it? I would try to talk to them about their culture instead of yours.

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  5. I was just wondering, am I way off base here? Am I looking too much into this?

    You're not crazy.

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  6. Brother,
    was linked to your page by videos on actingwhite.com
    My children are mixed race and while we are doing our best to raise them with full awareness and appreciation of their 3 identities, it's clear that they are in for a challenge.
    What annoys me beyond belief is when people assume that someone defined as American is a white person. Anyone "else" requires more description: black, Asian, native. While I understand the advantage of celebrating each of our otherness with these hyphenated identities, it drives me crazy.

    Then, I had to chuckle at taking it too seriously when my daughter asked if her dad is from a place called Caucasia :)

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  7. Ok, white culture ? Thats a loaded word. Its far to broad since it counts nearly every nationality that white people descend from. Thats the main reason that many 'white' people have no idea what thier culture is, they dont know thier own family backgrounds and what they are about.

    The reason behind that is simple, were all americanized. Most white people's ancestors came here during the 1800's and stopped around 1910...So most of us are mixed italian/german/irish etc, and our old grandparents who 'knew' Irish culture, or Italian...are long dead. So we have our vanilla american culture for white people since thats all were exposed to - for better or worse.

    So...easy answer about American white culture = mainstream American culture. Black americans fit into that to since they've been here for a hell of a long time.

    Recent arrivals like Japanese, chinese, Mexicans...different story. Most of them know people who are from thier home countries, so seeing what thier culture is about is easy.

    Bottomline is 'the melting pot' worked 100% on immigrants in the past, white ones for sure. And why we promote multi-culturalism instead is a better question.

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  8. If you look biologically at what "whiteness" truly is , there should be no surprise at the comment "I wish I was ethnic"

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  9. I love it when White Americans claim they have no culture when that culture kicks PoC in the ass DAILY.

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  10. ktb:

    I assume a lot white people feel similar to me in the sense that our ethnicity has been so diluted you almost feel void of a past beyond your immediate family.

    Hint: That might have something to do with a culture that prizes the individual and nuclear family above all other forms of personal relationship, and a general lack of connection to, or interest in, our history at any larger scale of society (except in the most abstract senses). I will go out on a limb here and suggest this attitude is borne at least in part of the peculiar degree of privilege and insularity we've been able to afford due to our very exploitative, abusive history.

    You ask some white people what they are and it’s often a long list of crazy places that means nothing to anyone.

    You know that there are real people in these "crazy places", right? And that these places mean quite a bit to the people there? See above.

    I mean really what the hell does being “welsh” mean…nobody knows.

    Try saying that in the streets of Cardiff, eh?

    I'm part Welsh myself, and while the family has been assimilated Euro-Americans for an awfully long time, I know what it means because I know how to ask questions and use a bloody map or an encyclopedia. Ignorance of the world does not translate to irrelevance of same. I mean, you live in an age where you can Google this stuff.

    Acknowledging your own cluelessness is fine and a great first step, but insisting on the weight of your own opinions on a topic you're self-admittedly ignorant about doesn't give you a lot of credibility.

    I do somewhat envy the warm sense of oneness they seem to enjoy through a rich tradition of food, celebration, and language that has been past down to them from generations past.

    Hamburgers. Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's. English. These are a few examples of your traditions and the things that have been handed down to you by your culture. Being white American doesn't make you a blank slate. You just see it as "normal", hence not worth remarking on.


    I like many white people are about 5 different things: German, Irish, Spanish, polish, welsh, and something else I can’t even remember which all amounts to being white.

    Actually, being given white privilege has a lot more to do with it, since race is a social construct. And that can be independent of ancestry, since it has more to do with culture and a superficial reading of skin color.

    I am so fragmented that I have no idea really what cultural traditions I might have spawned from…so to me I am just American who grew up on mac and cheese with hotdogs. I feel like they have a story with roots.

    Mac and cheese with hotdogs may seem bland and mundane to you, but there's your roots. If you find it hollow or depressing, concentrate on how you can enrich or redefine your own culture rather than wishing for, or trying to claim, somebody else's.

    I see how you were offended but give her a little slack, i don't think she meant it as an insult:)

    What she meant doesn't change what she did. Actions have consequences that can't be erased by stating or speculating on intentions. What the friend did was callous, racist, Othering and hurtful. That she did it out of a feeling that her own culture and history were hollow or boring does not change that.

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  11. Great post!

    Victor, what the hell are you talking about?

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  12. thank you Samantha for addressing ktb

    and to ktb, please go back and reread the original post

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  13. I love it when White Americans claim they have no culture when that culture kicks PoC in the ass DAILY.

    Hahaha, THIS.

    "White culture" is a culture of oppression, end of story. This is NOT to say that all people with white privilege come from blanketly oppressive cultures. 'Whiteness' and say, Welsh-iness, are not the same things.

    So do yourself a favor ktb - check your privilege (and the Mabinogion while you're at it, it's great stuff) and don't tell a person of color that they should give ignorant white people "a little slack."

    The rest of you may be interested in this awesome article titled "For All Those Who Were Indian In A Former Life" by a Cherokee woman named Andy Smith:

    ...white women seem determined NOT to look into their own cultures for sources of strength. This is puzzling, since pre-Christian European cultures are also earth-based and contain many of the same elements that white are ostensibly looking for in Native American cultures. This phenomenon leads me to suspect that there is a more insidious motive for white “feminists” latching onto Indian spirituality.

    When white “feminists” see how white people have historically oppressed others and how they are coming to very close to destroying the earth, they often want to dissociate themselves from their whiteness. They do this by opting to “become Indian.” In this way, they can escape responsibility and accountability for white racism.

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  14. "When I see a Black man on campus, I have to fight off the assumption that he plays football or basketball. When I see a Latina, I fight off the assumption that she's a mother. When I see a white person, I don't think twice, which gives them the opportunity to be who they are, since there aren't any assumptions that I make right off the bat."

    Who has to fight off the assumption that someone plays football or basketball? Too bad that bothered me. I think it is strange that people continue to consistently enforce stereotypes. I like to think that people are slowly letting stereotypes die but then I read things like that from the perspective of an individual who has experienced life as an "other" in a world of white and I become discouraged.

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  15. I remember the first time I heard someone say that. I was a senior in high school and we were beginning to receive college acceptance letters. All my white classmates began blaming their "lack" of ethnicity for their denial to some schools.

    You hit the nail on the head, Izumi, when you say this statement is loaded with privilege. They do want all the "cool" stuff associated with ethnicity and none of the bullshit. It's crazy -- they want to blend in when they want to blend in, and stand out when they want to stand out. It doesn't work that way.

    Truth is, they only wish that occasionally; the average unaware white person loves his/her privilege. They don't know not to.

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  16. not off base at all. I'm a white cis, able-bodied straight womyn. I've heard it from other white people, and seen the co-option of the "exotic" culture by way of costumes and condescension.

    just recently I was reading some white "ally" say "but it's so much easier to be a black lesbian woman or something, because you can recognize systems of oppression much easier. it's so hard for white straight guys to see it. it takes a lot more effort to get involved in the work"

    (I'm paraphrasing because I can't find the post now.)

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  17. Samantha, I agree with a lot of what you said, and I will apologize for some things. I do however feel a little misunderstood as well:

    I completely agree that our culture prizes the individual, and is a poduct of our exploitive and abusive history.

    You are also right I should not have said, “crazy places”. That was me just being stupid and sort of taking on the feeling I get when I tell people this long grocery list of places I am from. I imagine them saying in their head, "oh geez get on with it, sorry I asked". That was inconsiderate of me, and I will take that statement back.

    As far as how ignorant I am I do know where Wales is on a map, I know its basic history and about its celtic orgins but I guess what I was trying to say is that while I may know about the history as it is told in books I do not know the soul of the places that I have lineage from. My mother knows no stories, no recipies from passed down generations, she knows nothing...and I wish she did . Not many people even know what laverbread and cockles are. I am pretty sure however that these generation of long ago that I came from did not eat mac and cheese and hamburgers... which you say is my culture. When one is a fourth this and an eigth that sometimes you lose data, just as if you copy an original image over and over in a machine...it fades more everytime you copy it.

    I would love to say to my children, "oh yes this Colcannon is a traditional Irish meal that your great great great grandmother made...this is her story" but I can't because I do not know her story, I do not even know her name. I am not saying I want to adopt your culture I am saying that it would be nice to know more about the stories of my own that are lost.

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  18. just recently I was reading some white "ally" say "but it's so much easier to be a black lesbian woman or something, because you can recognize systems of oppression much easier. it's so hard for white straight guys to see it. it takes a lot more effort to get involved in the work"

    This almost gave me an aneurysm.

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  19. I agree, I too see this a lot on my predominantly White (only 2% Black) elite college campus. A WOC group I'm in hosted a forum on diversity on campus (it's sorely lacking), and one of my fellow club officers (a Black girl) remarked how it's interesting that White students come out in droves for out "Asian" and "Latino" cultural shows, but hardly any come to the "Black" talent showcase. I told her that I don't think the disparity is a sign of acceptance of those groups, but rather, the White students see "Asian Allure" and "Latin Expressions" and think "Ooh, exotic!" I think the museum analogy was dead-on...it's definitely annoying, though I have to let out a sardonic chuckle when I realize how popular all of us Black folk are on Friday and Saturday nights.

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  20. Yeah, I've heard the "I wish I was black" or "I wish I had your skin tone" comments. But, I usually give them a verbal smack down once I reply with "So, you want the discrimination and hatred that goes with it, too, huh?"

    I usually get the deer caught in a headlight look.

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  21. No, you're not off base. I understand completely. I remember reading an article of a SF site about a dispute between a producer and a writer/direction, who made a character on a popular Scifi show black. The producer was agitated because, according to him, the script didn't say the character was black, therefore he's white. The point was simple: whites have no race; they're normal. Everyone else has race, and is abnormal by default. We should always assume a person is white if no race is listed next to their description. It's a part of white privilege, to be individual.

    Whites don't get it when you call them ethnic; they think it's a term reserved for non-whites, and specifically, non Anglo-Saxon American whites. But, they're just as ethnic as everyone else. They just live in a society that normalizes their whiteness.

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  22. Drop a European-American person off in Saudi Arabia for a month and see if they still think they lack culture. It all depends on when and where you percieve things. Likewise, im sure a Japanese person in Japan finds other cultures exotic. Doesnt take one long to notice that most Japanese anime characters are full out Blonde blue eyed Caucasians. Exotic to them ? Yes.

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  23. *cringe*

    I am afraid I have been guilty of a version of this. I have been asked a lot (by whites and POCs incidentally) what my ethnic background is, and specifically if I have any Chinese ancestry, because my eyelids and some other stuff about the way I look looks a bit Chinese. To which I reply, "Nope, just a bunch of boring white people."

    I don't think I would ever say to a POC that I wished I was whatever ethnicity they are (or just "ethnic"), that seems a bit weird, but to be totally honest being descended from a bunch of the same type of people as I am just seems boring to me. Even my Norwegian ancestry is a little more interesting to me than the rest which are pretty much a sampling of Western Europe including the UK, and I have no tangible connection to any of those cultures.

    I think another commenter said that white culture is invisible to white people because we are inside it, and I think that is very true... I have become more aware since moving from Australia to America because there are differences between white American culture and white Australian culture.

    Oh well, this is why I read sites like this, it makes me think and consider these things!!!

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  24. Doesnt take one long to notice that most Japanese anime characters are full out Blonde blue eyed Caucasians. Exotic to them ? Yes.

    Minkus, you have an extremely superficial and white privileged view of anime. FFS, Sailor Moon is NOT representative the entire nation's approach to animation. Go to Racebending.com and educate yourself.

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  25. Thank you so much for writing this. I am white and have several white friends who say this kind of crap all the time. I could almost print this out and hav them read it- it so concisely diagnoses the problems with these comments! Thanks again.

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  26. Black Americans have been trying to fit into white mainstream culture since the abolition of slavery. We straighten our hair... lighten our skin by means of creams and ointments. We learned to sing their songs, spoke the King’s English; sometimes more eloquently than they could, but to no avail. There is a uniquely black taint to the things we identify with. The mainstream image of “The girl next door,” has never referred to a black woman.

    We are not looked on as Normal nor are we accepted as true blue, red-blooded Americans. The whole tea-bagger uproar was about Obama being anything other than American. Its why some whites find it difficult to accept Michelle Obama as equally intelligent, and capable in her own right; finding it easier to focus on her body-type and what she wears. The writer on this blog sums up the Michelle dilemma very well..
    http://wearerespectablenegroes.blogspot.com/2009/04/zora-says-what-america-really-wants-is.html“
    I have always said that racism is about the power to define and to other. The focus on Michelle Obama's appearance is a last ditch effort on the part of some to assert power over her, to sum up her worthiness on the basis of her looks. It is taboo to openly talk about her race, so they resort to focusing on the loud colors, the "big Butt," the "massive arms," etc.”

    She and other black females certainly do not fit into the white mainstream’s idea of beauty. I remember reading comments on sites such as TMC and other forums when the topic of Serena Williams would come up. Her uniquely black body-type was always the subject of derision and disdain. A big butt on a black woman is as normal to us blacks, as is our big lips and kinky hair. White people (in the privacy of their own homes) referred to Serena as a Hottentot and wrote how disgusting her big butt was. When we blacks accrue a little money we move to the suburbs to live in exclusively white neighborhoods, trying to fit in. The ones who aren’t doing that are bleaching their skin and dying their hair blond, desperately trying to fit into the mainstream.

    Has anyone seen Lil Kim lately? She’s ten shades lighter, and talks like a valley girl. We do this even when we know in our heart of hearts whites may not accept us, no mater how many hoops we jump through. Whites remind us every time a white woman/child goes missing, that we are different and less valuable than they are. When our presence threatens to disrupt the complexion of something that has been exclusively white for so long, whites find it easy to tell us we are not mainstream.

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  27. The statement "I wish I was ethnic" reflects a yearning for a family history, a sense of "roots", a feeling of purpose, and a sense of connectedness that many people in the united states simply don't feel. They are, really, less privileged.

    That's what explains the popularity of movies like "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" or even ones like "The Gangs of New York."

    Granted, you can point out that the actual experience of "being ethnic" has its pluses and minuses that people on the outside aren't going to see, but when someone says "I wish I was ethnic," I don't think, "Oh yeah??? You don't know how good you have it, you privileged ignoramus!"; I think, "Yeah, the USA does kind of beat down anyone who doesn't have a strong sense of identity to fall back on."

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  28. May I ask the Black American readers here (whose family have been in the US for generations and do not know which African countries their ancestors are from) whether they also feel as though they 'lack culture' or "void of a past" or have a "cultural void" or it's "boring" to be black?

    I'm guessing no (but correct me if I'm wrong). And if the answer is no, then that would make void the whole argument that white people 'lack culture' because it's a melting pot and they're not in touch with their roots, etc etc. There must be something more to it (e.g. something to do with the privilege they live with).

    Btw, the times when I've heard white people say they wish they were ethnic or some other version of that, usually it came off as patronizing.

    One time a Eurasian Australian was telling a group of white Australians how tiring it was being asked 'What are you?' or 'Where are you from?' all the time. The white Australians tried to explain that people are genuinely interested and feel as though it's more interesting than to be just white. The girl responded, "But people ask me that practically everyday." I'm not sure if the literal meaning of the word "everyday" or how tiring that can be registered in any of their minds that evening.

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  29. I think it is just that we are all attracted by what is exotic, just like Minkus said.

    Sadly, I have to say that I have had these thoughts before. When I was younger, a child, I wished I had some interesting background. Asian, Italian, African; anything like that. I felt like all of my roots had vanished and I had no ancestors beyond my grandparents, because no one ever talked about our heritage. But after some research, I found that my past is actually a bit interesting. On my dad's side, my ancestors were French huguenots. On my mom's side, we are of one of the largest and most powerful Highland Scottish clans.

    I think if people did a bit more research on their family name, they wouldn't be so disappointed about being "a plain old white person".

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  30. Hell no, you're not looking too deeply.

    I have an olive complexion and dark hair and eyes. My white friend at work, who is of much lighter complexion, told me once that "it must be so cool to be part hispanic, you get that natural tan!"

    It's like skin color and other "neat" little things are all they identify in their lives as having culture. This may in fact be the reason why they don't see that they have culture. So much of what they do may be so "everyday" on the surface where they're fixated on that they don't see the underlinings, much like the POC.

    Just a thought.

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  31. I thought this was a great post and was glad to hear the "ethnic view point" from someone who can relate. I am a Black female and absolutely HATE when people ask me dreaded "What are you?" I don't think it's so much about my physical appearance as it is my mannerisms and the way I speak.
    BTW I'm brown skinned with wavy hair, thin build. I was raised in a suburban neighborhood where the majority of people were white, went to majority white schools, and got used to being the "token". Recently while on vacation, I was having a conversation with who I assumed to be a nice white guy until he asked the "dreaded question". He seemed disappointed in my answer when I told him I was simply a Black woman living in America. Then he proceeded to "compliment" me by saying "...Oh, well I thought you might be something else. You're not like REGULAR Black". WTF is "REGULAR BLACK!?

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  32. There is something really, really inside out when white people start complaining about how they have lost the chance to connect with their ancestors and country of origin, while talking about all the wonderful connections that black Americans have with theirs.

    Why does it have to be your biological progenitors who handed down the recipe/song/tradition? Maybe we could all take a hint from the African cultures that consider "ancestor" to be any celebrated former member of the community rather than limiting it to one's genetic heritage?

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  33. "May I ask the Black American readers here (whose family have been in the US for generations and do not know which African countries their ancestors are from) whether they also feel as though they 'lack culture' or "void of a past" or have a "cultural void" or it's "boring" to be black?"

    Personally- I’m never bored being black: Every day, I’m constantly being reminded by media messages that because of my blackness, I am brimming with culture. Every year since the late 60’s where I hail from we celebrate black culture by sponsoring a Black Cultural Parade. There are dancers- drill teams, singers and performers’ various Art displays; along with the spoken word in a kind of historical affirmation. It’s a big event in the black community and a mild curiosity for the local white media. “Mildly curious” as in, they never show up to spend time with the locals; examining the rich cultural traditions of black folk in the inner city. What you would see on the local news was a brief- fleeting piece highlighting the day’s event. No local white anchor was ever present; it was usually relegated to a black news reporter when one was available. Now mind you, my city is 40 percent black. In contrast, when the Italian Festival would roll around- or Greek Fest, or the Local Fair; which celebrated rural/suburban tradition and culture, whites turned out in droves. All three television stations will assign reporters as ambassadors to the community. Most reported their entire newscast from special booths set up on the grounds, including the weather and local events. Prominent local white officials, sponsors and activists in the community would be interviewed.

    There were segments celebrating Italian foods, culture and traditions, including music and dance; costumes and customs highlighting the rich heritage of the Italian people. The anchors would stay for the entire run of the festivals. But for us blacks, we just got a one minute report on the local news and a small picture in the local paper. So how can it be boring when whites seem to go out of their way to ignore you? I love the black cultural tradition including R&B, Funk, African cuisine and traditions; Hip Hop, African-Modern Dance and innovation. Jazz- Swing, the Lindy Hop, Boogie-Woogie, Scat, The Blues, Gospel-and Church worship. This also includes Kwanzaa, Ragtime, the spoken word; not just rap, poetry, and the like. Watch as a group of little girls performs a rendition of Little Sally Saucer; knowing this little pastime goes all the way back to the plantation is inspiring.

    Because most of these traditions are home-grown, and that is to say, spawned in the United States; it renders these celebrations just as American as any other festival celebrated within these borders. We have found comfort in culture when whites have spent years either ignoring that culture and its significance or as with slavery; actively seeking to snuff it out. How can it be boring to be black when white culture reminds you that you're black every day of your life? Every time whites go out of their way to present themselves as normal, its telling me how black I am. I think "Black Culture, and Beauty" is our answer to being buffeted by white culture every day. Hope that makes sense...

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  34. "Doesnt take one long to notice that most Japanese anime characters are full out Blonde blue eyed Caucasians. Exotic to them ? Yes."--Minkus

    Having lived as a Latina in Japan, I can tell you that while the Japanese are as fascinated by The Exoticized Other as we Americans are, this is not the reason why anime characters are caucasian looking. I read, while living in Tokyo, an interview with Miyazaki Hayao who when asked why so many anime characters are blonde haired and blue eyed, "It's because the Japanese hate their own faces."

    I think the same can be said of whites who fetishize (what they imagine it is like to be a) person of color.

    Despite the privileges, it must be truly lonely and awful to be white. I imagine that it's like a sickness that infects one's soul and from which one can never recover.

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  35. ktb:

    but I guess what I was trying to say is that while I may know about the history as it is told in books I do not know the soul of the places that I have lineage from.

    And I can certainly understand how alienating and frustrating that is -- every one of my own (recent) ancestries that I know about gives me pause to bring up; the European ones because despite how pedestrian it seems to be in the US to have German or Welsh or English ancestry, I've never been to any of those countries and don't feel more than a token connection with them; and the Native one because I clearly receive white privilege and wouldn't be taken as anything else by most people (and am generally sensitive about the whole "grandma was a Cherokee princess" phenomenon).

    It's awkward as hell in some ways when you don't necessarily want the privilege to ignore, hide, or refuse to disclose your ethnicity -- but that in itself is also a privilege. Maybe not one you asked for or want, but not one you can disown simply because it's uncomfortable.

    Here in the US, a black man who moved from Ethiopia a week ago and a black man whose ancestors were enslaved centuries ago both can expect a certain amount of grief from whites and the institutions we control, fine details of heritage be damned. Whereas not only can I conceal or fabricate the details of my white ancestry (and expect not to be found out), but I'm also unlikely to ever be in a situation where my job, my future, my finances, my health or my life ever depend on it.

    So really, the awkward conclusion I've come to is that I have to own a fairly disconnected, somewhat soulless heritage. Although given a portion of that heritage is English, one could argue that's fitting. ;p

    My mother knows no stories, no recipies from passed down generations, she knows nothing...and I wish she did

    Sucks, doesn't it?

    Not many people even know what laverbread and cockles are. I am pretty sure however that these generation of long ago that I came from did not eat mac and cheese and hamburgers... which you say is my culture.

    Insofar as it's a facet of American culture generally (particularly but not only white American culture), and the fact that these foods and practices seem utterly straightforward and normal, even pedestrian and unremarkable, is entirely because it's just a part of our culture.

    When one is a fourth this and an eigth that sometimes you lose data, just as if you copy an original image over and over in a machine...it fades more everytime you copy it.

    Well, we all have missing data anyway. Do you have any idea who your great-to-the-5th grandparents were?

    I would love to say to my children, "oh yes this Colcannon is a traditional Irish meal that your great great great grandmother made...this is her story" but I can't because I do not know her story, I do not even know her name.

    Given you can't do that straightforward and honestly, why not try introducing it with something you can say honestly?

    "This Colcannon is a traditional Irish meal that plenty of your ancestors made, going way back all this time. It's a part of how you got here."

    These are gaps you can choose to fill in, to varying degrees. You can provide that link for your children, you can encourage them to know and care -- at least to the extent that you yourself know and care.

    I am not saying I want to adopt your culture I am saying that it would be nice to know more about the stories of my own that are lost.

    Crack open the Mabinogion, or a decent history. Do some geneaology. Ask your parents, and your grandparents if they're alive, for all the details they can remember. See if your local library has genealogical records for your area. Google things. You may not be able to know all the details, but you can paint a reasonably-clear picture in many cases.

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  36. I hate how the word ethnic has become a euphemism for none white, Everyone has a ethnicity. But in this world the default human being is a white person they are raceless so when somebody says picture a American the fisrt image in their mind is a white man.

    The whole white culture thing is funny remeber that guy who said Obama hates white culture and he himself couldn't define what white culture is.

    It is because white is a race if he said white American culture than maybe he wouldn't have sounded so stupid. It's like when people tell me how much they love black culture, well which part the afro carribean, afro lation, african american or african and of course there are so many countries that differ not everyone knows about african american soul food.


    Also people get Race, Ethncity and Nationality mixed up when it's so simple I will use my self as an example

    Race-Black
    Ethnicty-Nigerian (yoruba)
    Nationality-British

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  37. Interesting how a thread on how non-whites are otherized & exoticized devolved into assuaging the feelings of yet another white chick who feels bad because she has no culture.

    Not only do we end up doing the thinking and explaining for her, we end up doing her god damn genealogical research too!

    [scroll down to #4 http://journal.transformativeworks.org/index.php/twc/article/view/172/119 ]

    Look folks, if you want excitement ask a bank for a subprime loan when you qualify for more, ask people to pretend that you don't speak English and assume that you are dumb, ask a cop to go upside your head, ask store security to ignore you then follow you around as if you are a thief, ask TSA scanners to turn your bag inside out and steal shit, ask a potential employer to throw your resume in the can.

    The reason you feel so "boring" is because your ancestors threw the "excitement" of difference in the trash can for the ease, comfort and benefits of being WHITE.

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  38. I'm white, and my family, on one side, has been in Canada for something like 6 generations. On the other side, though, I'm part of a generation of Ukrainian-Canadians whose grandparents resisted Polish and Nazi and Soviet oppression before coming here, so we were taught to identify as Ukrainian, not just to hang on to our cultural roots, but because in our families' view, it was politically necessary that we do so. I always thought the question "what are you?" should be something that a person should be proud to answer, and growing up, I found white kids who answered "Canadian" to be frustratingly ignorant.

    It's only been in recent years that I've come to the realization that it's my white privilege that allows me to freely reject the status of un-hyphenated-Canadian; and that PoC have good reason to be upset when asked "what are you".

    While a lot of people in settler countries see it as a goal, I think, for everyone to simply be identified as "Canadian" or "American" etc. I tend to be of the opinion that everyone with a settler heritage - especially those whose families settled many generations ago - should be assumed to have a hyphenated identity. Because it will force people to acknowledge that they came from somewhere; that they don't have the authority to assume that their identity is the norm; that this land was in fact taken from other people; and that they are no more entitled to the benefits of citizenship than are recent immigrants. And because British-Americans/European-Americans have no greater claim to being pure "American" than do African-Americans; and English-Canadians/Anglophone-Canadians have no reason to call themselves anything else when they refer to Quebecois as "the French".

    Re:ktb
    I mean really what the hell does being “welsh” mean…nobody knows.

    I'd bet your Welsh ancestors would weep if they heard you say that.

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  39. I just wanted to add that the notion that America has no culture is especially ironic, given the fact that people in some countries feel like globalization has overwhelmed them with American culture.

    Also:

    Re: fromthetropics
    May I ask the Black American readers here (whose family have been in the US for generations and do not know which African countries their ancestors are from) whether they also feel as though they 'lack culture' or "void of a past" or have a "cultural void" or it's "boring" to be black?

    I'm guessing no (but correct me if I'm wrong). And if the answer is no, then that would make void the whole argument that white people 'lack culture' because it's a melting pot and they're not in touch with their roots, etc etc.

    This point just made me think about the fact that music is an area where America clearly has a rich and globally appreciated culture. There's a lot of commercial pop out there, sure, but America also gave the world Jazz and Rock and Roll and R&B... and other genres that originated in the black community and were appropriated by whites. (Thinking about how jazz is today in large part a domain of elite, highly educated whites; or has been turned into elevator music - I wonder what rap will evolve into in 50 years?)

    I don't have much of a point. Just that in the context of this discussion, it's interesting...

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  40. Samantha is right -- if you want to fill in your own background, do some research. Learn about the cultures, read history and legends, try some recipes. It doesn't have to be your great great great grandmother's personal recipe.

    There are a lot of records online now, and you can learn a lot about your own biological ancestors as well. When I was your age (I sense that you are relatively young compared to me), I didn't know the names of my great great great grandmothers either, but I do now. And where they lived and how they got to North America. I've been reading about the times and places my ancestors lived, even the distant past where I don't know names and individuals, and it does give me that sense of identity and connection I had been missing.

    I agree that it seems boring to just be "white" -- the stereotype of the white American who has no ethnicity, can't dance or play sports, who eats mayo and ranch dressing and other bland, white-colored foods. But the people are right who say that it's insulting for white people to wish we had an exotic "ethnicity" or "culture." Your own culture and background are never going to feel exotic to you (no one's do), but if you learn about them they can feel like home.

    That is kind of what multiculturalism meant to me when it was first introduced, and what I thought this blog was going to be about when I first found it -- discovering who we are as white people, no longer the "default" for society, but just as one (or many!) ethnic group among the rest, no better or worse than the others, with plenty of things to learn from the other groups and a few things to offer, too.

    I don't know anymore if that is possible given the baggage we Americans carry related to race and ethnicity, but it seems like it would be a good place to end up.

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  41. ktb your comments about not knowing your personal history are really upsetting me. I'm trying not to engage in some form of "who has it worse" b/c I know that's never helpful, but as person who has cried hot & heavy tears over the fact her family tree can only go so far before she hits the tax records that record her family members as property--I'm getting a little angry.

    You want to know about the Welsh? Google it. Go visit. Learn the language, listen to the music, read the history. YOU CAN DO ALL THAT! Nothing is stopping you. You have that opportunity. It is not denied to you.

    You remind me of when I was in high school & got on a serious Irish kick. I read everything about Irish history I could get my hands on. I listened to the music & tried to lean
    Gaelic, even! There was a kid (white) in my class who knew he was Irish, but didn't care. It didn't matter to him. He had no desire to learn his history. I was so angry at him, I remember my fists balling up. I was angry for days & even wrote my favorite Irish author an email about it explaining how jealous I was.

    Do you know what I would give to be able to pick up a book about the country my ancestors came from? IF I could simply google about their foods and traditional songs? If I could go visit their homeland?

    Do you know what it feels like to know that the reason you cannot know these things about your history is because SOMEONE PLANNED FOR IT TO BE THIS WAY. My current pain was planned over 300 years ago. Someone deliberately didn't keep records other than list of your ancestors as their property. They considered my history of no importance and I can never get it back. I am lucky I can go back as far as I can.

    So, you have to understand this when I read your comments and all I can think is 'cry me a river'.

    Also, this post isn't about you and how you feel sad about your personal history that you haven't bothered to google. So please, let's stop talking about that and get back to the OP & how WP, blind with privilege, tell him how they wish they could be "ethnic."

    I wonder what those people imagine minority life to be like? Full of Gospel , R&B, & soul food? I mean, really? Kind of reminds me how time traveling would not be a good idea for a black woman in the U.S.

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  42. I have to agree with Mgibson17.


    We have cultural festivals in my city too. Whites rarely come to the Black american festivals but you can't keep them away from the African festivals. Maybe they don't come to the Black American celebrations because they're afraid we'll start talking about slavery.lol

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  43. "The mainstream image of 'the girl next door' has never referred to a black woman."

    Can I just say that I winced and nodded when I read this remark? And can I add that it (mainstream culture) also excludes anyone who isn't white? (And don't even get me started on intersectional exclusion).

    I'll recommend (with caveats adequately explored in the ratings secion on Amazon.com) a collection of essays called Everything But the Burden. It explores the appropriation of black culture by white people.

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  44. Interesting how a thread on how non-whites are otherized & exoticized devolved into assuaging the feelings of yet another white chick who feels bad because she has no culture.

    Seconded!

    Though it's not just her - there's obnoxiously clueless sentiment being thrown around by a number of people about how oh-so boring it is living life at the top of an oppressive hierarchy. Cry me a freaking river.

    Having lived as a Latina in Japan, I can tell you that while the Japanese are as fascinated by The Exoticized Other as we Americans are, this is not the reason why anime characters are caucasian looking. I read, while living in Tokyo, an interview with Miyazaki Hayao who when asked why so many anime characters are blonde haired and blue eyed, "It's because the Japanese hate their own faces."

    I take issue with your generalization of an entire nationality's "fascination."

    First of all, many people would look at Miyazaki's own characters and pronounce them white. This has to do with the exercise (or internalization) of white privilege that projects "generic" qualities on graphic representation unless said representation conforms to the stereotypes propagated by those in power. Unless a cartoon has a yellow skin tone and slanty eyes, most Americans and white people will not read it as Asian. But if that cartoon has cat ears and purple hair - well, such an eccentric delineation MUST be white by default, because only whites are allowed to exercise such individuality!

    If you're going to talk about anime in general terms rather than specific, the characters are NOT Caucasian looking. It's hilarious, because there is NO particular ethnic group that actually physically resembles anime characters. Human beings do not look like that. Just like no particular ethnic group actually resembles stick figure drawings - and yet how many people automatically, unconsciously assume that a stick figure is a white male?

    Anyone interested in this racial dynamic in animation needs to see these couple of images:
    http://community.livejournal.com/racebending/71429.html

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  45. I agree, Roxie and Commie Bastard -- some white commenters have been pulling this thread off-topic. Thank you for pointing that out.

    I'm not surprised, having seen that common white tendency before in discussions on this topic. That topic is the white oblivion/cluelesness/privilege exhibited by white expressions to non-white people of a desire for something like non-white "ethnicity" or "culture." It's a post about the white desire for -- as Umbrella Today reminds us with a book rec -- "everything but the burden."

    What I think some white commenters are demonstrating here is a common, blithe refusal to acknowledge, or even SEE, let alone stay focused on, that burden, as well as one's own relative advantages and privileges. Either that, or it's an attempt to steer a conversation about white privilege and clueless oblivion toward a different one, about white loss. That loss is real, but bringing it up in this context is, basically, obnoxious.

    Maybe what's happened in that part of this conversation can be a "learning opportunity" for some white readers here. This tendency to get ourselves back on center-stage is deeply embedded within us. We often don't realize that we're doing it, probably because we're so accustomed to seeing people like ourselves (that is, white people) at the center of attention. And so, when we're not, we often try to "relate" to the experiences of others by talking about our own experiences, BUT, by doing so in such a way that we're no long talking about non-white people. We're no longer really talking about racism. We're talking instead, in a way that's rather silly and trivializing at best, about our own relatively mild injuries or losses.

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  46. I can't imagine saying that to someone. "I wish I was ethnic." I find that so degrading.

    I have so much to say, but it basically comes out with me telling about how confused I am by white Americans... and I'm a white American. I've been accepted and rejected by white people all in the same breath practically. My Native North American sounding last name not matching my white skin has been a source of contention for me. My upbringing being outside of the white American norm has alienated me from people who expect me to be like them because I look like I was raised like they were. I definitely wasn't.

    It just completely boggles my mind sometimes at how white Americans can be so mixed up in what they want and what they have. And it's very rare that I can't express thoughts into words. But this is one of those times. The subject just crosses with so many experiences for me that I'd better just blog it. Bottom line is that I don't feel included either. But because of my skin color it's assumed that I am included nonetheless. Yet growing up, white people made it such a damned point to exclude me for various reasons that I will never forget it.

    I totally see each and every one of your points. Thank you for the post.

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  47. Yeah, what I'm sensing is that Black Americans are proud of their 'culture' or 'heritage' (not sure what the right word is), and this seems to be in stark contrast with the white culture is 'boring' or 'it doesn't exist' type of narrative. This difference makes little logical sense given that Black Americans seem to know less about their specific African ethnic ancestry.

    In other words, "white people don't have culture" is an imagined reality (as others have argued here in different words). It is so globally ubiquitous, dominant, pervasive (partly also because poc countries appropriate or consume it) that it is invisible to members of that culture. e.g. The whole world is wearing jeans. e.g. How many Americans are actually aware that they speak with an 'American accent'?

    And what is with the whole great grandma recipe thing? I'm not angry, but I do find it strange. All I know for sure about my 'ancestors' is that one grandad was an orphan and a landless peasant during the Warlord era in China (i.e. when people were so impoverished that they'd rather get on a shanty boat to an unknown country and risk sinking than staying and knowing that you'll starve to death - hence the huge numbers of overseas Chinese). The poorest of the poor. When you're that poor there is no such thing as a great grandma's recipe. You eat whatever you can come by. Same goes for my other grandad. His dad died when he was young. So he had to work. The furthest I know based on stories I've been told is that great grandma was a widow. Again, no recipes or grand stories there except that they worked and they worked and they worked and life was hard, so don't you dare waste your food!, or so I was told growing up. That's all I know, but I'm damn proud of it. I don't think being proud of your heritage needs to be premised on knowing much about specific stories in your specific lineage. Most, if not all, of my pride in my heritage comes from hearing how hard my grandparents worked for my parents and how hard my parents worked for me. I think the idea is for each generation to build on the previous and pass that down to the next. It is not about holding on to some ancient manuscript passed down from 2000 years ago. Things change anyway with time.

    >Your own culture and background are never going to feel exotic to you (no one's do)

    Nice! Yeah! Absolutely. That is why it's so annoying when ppl say it's 'exotic' coz it isn't. We're just people.

    re: Japanese anime - The Japanese manggas I read as a kid had big eyes for all the Japanese characters, but they had slant eyes for the Chinese characters (often in a cheongsam) to differentiate them. Go figure. Basically, whatever cartoonists draw is the norm of the mainstream society in that country. They then exaggerate whatever features the Other has to differentiate.

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  48. >...about white loss. That loss is real, but bringing it up in this context is, basically, obnoxious.

    Gosh, I find this really interesting. I think it's relevant though. Not in the sense that we should lament over it, but in the sense that the white loss probably is a product of the incredible dominance of whiteness. And so, if one wants to avoid 'white loss', then you'd probably have to also stop racism...it's hard to explain coz my thoughts on this are still a bit vague, but I feel as though there's something there that needs a bit more digging.

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  49. good books on what white culture is, written for white people so that we can understand ourselves as a people group with culture and privilege -

    white like me by tim wise and
    being white by dough schaupp and paula harris (written from a christian perspective fyi)

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  50. You guys, I'm sorry if my comment was one of the derailing ones. Not my intention.

    I can totally see how this phenomenon of
    "the white oblivion/cluelesness/privilege exhibited by white expressions to non-white people of a desire for something like non-white "ethnicity" or "culture."
    as macon d puts it, would be offensive, especially after the 50 millionth time you hear it.

    I'm glad I read this post and the comments, I want to learn and be a person who doesn't upset other people.

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  51. I was just thinking that this tendency seems to be a product of living in a settler country, whose national mythology is centred around the self-made man. A century ago, I doubt you'd be able to find a British citizen who felt anything besides immense satisfaction with his or her Britishness, and whiteness, regardless of class or gender - but for them, the fact of their whiteness and Britishness were themselves indicators of inherent superiority to all others. Likewise, being born into class privilege didn't mean that the privilege was undeserved, it meant that you were born with the qualities that made you worth of it.

    Of course, modern America is totally different. The ideal is "self-made" - people have to show that they earned their privilege. One way of doing so for whites is by denying that PoC face any substantial discrimination. So when a white person wishes they were ethnic, they do not simply ignore white privilege - they make the claim that they have no fear of losing it, because in their case, that privilege is well-deserved. Or that the PoC's disadvantage is due to their own personal shortcomings, rather than their race. Or that we live in such a post-racial era that there is absolutely nothing problematic with wishing away their whiteness.

    I think that may be what's going on subconsciously when white people figure that it's acceptable to say things like, "I wish I was ethnic," or "I wish I had your skin tone". It's not just that they're ignoring privilege, it is also an attempt to legitimize their privilege.

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  52. WP wishing they were "ethnic"--this is another example of WP wanting to give up being white but without giving up white privilege, right?

    Also--thanks, Roxie, you said what I tried to, except much better.

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  53. Hey thanks macon for saying something. Cuz if you didn't, I was. swpd: re-center the conversation about PoC onto themselves

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  54. Okay, im trying to write this without repeating what other people have said.

    @fromthetropics

    I have a shirt that says, I <3 Being Black with red, black and green striped on the heart.. and I mean it through and through.

    I love being Black. I love Black culture, despite understanding that there is no one way to "be black."

    However, I do understand how anyone, regardless of race (or ethnicity), who has not been able to hold on to their specific cultural roots, may feel that they are missing something. I have alot of 1st generation American friends and at times I have been jealous of them because they know their dances and ceremonies and traditions are those that have been done by every generation before them.. and there is something powerful about continuing centuries or millenia of tradition.

    From an American perspective:
    It is aggravating when white people complain because their ancestors largely were able to choose to come here and choose to change their names to fit into American society. So it's hard to feel sympathy for- woe is me, my family has been a part of the American Dream for so long that we no longer know from whence we came...


    Lastly..
    .
    @Aiyo..

    When I say I love Black culture.. I use such a broad term because my love goes far and wide... I don't need to narrow it down to Chicago or Mississippi... Not having specific roots has allowed me to embrace everything that is Black... from Afro Cuban to Afro Caribbean, to Soul Food, to the African Boot Dance, to the Black Church, to Black Sororities and Fraternities... I know all of it is a part of who I am, so I love all of it!

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  55. Izumi!
    No you are not looking into this too much! I love your article! As the other commentators said you did hit everything right on the head! What you said was all true. Even if the white person wishing they were ethnic do not want to admit they know absolutely nothing about what life is like for people of color or their culture in the U.S. Even liberal and self proclaim progressive whites are guilty of assuming they have a knowledge of people of color based on stereotypes both good and bad. This is something I've been thinking about for a long time. But this failure to understand what it means to be a person of color not only in the U.S. but also in Europe (there are many people of color living in France, UK, Germany, Netherlands and even Italy) goes back to the days of colonialism when both white Americans and Europeans considered culture and hertiage of people of color to be inferior and not worthy of the praise and attention given to European culture.

    It is true too that American means white American both in the U.S. and abroad. There are people in other countries who don't believe that African Americans are Americans because African Americans are always seen as either being from Africa or the Caribeanan. If people of color are seen as Americans abroad its usually assumed that they are immigrants and not fourth generation Americans. As a person of color, this otherness that the U.S. presents of people of color or hypenated Americans especially in the media does get annoying. It is annoying and unfair how white Americans are seen as normal, human and ordinary as Izumi mentioned. But if you are a person of color, somehow you don't fit the description of being normal and ordinary even if you are as American as white people themselves. We live in a country that wants to see itself as beyond racism and ignorance but still discriminates and otherizes African Americans and people of color. Nevermind that Obama is president.

    What I don't get is why some people of color want to be white so badly that they where skin whitening cream to damage their skin.

    White Americans do have a culture. Its stereotypical American culture of hotdogs, jingoistic soldiers, media pundits, capitalist businessmen and sarah palin like peoples and self proclaimed progressive obsessing with eating healthy and caring for the environment, etc.

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  56. mgibson
    Love your comment! Thanks for sharing it with us! It is all very true! Black Americans always seem to be the odd person out in everything in U.S. even when African Americans don't fit the stereotypes of mainstream American society than something is not right or its all wrong. Like I keep saying the U.S. is a strange country...

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  57. When I see "I wish I were ethnic", I have to imagine they're not really serious. That, or they have some major racial self-hate going on.

    It seems to me that when people say "I wish I were ethnic", what they are really intending is more of some kind of perverse backwards compliment to PoC than it is of that person actually wishing they were ethnic.

    I can see having an appreciation for features of other ethnicities and even, privately, wondering what it would be like to be someone else. But to actually come out and say that to PoC seems really disingenuous.

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  58. A white person might genuinely appreciate the exoticness of the racial other and might even go as far as to fantasize what it might be like to be in the other’s skin. Of course that fantasy is usually sanitized to exclude the harsh realities of racism, the hurdles or struggles faced by the other. The caprice is limited in scope because it focuses mainly on the more pleasant aspects; like being able to wear fancy costumes and participate in traditional dance. I’m sure this is what some white people think about when they think of culture.

    But Chris rock said something in a routine that whites hopelessly entrenched in racial denial must accept as a truth. "There ain't a White man in this room who'd trade places with me, and I'm rich!"
    I think it’s a profound statement.

    Chris is saying in effect, I have all the material trappings of the so-called American Dream as defined by the white mainstream. I have wealth, notoriety, and a loving family. Even with all of this to my credit, I am lacking the one thing that makes this lucrative and sorely tempting offer worthwhile. To trade places with a black man- even for all of this money and fame; I as a white person must give up the one thing that makes life truly worth living in "This" country. And that is… my White skin/privilege. To some whites this single caveat is worth everything Chris rock owns in this world, and more. I hope I didn’t offend.

    Did anyone notice that in the movie Avatar the indigenous natives were all purposely cast from people of color? Was Mr. Cameron intentionally aiming for the “exotic other” appearance of the Na'vi by casting non-whites? Because when I look at Sigourney Weaver's character (Dr. Grace Augustine) and the character of Sully, it is quite apparent that their euro-western features still bleed through. But with the Black and Native American actors; accentuating their faces with cat-like features only seems to lend more of an Exotic Feel to the creatures. Creatures modeled from people already considered exotic by whites in real life.
    Again..I hope I didn't offend..

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  59. "Unless a cartoon has a yellow skin tone and slanty eyes, most Americans and white people will not read it as Asian."
    That's not necessarily the case: it's quite possible to draw recognizably Japanese anime/manga characters (most serious series do this), it's just that most of the popular series go for the generic look.

    And then they draw the characters that *are* supposed to be white almost exactly the same way as the characters that are Asian (and culturally mark the hell out of them to make up for it)...

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  60. Speaking of which, does the word "ethnic" in "I wish I was ethnic" even mean "ethnicity"? I think Izumi was spot on when he used "museum" and "voyeuristic" to describe the associated feelings. I mean, isn't it more often used to describe souvenirs from 'exotic' countries?

    It sounds more like, "I wish I could go dance with the natives in some exotic country, paint my body, drink some hokus pokus, get one with nature, get spiritual, and then when I've had enough, come back to New York [or wherever it is they're from]. Or, if not, buy some Buddha statues for my living room and burn some incense." It almost sounds like, "I wish I could go to Bali for a month long vacation."

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  61. mgibson17,

    It's good to know that I'm not the only one to know of the POC casting of the Na'Vi. I wonder if Cameron did that on purpose to accentuate the exotic (and perhaps, erotic) feel of the Na'Vi's appearances. I don't think one would experience the same with white actors as the Na'Vi.

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  62. The absurd thing about ethnic appropriation by white people is that they not only have culture in America but multiple cultures.

    For example, I am Jewish, liberal, in grad school, raised in a suburb near a big city. My cousins are arch-conservative high school educated Italian Christian farmers raised in a town of one thousand people. We are all white.

    Would anyone, even these "I have no culture, woe is me" white people believe there are no cultural differences between us? Class and geography is a large part of it, but these do not mitigate our real differences.

    There are multiple different white cultures in America (redneck, East coast suburban liberal, yankee, california surfer dude, Appalachian to name a few). But people just call that "normal." Apparently "normal" is quite diverse after all.

    I know a large part of this is white class difference but class difference doesn't exist in a cultural vacuum and I believe it perpetuates the different white cultures.

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  63. Re: fromthetropics
    the meaning of "ethnic"

    I've always thought that "ethnic" referred to not-WASP people, no matter what their race. I think "ethnic" at least includes people from Southern and Eastern Europe... although I guess places in Europe can be "exotic" too... Eastern European women are certainly exoticized...

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  64. May I ask the Black American readers here (whose family have been in the US for generations and do not know which African countries their ancestors are from) whether they also feel as though they 'lack culture' or "void of a past" or have a "cultural void" or it's "boring" to be black?

    I do not feel I lack culture and when people from other countries try to tell me that black Americans have no culture I am highly offended. I am 5 generations removed from slavery. My culture is music (Jazz/Gospel/Soul/Hip Hop/Rock n Roll/Motown, southern food, family reunions, a rich history of inventors, activists, scientists, black writers, language ect.

    I feel no void and it pisses me off when people appropriate my culture then try to tell me they are more black than I am.

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  65. @ thelady

    Who in their right mind would seriously say that black Americans have no culture? How do you totally ignore, like, every innovation in popular music over the past 100 years?

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  66. As a non-American I'm very quick to notice "white American culture". From simple customs, level of politeness, food (yes, mac'n'cheese isn't eaten everywhere, if you can believe it), to concepts, perceptions, beliefs.. I don't have to engage long with a (white) American to notice why their culture is different from mine. So I always wonder, don't they notice it as well? Don't they go, "Huh, this Swedish person's culture sure is different from mine"? It's completely okay to define your own culture and heritage through its differences to other ones, that's how most people do it, I think.

    Of course, non-American white folk also exoticize POC and their cultures - not because they feel a lack of culture but rather because of Orientalism or other such approaches.

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  67. I've never had anyone use the word "ethnic" at me in that way, I don't think. But my closest experiences are these:

    - I have had white people ask me, "What are you?" as you have. It's an outrageous question -- to me it always sounds like, What species are you -- but I've answered it before. I always tell people that I'm half-black, half-Jewish, which is the truth. People always argue with me to tell me I'm not really Jewish, as though they'd know better than I would.

    - white women love to tell me that they wish they could get as dark as I do during the summer. When I go without sun during the winter my skin lightens considerably, enough that I almost match my white acquaintances in skin tone; during the summer I get really dark. My gut reaction is, Oh, so you envy my magical biracial skin, do you? Let's talk about your magical backpack full of privilege.

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  68. I agree that folks tend to romanticize the idea of being "ethnic" and ignore the racism embedded in the idea that it would be so cool to "have a culture."

    Everyone has a culture just like everyone has a color (I stole that last quote from Dr. Joseph L Graves author of The Race Myth).

    Why does it have to be your biological progenitors who handed down the recipe/song/tradition?

    Exactly. And to flip that around, why must one follow those family traditions that you do have but that you don't like? I say one should pick and choose traditions that suit you. For example, no one in my family tree (to my knowledge) was ever vegetarian but that's how I choose to live. Is that choice inauthentic simply because I don't have a family background of vegetarianism?

    It starts to get silly if folks insist that people must conform to only that which is believed to be from their "own" traditional culture. Culture is not embedded in our genetics.

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  69. Zara -- I will be incorporating "magical backpack full of privilege" into my regular conversation.

    I'd also like to add to the general conversation that it's discussing things like this that can help us peel back these blasted layers of racism and what it is. This is a simple, "well-meant" comment that many POCs have experienced and when we get right down to it, we can see how this lends itself to that "post-racial" bullsh*t we keep hearing.

    I mean, if you thought it was amazing to be ethnic, wouldn't you scrunch your face up at a blog like this, and at POCs who "complain" about racism?

    It also, as almost every other conversation had here, leads me back to the assertion that the people who will "fix" racism, in the US at least, are white.

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  70. Kornbluth McCavendishDecember 25, 2009 at 7:22 AM

    Ethnic Group: 1.) people of the same race or nationality who share a distinctive culture
    wordnetweb.princeton.edu/perl/webwn

    Culture: 1.) a particular society at a particular time and place; "early Mayan civilization"
    2.) the tastes in art and manners that are favored by a social group
    3.) acculturation: all the knowledge and values shared by a society
    wordnetweb.princeton.edu/perl/webwn

    By definition all people that live in society have culture and therefore have some sort of ethnicity, which includes white people all around the world. Because many people do not like mainstream culture in America, which really is an assimilated product of about every culture on the planet, they claim it is only "white" culture, or more favorably no culture in order to make white people feel bad and inferior, and it looks like it's working quite well with the majority of "intellectual" Caucasians. BTW, to ktb who says nobody knows what welsh means, it means you're from Wales, that forgotten Celtic state on the east coast of England that has their own language--by definition being welsh is ethnic, and while your at it, try eating a haggis and then not call Scots "ethnic" either.

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  71. I'm amazed at all the reverse racism and stereotypes this blog supports. I'm also amazed at how many people on this blog talk about how they don't know what a certain word means, like "culture" for example. If you're on the internet, it takes about 2 seconds to look up any word. Seems to me a lot of people think ethnic means non-white, which is a fallacy. I can't believe how many people seem to think being white always means being privileged and then want to feel victimized. People born into privilege transcends race and sex throughout the world. I'm obviously white, and I had to get a job at 12 just so I could buy clothes. I've been trying to finish my degree for 10 years and it's been extremely hard to finance even though I have a 3.7 in Biochemistry and German--I will finally graduate next spring. If you think that's being born into privilege, I think America can dish that out to about everyone that wants it. The funny thing is that I'm positive many white people were born into less privilege than myself. I really don't mind these posts about white people except for the fact that if the roles were reversed, it would be considered racist, so to be fair, it should be allowed to let it go both ways, or better yet, just get over the constant negativity please. Ethnic studies needs to go both ways on edifying and criticizing cultures, not just be a forum where it is politically correct to come up with every negative comment possible about white people, and then turn people that don't consider themselves white into martyrs and heroes. Until that happens it will always come off to me as a fraud for a academic field.

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  72. White Something Or OtherDecember 25, 2009 at 12:08 PM

    Dude, I just wrote the last post and I resent being called "white victim." I do not consider myself victimized.

    [Dude, did you read what's written above the comment-submission box? ~macon]

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  73. @ White Something Or Other:

    You seem to have the idea that "privilege" only involves socio-economic class. That makes some sense; after all, it's the most common colloquial use of the word. However, there are different types of privilege, for example class privilege (what you talked about), male privilege, and--our main concern here--white privilege.

    I really, really hope you would consider reading White Privilege: Unpacking the Knapsack. The author responds to many of your concerns.

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  74. [Dear White Something Or Other,

    Here's the only sentence from your latest submitted grumblings that I hereby deem worthy of publication:

    "I'm wasting my time with this drama act."

    Word.

    Sincerely,

    macon]

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  75. I was originally inspired to dissect White Victim's post sentence by sentence, but it seems like giving it that much attention might be feeding the white-center-of-attention syndrome worse than any likely benefit of trying anyway. In response to White Something or Other though, I usually post anonymously, even though I do have a regularish screenname here. However I've never been resentful of the names Macon chooses. The last several have actually been amusing to me. Maybe you might like to consider that for a moment. What message are you receiving from him (as well as yourself)?

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  76. I try to remember to pick a name but often forget or click the wrong button, LOL! So, what does Foschingheimer mean?

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  77. Izumi, thank you for sharing this. This is one of the best posts I've read here in awhile. As a white person who felt this way when I was younger (but no longer do), I'm glad to see this issue brought to light on this blog.

    There's not much to say that hasn't been said here already, but although I've reconciled my own "culture" (as my family's culture, my unique ancestry, and the culture of my significant other all meshed together), I do see why it's frustrating, especially for the more enlightened of white people. For me, personally, the reason to renounce white culture is because "white culture" has been co-opted and used as a defense by some horribly racist people in the United States and Europe. You can be proud of whiteness the way you can of just about any other so-called race. I also, personally, don't identify with a lot of American values (e.g. consumerism, ownership, patriotism) because I was raised pretty far outside the status quo by parents who had made a conscious decision to reject a lot of what they were taught.

    So for many of us, what that means is finding culture within your own personal family history.

    And Rosa - Your comment about whiteness being like a sickness really offended me, until I realized that I sort of feel similarly. I just wish you hadn't generalized to the extent that you did.

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  78. That topic is the white oblivion/cluelesness/privilege exhibited by white expressions to non-white people of a desire for something like non-white "ethnicity" or "culture."

    Nowhere was it implied that the woman referred to wanted to be "non-white." She said "ethnic," and I she is fantasizing about having old world family traditions and an identity. She probably doesn't see this "wish" as including non-whiteness. A lot of you are taking this thread in a direction in which you complain about what you think she said rather than about what she did say.

    There are lots of ethnic groups in the USA that are white. We are just harder to pick out in a crowd.

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  79. This is all very intresting.. I am of African descent. Moved here just 10 yrs ago.... My first year, while in high school, i was asked how we travelled to the States. Where we got our clothes from and then when were we leaving. This was more prevalent in college... THe other worse part of it was, my goodness but your english is really good!!! AARRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGHHHHHHH...... Got tired of it so i just started saying that we swam all the way from Africa. When got tired, we hitched a ride on a boat and also rode on the backs of dolphins... And we bought our clothes at the airport... Has anyone from another "culture/ethnicity" experienced this... It just seems when you say your from Africa, you are immediately thought to be dumb and stupid. :(

    Anyway, i applaud all who are in the quest of understanding identity/culture/ethnicity tradition etc..

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  80. Izumi, Great post.

    hops- Uh, YES. When I got to America, I had just moved from Japan, and I got a lot of "Do they have cars in Japan?" and "Wow, you learned English fast!" In addition to but you don't look Japanese..." (I am ethnically 100% Ghanaian...or is Ghanaian not an ethnicity?)

    But yeah, I see this idea of "I wish I had __________ [some characteristic that whites don't have that while has been a gigantic source of contention for us POC as a result of the ignorance of white people]" as being incredibly patronizing as other people have mentioned. I think it's something similar to what happened when I was in America and people found out I was born in Ghana. After explaning (way too many times) that it was in Africa, something along the lines of "You were born in Africa? Thats soooooooooooooooo cool!" would be said, and it was painfully obvious to me that it was only cool because Africa is this savage, exotic place where people don't really live and white Americans were normal, regular people.

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  81. We all need some roots, either in our immediate family ancestors or in our natal or adopted communities. I personally feel very slightly rootless because I am adopted, but I have learned about family stories, about late 19th - early 20th century Sweden (one side of the family), about distant relatives involved in radical politics in the 1920s (one was a co-founder of New York Civil Liberties Union). That's enough ethnicity for me. Current normative white culture is bland, but individual white people and their families have interesting histories - ALL people have interesting histories.

    I have been known to wish that I had musical talent....

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  82. @NancyP

    Ummm... okay.

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  83. So, is nobody willing to touch Commie Bastard's quote?

    When white [people] see how [they] have historically oppressed others... they often want to dissociate themselves from their whiteness. They do this by opting to “become [ethnic].” In this way, they can escape responsibility and accountability for white racism.

    I've been thinking about (American) white culture a lot lately— specifically, the insistence that it doesn't exist— and I keep coming back to the same place: the defining aspect of white culture is white privilege. There's just no way around this. (Well, there is one way, and it's the next most defining aspect of white culture— the inability to directly see white privilege.) This wishing they were "ethnic" is about refusing to own that culture, which is one of creating, maintaining, striving for, and benefitting from white privilege.

    What's amazing is how universally entrenched this "no such thing as WC" idea is, to the point where someone will casually mention white culture, get "called" on it, and end up agreeing that there's no such thing, even though they were just talking/thinking about it 10 seconds ago!! [WP use an incredible technique here that I call the "well, describe it then!" attack, which works in a way that is so subtle, I don't even think the WP deploying it are aware of what they're doing. And it is super-effective. I've become fascinated by it ever since I noticed it for what it is. It's seriously worth its own SWPD post.] Witness as they get even POC to join in actively espousing their white-guilt-assuaging party line! It's madness; it's psychotic.

    I've resolved to quit agreeing to this. We all know what white culture is (including Glenn Beck)— until it's addressed directly. The truth of what white culture is, is like a gaping hole in the floor that WP (and thus, a good chunk of everyone else) pretend isn't there and never look at or talk about, but somehow manage not to fall into. I couldn't see it clearly myself until very very recently. I was right there, agreeing that I was "unable" to come up with any examples. Bullshit! It is an "SEP," à la Douglas Adams. A cultivated mass delusion. And as soon as you acknowledge it, all of the arguments— describe it then; it surrounds us so it's invisible; it's not white culture it's American culture— they just fall apart. It is a seriously red pill.

    And you know what? I get it.
    It's not like I'm going "gosh, why won't WP embrace their sickeningly racist culture??" It's ugly. I honestly do not know how they're supposed to deal with it. But then I realized that's not my problem.

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  84. So, is nobody willing to touch Commie Bastard's quote?

    When white [people] see how [they] have historically oppressed others... they often want to dissociate themselves from their whiteness. They do this by opting to “become [ethnic].” In this way, they can escape responsibility and accountability for white racism.


    As a white person who identifies as "ethnic" - ie. not WASP - I have some issues with this. I agree that white people raise their ethnicity to dissociate themselves from the historical acts of other groups of whites (ignoring the fact that they are currently benefiting from the effects of that history) or to derail any discussion of the oppression of POC, by turning it into the oppression Olympics.

    But it's not simply about avoiding responsibility and assuaging guilt. If you identify as an specific ethnicity, you have a cultural history that you identify with. Overcoming hardship is likely part of that history. Often that hardship was created by other groups of whites. So if you told an Irish-American whose family immigrated because of the famine that they are part of a culture that has historically oppressed others and need to own their responsibility and accountability for that... it probably wouldn't go over that well. Certain groups of whites have legitimate reasons for not identifying with the history of the oppressors, because it hides the fact that those groups of whites were also oppressed. And that's not just the oppression olympics, that's the heart of someone's ethnic identity (which may be very central to who they are as a person) because it assimilates one's culture into the very culture of its historical oppressor.

    I'm afraid that what I'm saying basically boils down to a tone argument, because the ultimate point is that there's a difference between asking someone to take ownership of history and asking someone to recognize that they are now, currently, benefiting from historical wrongs. The intended result may not be different, but the meaning is very different. And also that white people don't necessarily assert their ethnic identity because they can't deal with the responsibility for historical racial oppression - viewing the world through the lens of their ethnic identity, they are among the historically oppressed people, and it is offensive to them to countenance identifying with the oppressor.

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  85. Marissa, please read this post.

    Also, I cannot recommend enough the book How the Jews Became White and What That Says about Race in America.

    Or, short form: Commie Bastard is right. You and I may identify as "white ethnic," but we have white privilege. To suggest otherwise is an attempt to deny our complicitness with and responsibility for racism.

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  86. Thanks for the link, Willow, but it works better here.

    Marissa wrote,

    it's not simply about avoiding responsibility and assuaging guilt. If you identify as an specific ethnicity, you have a cultural history that you identify with. Overcoming hardship is likely part of that history. Often that hardship was created by other groups of whites. So if you told an Irish-American whose family immigrated because of the famine that they are part of a culture that has historically oppressed others and need to own their responsibility and accountability for that... it probably wouldn't go over that well.

    True, but just because it wouldn't go over very well doesn't mean it's wrong, nor that you shouldn't still say it.

    Certain groups of whites have legitimate reasons for not identifying with the history of the oppressors . . . . white people don't necessarily assert their ethnic identity because they can't deal with the responsibility for historical racial oppression - viewing the world through the lens of their ethnic identity, they are among the historically oppressed people, and it is offensive to them to countenance identifying with the oppressor.

    I agree that some white people assert their family background/ethnic history for reasons other than shirking acknowledgment and responsibility for their current white privilege, but they almost never foreground and actively deal with both their erased ethnicity and their current white privilege at the same time, do they?

    Yes, their ancestors may have been oppressed in terms of "race" (Irish immigrants were sometimes referred to as "blacks," and so on) and ethnicity, but they got over it dropping markers of their ethnicity and by embracing whiteness. And they did that at the expense of, and in direct, conscious opposition to, the people who couldn't, especially the people who stayed "black" because they had no other choice.

    When today's white Americans with tangible backgrounds in oppressed ethnicity "view the world through the lens of their ethnic identity," and then see themselves as being "among the historically oppressed people," it may well be, as you wrote, "offensive to them to countenance identifying with the oppressor." But, if they don't identify with the oppressor, then they're denying that they have become the oppressor.

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  87. @ Willow:

    The link you provided didn't work. Also,

    You and I may identify as "white ethnic," but we have white privilege. To suggest otherwise is an attempt to deny our complicitness with and responsibility for racism.

    I agree, and I'm not arguing with that. Upon reflection, and in light of this, I guess the point I was making (trying to make?) is pretty inconsequential. I'm thinking it over, and trying to salvage something from my previous post... and, yeah, not getting anything. A lot of people have difficulty reconciling the notion that they are privileged in some way with their identity.

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  88. @ macon
    Yeah, I agree. It's funny, because I know this guy whose background is Italian, and who refuses to acknowledge that he benefits from white privilege (not to mention class and gender privilege too), and I've made the same point that you and Willow have made in arguments with him.

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  89. this thread is very intresting..I dont think your digging to far. But what is surprising to me is whites have a huge history and culture we are taught it everyday in school..As a culture(a practiced ritual passed down in generations) they have, stolen land and profitable things, created wars with almost every other culture in the world they have slavery, and the genocide of jews and native americans to be proud of..what do u mean no culture..?

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  90. Holly Jane ElizabethJanuary 14, 2010 at 2:06 PM

    "White People".
    Therein your problems lie. You're looking for the culture of a mass colour.
    Would you ever try pinning down "Black" culture? Or maybe "Brown" culture?
    Who are you categorising as "White?" Is it just europeans who are counted? Just americans? Or is it everyone of that colour? Do you expect people of South Africa to have the same cultural heritage as those from France simply because they share the same pigmentation?
    I am a White British Woman - half English, half Scottish. I have Haggis. I have Bonfire Night. I have Rabbie Burns and lochs and I have Old Kent Road pie and mash and the British pub. Would you expect any of that to be a tradition or cultural aspect for a white Swedish person?

    I won't go into your ridiculous assumption that people of other ethnicities are the only people who have ever endured oppression or suffering. Jews in the Holocaust were white. Christians in the coloseum were white. Farmers who's livelihood has been raized to the ground by Mugabe in Zimbabwe are white.

    It is ignorance and these ridiculous feelings of martyrdom that perpetuate the supposed isolation of one nationality from another.

    Be proud that someone respects your culture enough to make such a remark.

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  91. Holly Jane, it looks like you didn't read this comment section. You should.

    It also appears, based on this lackluster response, you've never commented here before or read previous comments. You DEFINITELY should.

    I'll give you this one freebie: It is NOT a compliment and as a black woman, there's no rule that says I should take it as one. I will not be proud and you should watch your tone.

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  92. Holly Jane ElizabethJanuary 15, 2010 at 5:28 AM

    @ A.Smith

    Forgive me, I didn't realise that it was one rule for you and another for me. I will mind my tone in future, will you?

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  93. Holly Jane,

    Have you seen this wonderful resource? I think the section entitled "You're being hostile" is especially good 101 reading for you. And yeah, as A. Smith said, this entire comment section as well.

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  94. I'm born and raised in Alaska and my father is 100% Kalmyk Mongolian and my mother is 100% American. Every time I'm Mongolian, two things happen.
    1) My mom gets mad at me and says "You're also 1/2 American!"

    2) Everyone else goes "Like the beef? Mongolian beef?"

    I get so sick of that response that I almost don't answer people when they ask. The truth is, Kalmyk Mongolians have been physically separated from the rest of Mongolia since the 17th Century.

    Also, in Alaska, there is much stereotypes and discrimination towards Native Alaskans--be it their accent, their culture, or the village they're from. Many people think that I am native, so I get it both ways.

    My dad, although he is Kalmyk Mongolian, could pass for Mexican, Australian, Russian, German...basically anything. Which leads me to believe that all cultures feed from one another, so why do we make such a big deal of our skin color or race? Don't get me wrong, I am very proud to be Kalmyk Mongolian and will stop for anyone willing to hear my family's story, but their response can be so futile that I lack the inspiration, the next time the opportunity comes along, to enlighten them of my history.

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  95. Very interesting comments on here...I would love to get together with a bunch of you to discuss this stuff even (I'm in NYC if that means anything)
    I'm white, with immigrant grandparents so I relate to what many of you are saying. I get that question "what are you?" all the time, I think it is what people do in diverse cities...and I agree with people on here that said it is really annoying, and I think they were talking in the context of being a "minority" and getting that question from a white person. Frankly I don't care what someone's ancestry is, I don't ask that question, and don't understand why people are so obsessed with it. And you are right (to the person who said this already) it almost sounds like being asked "what species are you?"...Or the best is "What nationality are you"? I hear this often, I don't even understand it? My passport says Nationality: U.S.A. Nationality means what country you are a citizen of, it has nothing to do with race/ethnicity. Anyway, I am just impressed with this blog. You all have very interesting stories and points of few. Speaking as a white person, I feel that many white Americans are degrading themselves with this whole "white culture is bland or whatever argument"...I'm not sure where all that comes from, I think much of does come from others, the media, etc. so you tend to internalize what you keep hearing, but still, and I am very interested in it. I think nowadays for whatever reason, it is very popular to be anti-American, so that is probably part of it. Many immigrants (of all races) don't seem to want to take on an American identity. People want to disassociate with being American. Another problem that white Americans have is that anytime you talk about being proud to be white or whatever, you end up being associated with Nazis and skinheads. So its hard to say you have a culture, and then to be proud of it in that circumstance. Also, this whole multicultural ideology that has become popular in recent decades - has come after most white people's immigrant families had arrived here, and assimilated to being just Americans. So now white people see other immigrants that are not assimilating the way their family did and feel like they are missing out on something? Much of this stuff is just a result of historical circumstances.

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  96. ktb you should get a dna test I recommend 23andme.com or dnatribes.com ,you look more 'mixed' than me and i'm mixed race.But it could just be your phenotype.

    White people do not want to be 'ethnic' believe you me ,its just a courtsey they say in condescension usually.There is nothing they prize higher than their whiteness,quite unconsciously I might add and ingrained.

    My father and I look fairly white,can pass as white and when people realise we have black ancestry they are aghast or deny it,the same denial if you show them someone like the quadroon maya fahey et al because if we can look white and have black ancestry their own whiteness is suspect and less special.

    P.s Your average european autosomally [genomically] is abt 8-11% indian[india],2-5% middle eastern and your 'colonials' are a little different,scandinavians/east euros usually have higher east asian admixture for obvious reasons [mongol invasions,ancient siberian/uralic strains],the portuguese and southern europeans showing less asian admixture but more middle eastern/east african admixture.

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  97. I think this is a massive case of ignorance, it's also sad since there's no real reason to treat other cultures as playtoys (something that is very racist in my opinion) seeing as Europe has a wealth of culture to draw upon. "Exotic" garb such as turbans and so on have been worn by both Muslim and non-Muslim Europeans (including Christian Cossacks and Stratioti who fought the Ottoman empire). While it's silly for one's cultural identity to consist of only playing dress up there is no shame in wanting to wear an exotic outfit, you can do it without being a racist, look at neo-Victorians for example. So any "white" person putting on sari or a Native American outfit is displaying a massive ignorance of history and laziness (it isn't difficult to research your ethnic roots) in addition to racism.

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  98. No, you don't understand. We understand the privilege of being white in a white society, but we feel GUILTY about that fact.

    We know that being white is easy and comfortable, and questioning it may seem like we are ignorant, and don't value how good we have it. But we question it because we know that it is wrong as well.

    Whites have the easiest existence because the white man has stayed on the top of the pile by committing evil, genocidal acts and exploiting his brothers. He did not help them grow, they did not work together to better the entire human family. He just massacred them and beaten them and now he's on top.

    White people, who are well-read enough in the field of history, will feel guilt for being part of a race that has blood on its hands. It is only a matter of time before the white family gets its comeuppance, and is persecuted for its evil. The poor deported to other nationalities, and the rich hung for war crimes...

    Some people, like me, feel shame for being white, knowing that if his Last name continues to be a white-only bloodline, it will end, many generations later, in its violent dissimilation. It is evil. escape it.

    I am fine with being white, I do not necessarily wish to be another race, but i will restore grace to my family name by sharing my gene pool only with other ethnicities. separate the evil and outbreed it from the Family Name's original, pure ancestry. Go back to morality and may it have a blessed new future.

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  99. Don't feel shame for being white. Truly. Feel shame for what is being done everyday to black and brown peoples worldwide. I am only partially white and feel shame over the deeds of my ancestors, I feel shame that one of my Gr. Grandfathers raped my great grandmother, leaving a giant hole in the paternity of part of my family tree.

    But we are here, all we can do is stop the poor treatment of others, stop the cycle of abuse and oppression and theft. Stop the lying and divisions, look at how divisive and racialist some of our politicians are, look at how a man threw away an 18 year military career for what?

    Be better than those behind you, better than those around and grace will come.

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  100. I know this is an old post, but I'd like to comment (and I haven't read all 100 other posts, so I'm not sure if anyone else wrote something similar to what I am about to write.)

    I am a white American, and I admit that at times I have had the same "I wish I were ethnic" thought. You (author of this post) hit the nail on the head when you said that this boils down to whites wishing they had culture. I also understand where you're coming from when you say that this is loaded with privilege, but I partially disagree on that point.

    The fact of the matter is in this day and age, with the diversity movement and affirmative action, white is viewed as the "absence of other," and the "absence of difference." Time and again I encounter situations in which whites are assumed to have nothing interesting to bring to the table. Non-whites automatically bring some sort of unusual perspective to the table, while whites do not. Non-whites have interesting cultural backgrounds, whites do not. (My work has been at elite universities and an elite boarding school, so I am very aware of what is going on in the world of education in regard to this matter.)

    The celebration of "difference" in schools and universities and even the corporate world has gone so far that whites (particularly younger people) can genuinely feel as if they are literally "culture-less," (while of course being "culture-less" is not truly possible.)

    One might say that this doesn't matter - for centuries whites were considered to be the only ones with a valid perspective, so this change is overdue. But, it's gone too far, and any American under the age of 40 or so will have been educated in and grown up in an era in which they were considered "boring."

    It doesn't have to be this way. We can be inclusive by being, well, inclusive. Celebrate other backgrounds, while also celebrating the backgrounds of whites - because we DO have cultural/ethnic backgrounds, but it's not currently P.C. to celebrate them. And, it's not acceptable to express the idea that this is unfair in any way. After all, WE are the oppressors! Yet, a generation of people have grown up with little pride in or understanding of their own cultural backgrounds.

    As far as your coworker ignoring your whiteness... a similar sort of thing can happen to people who are of mixed race or ethnicity but look white. I'm actually partly Portuguese and my grandmother was a first generation American. (Unfortunately she and my other Portuguese relatives are now deceased so I do not have a strong tie to the Portuguese culture in the U.S..) In any case, I am also partially Irish, and I look very Irish. My Portuguese relatives including my father had darker skin, black hair, and brown eyes. I have light skin with freckles, blue eyes, and very light brownish red hair. Purely on looks alone, people assume I'm "just white" and that I therefore have no interesting perspective to bring to the table.

    One other comment... it may be that people feel we shouldn't celebrate our own white history because for so long whites have been aggressors and oppressors. Yet, it is interesting that ANYTHING ELSE - as long as it's not white - is considered worthy of celebration. This completely ignores atrocities which have occurred at the hands of people of other ethnicities throughout the world. We're no better and no worse than most other people on this earth.

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  101. Embedded in a POC's experience is a greater affinity to identify and gather inspiration from the family unit, traditions, religion, stories/legends, ancient principles, values, beliefs, and honor. Seemingly, "white" culture or those American subscribers of the "I wish I were ethnic" mentality, have not been nurtured to value similar sources of strength. Instead they have derived their sense of identity and meaning from their independence and freedom to absorb their surroundings as if a tourist benefiting solely from the experience without commitment. What differentiates POC from these American culture subscribers, is their indifference to embrace and commit to their unlearned history with a deep sense of collective pride.

    Further reading: http://www.colorq.org/articles/article.aspx?d=2001&x=raceless

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