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I am fair-haired, skinned and eyed. When I do a four directions meditation, I think of the North as where I'm from - looking like this, it's unlikely that many of my foremothers would've emerged from more Southern climes, at least not without nasty sunburns. However, part of the problem with being the dominant "race" is that, assuming we're nothing, no culture, just the norm, we have the luxury and tragedy of losing track of where our people come from. I grew up thinking I had no race or culture, and I admit that I have trouble pointing to what is my culture (other than that which I have chosen) even today. Like fish in the water, who don't know that they are wet…

In college, I learned that being white was different than being nothing, and I began to feel ridiculous about how long it took me to figure it out. One of the people that had a big hand in the raising of me was my maternal grandmother. When my friend gave me lovely tight braids (she called them "braids," my mom called them "corn rows") a few years back, Grandma Wanda said, "What'd you do to your hair, your face isn't black." So it's no surprise, I guess, that it took me far too long to figure out about race. In my last year at Smith College, there were some overtly racist incidents, and so we had a whole-college meeting to discuss race. The women of color who'd sat next to all us white chicks in class every day said, "This is a racist place," and most of the white women (including me) hadn't. Some of them wouldn't believe it, and publicly questioned the truth of the assertions. I kept my mouth shut and came to trust that the women of color knew more about it than me. Just as scary as learning that the college was a racist environment were the white women who broke down, crushed under the burden of their guilt and obliviousness-"Does this mean that I'm a racist!?" It was all too public, too raw. Smith College didn't know what it had gotten itself into. But from there I learned I had some work to do.

My paternal grandfather got interested in geneology in the later years of his life. His last name was "Sutherland," so Scotland is pretty obvious. But his last name is just the last link in a long chain, and his research only goes so far back… I should look at the book he put together about the family. There are some McComases back in there, so we're back in Scotland or Ireland, only Aunt Kitty says that it turns out we weren't really McComases, some woman named Templeton married a McComas, and he adopted her Templeton son, who changed his name… Again, the luxury of losing track. I think of myself as descended from the British Isles, because of "Sutherland" and because I feel the pull of "Celtic spirituality," I'm sure along with many others whose ancestors were German or Jewish or anything you like. My lips are thick and my hair is curly, and my maternal grandmother once said something about possible African heritage back there somewhere, only she used a Southern expression involving the N-word, because "I know I'm not supposed to say those things, but you all know I don't mean anything by it." (How frustrating that people think it's safe to display their racism around me because I look like them. Even more frustrating that I am still trying to find my voice to challenge them.) I know that a couple greats back there I had a Cherokee grandmother, but I have not learned those traditions, so I feel funny, looking like this and claiming that culture/heritage. But then, I'm probably just as Cherokee as I am Celtic, if not more so.

Ultimately, the most common label applied to me by others and myself is "hippy," the culture I claim is primarily feminist culture, my spirituality is nature-based, and my home is the Pacific Northwest. Because I have white skin, blond hair, blue eyes, American society allows me to define my own culture, my own membership; in America I am ascribed nothing because of the color of my skin except entitlement, and I am still learning how to be antiracist in spite of that. Partnered with a man these days, my queer identity is genearlly invisible, in a way race most often cannot be. And I'm still learning how to be an out queer person partnered with a man, even though we're going on 5 years. I am grateful for this forum as a means to contact these issues of race and membership, because I have the stupid luxury of generally ignoring them on a day-to-day basis. I let myself check the White/Caucasian box and call it a day, and I don't even really know what Caucasian means.
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