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Sometimes it's hard being white

post #1 of 54
Thread Starter 
I love my husband and I love being in a multicultural family. But sometimes its hard being the white one. He has this beautiful Native American heritage...and I don't have anything to compare to it in that way.

I'm a modern American white girl. Let's face it, the culture there is pretty skimpy unless you count consumerism. My European roots are from too long ago and are too mixed to find any pride in them. And the western settler culture that is the closest thing I could have to a rich heritage is marred by the whole "white people were really cruel to Native Americans (and African Americans, and others I'm sure) not too long ago" thing.

Earlier this week a friend of a friend was asking what we were going to mark on all our sons applications (for school etc) as far as race goes. I don't know why, but the question offended me. He's from both of us. Why does he have to choose one or the other. But then again, when there's a financial incentive to "be" a certain race, I guess it'd be silly not to right?

Then there's the little comments that shouldn't bother me, but do sometimes. For the 4th of July, DH said to one of his cousins "Happy White-Man's Independence Day." It made me sad but I'm not sure why.

I guess I just feel like I have nothing to give my son from my side culturally speaking and it makes me sad. I know he'll grow up saying "I'm Navajo." Does that mean he has nothing of value from my genes?

I feel so culture-less.
post #2 of 54
Maybe you should research more about your heritage. Pick up a copy of Ethnicity and Family Therapy by McGoldrick, Giordano and Pearce. It is really interesting.
post #3 of 54
Thread Starter 
Wow that book is expensive. I can't find it in the library here either. Is there a netflix type program for books? I could really use one sometimes.

I read some of the preview online. I'd like to know what they about "White" people. Because I really don't feel like I have any culture, and it hurts.
post #4 of 54
You have a very rich culture. You just have to learn about it. The book has numerous chapters about the characteristics of families of European origin. Maybe you can pick it up and read it in your local bookstore instead of purchasing it.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Kim B Lynn View Post
Wow that book is expensive. I can't find it in the library here either. Is there a netflix type program for books? I could really use one sometimes.

I read some of the preview online. I'd like to know what they about "White" people. Because I really don't feel like I have any culture, and it hurts.
post #5 of 54
I SO hear you. My husband's family is off-the-boat, still speaking Italian and I'm a mutt. My parents divorced when I was young. Mom's family came to the US in the late 1800s/early 1900s and has lost any semblance of heritage. My father's family came here from Wales & Italy in the early 1900s and I didn't even realize that they retained anything until I saw a friend struggle in a marriage to an Italian man in ways that I just understood because of how my father's family operated.

But I don't really "have" anything to give him. My foreign language I learned in school. I'm already to far down the line to know the "coming to America" stories. Our food is pretty much "American apple pie".

So dh has this rich, Italian heritage and culture that my kids get from his family and what's worse is that my daughter is Hispanic (adopted)... so I feel like even SHE has "something" special that I don't have to offer culturally--which is really silly because she's an infant. It's not like she grew up with culture and heritage so I have no clue why I feel that way.

I'm rambling. I get it. I've done all the research to know where my family is from. But that doesn't make our family functions full of special foods or stories or ways of doing things that are culturally acceptable.
post #6 of 54
Quote:
Originally Posted by *bejeweled* View Post
You have a very rich culture. You just have to learn about it. The book has numerous chapters about the characteristics of families of European origin. Maybe you can pick it up and read it in your local bookstore instead of purchasing it.
I've loved your posts, bejeweled. I don't think the issue, OP, is your heritage - it is an issue of not understanding the value of that heritage because it may not seem unique or as exotic as the stories others have to tell. But it is still quite the story! Yes, part of the story for our ancestors includes, at the very least complacency with, racism and the mistreatment of non-whites, but it would be a shame to forget the rest of the story. There is a lot of tenacity, innovation, and beauty there, too!

Do you have any older relatives you could talk to? They might have some pretty interesting stories to tell. Are there any family recipes you could make for your child? Heck, even if the closest you can come to a family recipe is some Campbell's Cream of Mushroom soup casserole, that is part of our story and culture, too, right? It is easy to scoff at Campbells now, but wow - what an innovation it was! There is a reason why our mothers and grandmothers loved it so much they put it in everything. Any family heirlooms? They don't have to be worth a lot of money to help you and your child feel a connection to your past. I have a few plants in my garden that I got from my grandparents (and, realistically, have been in the family longer than that, since they aren't likely to have bought them from a garden center). They aren't anything special to look at, but it is nice knowing where they came from. Someday I hope to give a division to my grandkids for their own yards.

If you absolutely can't find a way to connect to your cultural past, I still think the Little House books and Mark Twain books for kids are a great way to introduce children to the cultural history of white Americans. Yes, they are idealized, and you'll find racism in the books, but that is part of the history, and provides a good jumping-off point for discussions.

Good luck! I hope you find a lot of good that you weren't expecting on your journey to rediscover your culture.
post #7 of 54
First, white Americans do have a culture. Unfortunately it's so "in" to discount it that many people forget about it. But we have our holiday traditions-cook outs and family get togethers on Labor Day, we go see fireworks, or shoot off our own, on 4th of July, lots and lots celebrate secular versions of Christmas, regardless of religious belief, Easter Egg hunts and dying eggs on Easter, and we get families together and eat turkey on Thanksgiving. We have a language, English. We do have foods that are considered "American." Things like cheeseburgers and hot dogs and yes, apple pie. We have a great history of invention and innovation. And we have our own symbols and such to be proud of, such as the flag, Washington DC (ie all those memorials and such), and other such places around the county.

Sure, the white US history is marred with plenty of racism and violence, but well, so are nearly ALL cultures. It is human nature to be afraid of what's different, and to clash with those who are different. Groups of people have been fighting with other groups of people over their differences since the beginning of people.

But second, I think your DH's comment, was, IMO, racist. Yes, Native Americans have been oppressed by white Americans, but if he is going to MARRY a white American than he has to accept the holidays and traditions that are a part of your culture. It's no different than if you made a disparging remark about a holiday his family celebrates.
post #8 of 54
I think if you moved, for example, to Brazil, as I have done, you would definitely see that you have a rich culture of your own. Here, I yearn for my children to experience life, holidays, education, language in the previously-taken-for-granted traditional American ways I did growing up!
post #9 of 54
You have a culture. You are an American and America has a unique culture. You just don't notice it because you have been soaking in to your whole life.
post #10 of 54
What your heritage brings is automatic inclusion in the dominant culture. Whether or not your children will benefit from that isn't necessarily so automatic, but for yourself ... you're not cultureless. You are a part of the ubiquitous culture. The one that doesn't have to be taught because exposure to it -- regardless of whether or not one is a member of it -- is a given.

I just find it sad when I hear people who don't have to do anything special to know and pass on their own histories and traditions speaking as though not needing to work at it means it's not there, and that there is something enviable about people who have to actively fight to maintain something that isn't so dominant.

I mean, honestly, do you know what I feel when I'm in a place where my visible minority status becomes a majority? Relief. Because everything that makes me and my family different-from-just-normal here evaporates. Intrinsic normalcy is a nice feeling. One that shouldn't be taken for granted. Not everyone is so lucky as to experience it.

And you know what? My kids get white Americana too. Because my visible "otherness" otherwise, that's also my heritage. And it's complicated, yeah. And ugly. And rich. And above all something that is, unlike any other heritage in the U.S., something to be participated in and grappled with whether one likes it or not.

What it is most definitely not is a void on the cultural map. Thinking so is basically white privilege defined.
post #11 of 54
Have you lived in the same area of the US all your life, or have you moved around?

I was raised in the north (PA), now living in the south (first FL, now NC). There is a distinct culture in each of these regions of the US. Chances are, you have a distinct culture to celebrate just from your part of the US.
post #12 of 54
Not liking your cultural heritage isn't the same thing as not having a cultural heritage.
post #13 of 54
Quote:
Originally Posted by happysmileylady View Post

But second, I think your DH's comment, was, IMO, racist. Yes, Native Americans have been oppressed by white Americans, but if he is going to MARRY a white American than he has to accept the holidays and traditions that are a part of your culture. It's no different than if you made a disparging remark about a holiday his family celebrates.


I'm sorry but saying "Happy White-Man's Independence Day" is simply not racist. It is factual. On that fine July day in 1776 a bunch of wealthy, white, landowning men set themselves free from the English crown. They did not extend that freedom to women nor to people of color. It is disparaging to the memory of the people who lived under the oppression of the founders of this country and who fought for their own equality over the past two centuries to pretend otherwise.
post #14 of 54
Thread Starter 
@ glendora
What should one do if they don't particularly like their cultural heritage?

@sunnmama
I've never lived outside of the four corners states. I've grown up surrounded with Native American and Latino cultures. In my highschool, we were actually the minority. It was 80% Native there.

@Liquesce
That's interesting. I actually prefer NOT to be surrounded by tons and tons of people of the same religion, age, and color as myself. It makes me feel really uneasy and superficial. Now I don't particularly enjoy being "the only one" in an otherwise homogenous group either. I prefer a good mix of culture, age, and color. And I don't really have that where I currently live. I can't wait to move.

@happysmileylady
I don't know how "in" it is to discount white American culture. But it does seem like we shouldn't be proud of it or display it because we might offend other people and look like the KKK/General Custer/Nazis all over again. I still don't really know what the white equivalent of a powwow is, but I don't know if it would go over well. I just wish we hadn't been so freakin racist. It's embarrassing.

@everyone else
I guess that makes sense. I do see some cultural elements now. I guess it just doesn't seem like they're there because my Native in-laws all take part in it just as much as I do, so it doesn't seem like it's culture specific. My family history does include the guy who "invented" (and by invented I mean contributed to the process...it wasn't any single idea or person) television...still haven't decided if that's a good thing or not.

Another thing I struggle with this is that I don't feel like I can even talk to anyone about it. The only way I feel comfortable trying to work through this is online with people who don't know me.
post #15 of 54
Quote:
Originally Posted by kama'aina mama View Post
I'm sorry but saying "Happy White-Man's Independence Day" is simply not racist. It is factual. On that fine July day in 1776 a bunch of wealthy, white, landowning men set themselves free from the English crown. They did not extend that freedom to women nor to people of color. It is disparaging to the memory of the people who lived under the oppression of the founders of this country and who fought for their own equality over the past two centuries to pretend otherwise.
It is a national holiday that celebrates the founding of one of the greatest countries on the planet, and a place that he and his wife are citizens of. (please note, I didn't say the only great country or the single greatest, but yes, the US is, IMO, one of the greatest countries out there.) Yes, the US has a history of oppression and racisim, that's a fact. It's also a fact that so do most other countries and cultures at some point or another. The US is not the only or worst country in that aspect. We are far from unique in having been a******* at some point in history. But we can still celebrate the founding of the country and all the good things that have come out of the existance of the US, that doesn't in any way discount the existance of the negatives as well. But I think his comment does disparage the existance of the positives of the existance of the US.
post #16 of 54
Quote:
@happysmileylady
I don't know how "in" it is to discount white American culture. But it does seem like we shouldn't be proud of it or display it because we might offend other people and look like the KKK/General Custer/Nazis all over again. I still don't really know what the white equivalent of a powwow is, but I don't know if it would go over well. I just wish we hadn't been so freakin racist. It's embarrassing.
Well, Nazis aren't originally part of US culture anyway, just something some folks here thought was a good idea. That particularly racist set of ideals is part of German culture. A prime example of the US not being the only culture with racism, oppression and horrific violence in it's history. Should Germans be embarrassed about their German culture and history just because it also contains the Holocaust? Should they not be proud of Oktoberfest and Saurbraten, just because the history of their country includes Nazis? It's perfectly acceptable, IMO, to be be proud of the history, traditions, language and food that are part of the place and groups you come from, without taking pride in the negative aspects.

I am not proud of the fact that the country I was born in and live in allowed slavery, I am not proud of the fact that past governments of this country forced people onto reservations. However, I am proud that my country allows me to have however many kids I want, that we have a national holiday that is dedicated to appreciation, and that our country has been such a huge part of the technical advancements of the world. And it's ok to be proud of those things while recognizing that we aren't perfect and have even been pretty crappy at times too.
post #17 of 54
Quote:
Originally Posted by happysmileylady View Post
It is a national holiday that celebrates the founding of one of the greatest countries on the planet, and a place that he and his wife are citizens of. (please note, I didn't say the only great country or the single greatest, but yes, the US is, IMO, one of the greatest countries out there.) Yes, the US has a history of oppression and racisim, that's a fact. It's also a fact that so do most other countries and cultures at some point or another. The US is not the only or worst country in that aspect. We are far from unique in having been a******* at some point in history. But we can still celebrate the founding of the country and all the good things that have come out of the existance of the US, that doesn't in any way discount the existance of the negatives as well. But I think his comment does disparage the existance of the positives of the existance of the US.

I don't feel like anything you just said has anything to do with what I said. I'm at a loss, so I will just post one of my favorite poems, which happens to be written on this very subject.

Quote:
Why some people be mad at me sometimes

- a poem by Lucille Clifton

they ask me to remember
but they want me to remember
their memories
and I keep on remembering mine
post #18 of 54
I think one can see the USA as a great country while still acknowledging that "Independence" day actually only gave freedom to a minority of Americans. They're not mutually exclusive.

I haven't been in the USA for independence day since 2007. Every year I sort of look around and realize that there won't be fire works... but really, that's ok. There are a lot more parts of my white American culture that I miss more, to be honest.

Kim, you asked what you should do if you don't like your cultural heritage... I think you should do exactly what you are doing: figure out why you don't like it, examine your beliefs about it, and then move forward and continue trying to become aware of and understand the privilege you have in the US because of your white culture, and work to understand how it affects you and also others without that privilege.

It's not bad to be white. It's good, though, to be aware of what tht whiteness is getting you.
post #19 of 54
You also might want to look into Why Are all the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria, which is about the development of racial identity. It might give you some good perspective about why you have a hard time identifying your culture and what to do about that. There's a whole chapter about what you are talking about - White people not being able to identify, label, and describe their own culture.
post #20 of 54
Quote:
Originally Posted by Kim B Lynn View Post
@Liquesce
That's interesting. I actually prefer NOT to be surrounded by tons and tons of people of the same religion, age, and color as myself. It makes me feel really uneasy and superficial. Now I don't particularly enjoy being "the only one" in an otherwise homogenous group either. I prefer a good mix of culture, age, and color. And I don't really have that where I currently live. I can't wait to move.
It's not about being homogeneous. I'm not a big fan of a sum total lack of diversity either. It's about being normative ... about being in a position to not be continually conscious of being different from a certain baseline.
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