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I thought these questions were interesting. I haven't really thought deeply about this before.

I am an average American woman, I feel. I am white, dark blonde, blue eyed, 5'6". I haven't ever really defined myself much by race as there just doesn't seem to be much to it. I am just boring old white. I don't have a religion that I subscribe to either so I truly feel like I don't have much of a community like some others might. In the city I am from, the part of town you have grown up in would also define you. I grew up in the upper-middle class suburb of the city. I went to almost exclusively white schools in a city where 60% of the people are black. I didn't even realize as a child that the city was as diverse as it is. We basically stayed in our area and didn't venture too much out of it until I was older.

I am a southerner. I have found this does define me some now that I have moved to the northwest. I have often gotten lots of stares, I am assuming, because of my accent. We get teased for being "Appalachian Americans" or "hillbillies" by dh's co-workers. If I am looking at my ancestory, I am French and English though I am not sure what else. I don't really look at that to define myself as it is so far removed from my generation.

When others look at me I am sure they see me as something totally different from where I started from. They could come to conclusions about my identity from my children and how we are raising them as well as where we are living and what we are driving at the moment. I don't define myself by these things as we are not where we want to be yet as a family. We are a work in progress.
 

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Originally Posted by Karen Salt View Post

But who are you? When you look in the mirror, who stares back at you with eyes full of wonder, mystery, and knowledge? If you had to describe yourself, what community, race, or cultural terms would you use for yourself? When other people or institutions in the community describe you, what racial terms do they give for the complexity of your lived experience? Do you use the same descriptions as others? If not, why do you think there are differences?

When I see myself in the mirror, I like what I see. I see an attractive woman with long brownish blond hair and blue eyes, freckles. I look white than white.
Anyone who was to look at me would call me white. I am half german and half Metis.
I call myself an aboriginal. I am involved with local Metis governanace. My granfather spoke Mechif in his home growing up.
I live in a small town with a large native population. Alot of white people use racist remarks towards me thinking that I will agree with them. I hate it. Usually I just let it slide, but sometimes I tell them straight out how offensive they are being towards me and my culture.

I like to think I have a rich culture. Traditional singing and dancing, food, medicine.
I never refer to myself as white, but then again I don't have to. People assume thats the way it is.
 

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Originally Posted by Karen Salt View Post

A Conversation about Race

But who are you? When you look in the mirror, who stares back at you with eyes full of wonder, mystery, and knowledge? If you had to describe yourself, what community, race, or cultural terms would you use for yourself? When other people or institutions in the community describe you, what racial terms do they give for the complexity of your lived experience? Do you use the same descriptions as others? If not, why do you think there are differences?

When I look in the mirror, I see a traveller and a writer. I don't think of myself in ethnic terms.

If I had to describe myself, I would ask what country I'm in. I would change the description based on that. Here I just say New Zealander and people accept it. In other countries, I had to get specific about EXACTLY where my ancestors were from. As I've travelled I've found that people find it hard to pinpoint what my ethnicity is.

I TOTALLY should have been a spy.


Here's my experience of what other people have described me as:

In New Zealand: Pakeha (white person of british descent). But, I don't look like a typical Pakeha, because my hair is dark and my skin is olive and I have a low hairline. Mediterranean people would always ask me if I was Greek, Lebonese, etc. Sometimes people would wonder if I was part Maori. Ancestors did marry into a Maori tribe and I have Maori relatives.

In Italy: Are you Greek?

In Greece: Are you Italian?

In Egypt: Are you Lebonese? Israeli? I got Israeli a lot. I even had a fight with a guy about it once. He refused to believe I wasn't until I showed him my passport.

In Turkey: Palestinian?

In Israel: Not jewish

In Australia: Italian, Moroccan, Persian, the list goes on... People would speak Italian to me when I went to Italian restaurants. Otherwise, a "skip" or a "Kiwi".

In the Uk: Lower middle class. "colonial"

Canada: No one has ever asked, except when they hear my accent. Here I'm white, and looking at me it's assumed I'm part of the fraught history of white people in north america.

Leaving New Zealand I see my heritage is strongly influenced by Britain, and ethnically I'm mostly of the British Isles - Ireland, Scotland, England, which is common in New Zealand. But I couldn't describe myself as British because I've lived there only a short time. I don't feel comfortable describing myself as a white Canadian because most of my experience is from outside this country.

So I guess the best label for me is immigrant.
 

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When I look in the mirror, I see a Black woman, although my racial makeup is more complex than that. I have Irish, Native American(Seminole),African on my Father's side and Jamaican, Native American, and African on my Mother's side. I think that as Black people or African -Americans in this country, one would be hard pressed to call themselves 100% anything as would any White person. We are all "mixed" with something. I don't think there is any such thing as a Pure-bred anyone. My children are biracial with my husband being Polish and English directly from London, England, so we are a multiracial/multicultural family. I don't see myself as a militant by any stretch of the imagination. I think that it's important to see people as individuals instead of labels. With that being said, we live in a society where some people feel the need to put every one in a category. I've often been mistaken for the nanny when I'm out with my sons because they are much lighter than I am and I'm dark-skinned. Mostly elderly White women make comments and I try not to get offended. People are only products of their environments and they speak and act out of ignorance, so that's just the way it is. Being in an interracial/intercultural marriage is interesting because it forces me to delve more into my own culture and seek out what it means to be who I am. I think that it will be even more important as my sons get older and start asking questions. I'm sure that they will be faced with questions as they get older. They need to know their father's history as well because it is necessary. I think that as long as they know both sides of our backgrounds and are instilled with a strong sense of who they are, they won't have any racial/cultural identity problems.
 

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Hmmmm.

I'm the sort of white woman who is always asked "what are you?" I'm a mix of those categories that don't seem like they should be part of the "caucasian/white" box on census forms, but are (think North African, Middle Eastern, and generally Southern Mediterranean). I grew up partly in Southern Europe and have dealt with my alienation from American-whiteness by identifying as "foreign."

I was brought up in an area where the not-white not-black girls identified together, whether you were Mexican, Filipino, biracial, Desi Indian, Israeli or what have you--you know, all the girls who bought the Light Brown Doll, when the toy companies finally decided to come out with one. In other words, I have an urban chip on my shoulder when someone assumes that anyone who checks the "white" box eats mayonaise sandwiches, is a North European mix, is Christian, and has no real "culture."

To confuse the issue still further, I'm a second-generation Buddhist, and I'm married to an Irish Catholic. Oh, and I have a half-Russian-Jewish daughter. And all my cousins are half-Chinese.

And let's not forget this one: I'm mostly race-blind. Just don't see it. I'm fairly sure it's an autism-spectrum thing, but whatever the case may be, I can't tell races apart. I just go by what people tell me they are.
 

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what do i see when i look in the mirror? i see a black woman. it doesn't get much simpler than that for me, because i'm obviously of african descent-- milk chocolate skin, short afro, large lips, broad nose. i've never had any doubt about how i came about my looks because both of my parents look like me.

however, describing myself culturally is a little more difficult, because while my father's family is american and black, my mother's family is west indian (mostly guyanese) and black. (i'm actually a first-generation american on my mother's side-- my mother was born in london, england, and did not become an american citizen until shortly after i was born.) and because i grew up with my mother's family, with little influence from my father or his family, i tend to identify myself culturally as west indian, which any black west indian will tell you is a very different thing from being a black american.

but anyone looking at me will tell you that i'm a black woman, and no one would realize that there's more to me until i say something. and i generally don't have a problem with that-- i *am* black after all.
 

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Well, my contribution may not be as colorful (no pun intended) as others, but here goes...

Yes, on the gov. forms, I check off 'caucasion', because if you put all of my bloodlines together, they add up to 'white'. As for my heritage, my Nana was fullblood Irish Catholic, my Dziadziu was full Polish, my Meme was Canadian French, and my Poppie likes to call himself 'Swamp Yankee', though nobody seems to know exactly what that is... So why do I identify with the Irish the most? Probably because Meme and Dziadziu are now passed, and I didn't think as a child to soak up the French and Polish traditions, at least as much as I wish... Now, the Irish we have a strong family on my Mom's side, so we have some great traditions. I would love to impart all the traditions from all my roots to my daughter, and that is what I am working on now. Including a language, which we will be learning together and will likely be French or Polish.

So am I racist? Of course my first response would be no. At least I wasn't before college, but now maybe I can't be so sure but I try not to be. I grew up in a predominately white town in Connecticut. There were a couple black families, an African family (that included a brother and sister in my social circle), and a couple Hispanic/Latino families. Yup, a mostly 'white' community. Though, I have a hard time looking back and recognizing races, because my parents made a point of NOT making a point of race. My dad's best friend when he was a town cop was a very handsome black man that I was IN LOVE with. Though, I don't remember him as 'black', just as Daddy's friend who would sit on the floor and play Candyland with me (I was 4ish), and I was gonna marry him someday!!
(I still get goosebumps when I see him around...
: ) It wasn't until I went to college that race became an issue. My college roomate was a beautiful mix of black/greek/latino, and she introduced me to her friends, mostly black. I was a musician in HS, and loved to sing, so I joined the gospel choir with her. Now, I was the minority, and many people made a point to remind me of it regularly, like I was intruding somewhere I shouldn't have been. So after a number of bad experiences and confrontations that left me in tears, I started to unconciously generalizing 'black' and 'non-Catholic Christian' behaviors. Pretty sad, huh? I had made it this far essentially un-marred, and now as an adult I have to sometimes conciously remind myself not to generalize based on social stereotypes. THAT kills me.

As for who I am? I am a mother, a wife, a sister, daughter, friend. I am a nurse, and I 'take my work home with me'. Not healthy, I know, but hey... I am also a budding lactivist, and hope to someday be a certified lactation consultant. My mother died of breast cancer when I was 15, so I have made myself active with the American Cancer Society. I am a tree-hugging, granola-eating, organic-growing, cloth-diapering, toxin-free cleaning, Catholic woman. But all those things don't seem to be the sum of my parts.

When I look in the mirror I see a 30yr old woman who still feels like a child at times. I married my high-school sweetheart and we fight like kids sometimes. I am unsure of myself, and self-concious. I try to be a strong woman, and a mother who stands by her values. I have a well-worn soapbox, and it is getting more use since I have started posting at MDC. (Thanks to the mama's here!) But, I am slowly finding myself, and getting more confident even if only in baby steps. Just like any other parent, I am trying to give my daughter what I didn't have, and raise her to be a better, more confident person than I am.
If you look at me, you would see a dark haired, green eyed, usually smiling lady. I am told that I don't look my 30 years, but I see the gray hairs in the mirror. I am short (5'1"), and a little heavy, but trying to get physically and spiritually healthy. And as I work towards it, I am bringing my family and friends with me (when I can drag them along).

I guess that sums it up. Not as deep as some, but not bad for me!
 

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If you had to describe yourself, what community, race, or cultural terms would you use for yourself? When other people or institutions in the community describe you, what racial terms do they give for the complexity of your lived experience?

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In cultural/community, racial terms, I am an African American. Like most African Americans - indeed, like most Americans - that is not as clean and simple as it sounds. My skin is a tan that some of my white friends seem willing to risk their lives to achieve. My hair has a level of kink to it that inclines most Black women with similar textures to douse their hair with chemicals of questionable safety in order to straighten. In the African American community in the South of my childhood, I was known as "light-skinned", "yellow", "red", and, for that, my credibility suffered. I was often assumed to be stuck-up, without rhythm. It did not help that I loved to read and could not play the dozens. Eventually, I compensated by becoming the tightest dancer at the parties, by being loud and boisterous when, inside, I was not. And, then, when I was sent to a wealthy, Episcopalian high school, a new layer was added to being Black. Before, being Black just meant being part of a beautiful rainbow of people who were no different in any meaningful way. I was a child. I was naive. After a while in that environment, I became hostile and angrily Black until, eventually, I became proudly African American. It led me to embrace a deeper understanding of what it meant to be part of my culture, beyond rhythm and soul food, to a sense of history and social consciousness that stays with me today. That evolution continued through college, my twenties, and into the present. I have come to a point where I can be African American and believe in the "rainbow", but also acknowledge the complexity of it. I realize that ideal is something that must be earned.

Growing up, I was told that I was Black and that I should claim nothing else, regardless of what else was in our bloodlines. If we had white ancestry, according to my mother, it was because of rape. She often reminded me that my great-great grandmother was raped, young, by a white man. A black man, the man on my family tree, married her and they had 10 children together. My side of the family is the light-skinned line. My aunt is lighter than my mother. Her grandmother told her she could "afford" to marry a dark man and still have light children, which was valued. She did marry a dark man, and had four mahogany-hued babies with "good hair" like hers. My mom ended up with me, light-skinned but nappy-headed. My great-grandmother's white sisters, her father's children with his white wife, used to come visit her when my mother was a child, giving her money and things. That is my grandfather's side of the family. The people in his line-despite its shady beginnings-have tended to be better-educated and more prosperous, especially before opportunities started opening up for a broader swath of Black people. Thus, even in my own family, I can see the unevenness of opportunity accorded to people of varying skin tones in our society.

My mother is less harsh in her assessment of her mother's side of the family. They live on a huge pocket of land in south Georgia. My grandmother's mother, in the one picture we have, looks Native American. My mother says she was Seminole. My great-grandfather, she says, was a dark Black man. He was killed young, and my great-grandmother was a party girl, so my grandmother was raised by her aunt who had 10 children by men of different races she had laid down with in full consent and, according to Mom, complete enjoyment. Aunt Lenora-of mixed descent herself-was a savvy, sensuous woman who liked her men. Phenotypically, her children run the gamut. Some, you couldn't tell from any other blond, sun-weathered white person living in a trailer in the country - at least, not until they open their mouth. Others were deep brown. They were all family, making enough money on moonshine together so they didn't have to answer to anybody. When I was a kid, you could still walk back in the woods and see the rusted stills where they made their liquour.

My father, a short, tan man who gave me the eyes that had my cousins calling me "Chiang Kai Shek" when I was a child, refuses to talk about bloodlines. I will never forget the day I asked him whether he had any Native American or white ancestors on his side. He shut me down angrily. He had never been harsh with me before. I was 15. I was being curious, wanting to know my past. But I know that his concern was that I not look to be something other than what society would label me, the reality that this world would force me to live. A black woman. And he is right. That is the reality I have been given. I am as creative with it as I can possibly be, shaping it to fit the person I am.

I know this was a long response to a short question but, if we are to have a meaningful discussion about race, I'm assuming that you want to explore the complexities beyond the neat little categories we use in our usual social and political discourse. Thanks for opening up this forum!

Professor-in-training; wife to sweet, smart Kevin and Mommy to 5 mos Malcolm
 

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I am a black woman. My skin is the color of milk chocolate and my hair is a tight curly texture. That seems like an easy explanation however, it's not that simple. I recall being in school in the 70's and hearing my white peers talk about their respective heritage. I was amazed, but deep inside I carried a shame because I had nothing to offer. The only thing I knew was that I was black. I knew that I descended from slaves whose origins were from Africa but that was the extent of my knowledge. Additionally, when I was in school, little was known about the great continent of Africa and though I knew better, my peers still thought of it as being a place where people wore loin cloth and swung from trees

My maternal grandfather had the most beautiful skin and the eyes the color of slate. His mother was said to be Native American as she had bone straight hair and a ruddy color to her skin. His grandmother was classified as "mulatto" and is said to be the offspring of her slave owner. My paternal grandmother was 1/4 white and along with native American. Her siblings ranged in color from the prettiest of cocoa brown to the most interesting blend of burnt sienna. Her brother was known as "big red" which described his hair and skin color. Again, hints of some type of "mixture".
I have considered doing the DNA thing to further uncover the mystery of my racial heritage that started at the shores of Africa; it would be interesting. There is a longing to be able to put the pieces of the puzzle together but there is also mourning for various reasons.
 

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Who Am I?
I am a spiritual Being having a human experience.
I am Caucasian. My father is 100% Italian. His mother was conceived in Italy but born in the USA. His father was Italian. My mother is English and Irish.
As a young child, I had dark skin with shiny black hair. I got called all sorts of names and never understood any of them. People did not think I was 'white'. As a young child, All I knew was that I was somehow disgusting to many people...simply because of the color of my skin.
Now, however, I'm quite pale with lots of freckles.

I'm Unitarian Universalist. I am pagan.

As far as 'class', I have varied a bit. Grew up middle class but then, as my mom became a single mother, we became poor and then 'lower middle class'. As an adult, I've gone through many classifications. Middle class; Lower middle class; Poor.

Sadly, for the last 5 yrs, I haven't been viewed by society as having much worth. As a single, unemployed mom of a special needs child, I often get looked down upon. Even though I'm treated/viewed badly by much of society these days, I do know that I have it better than so many others in this world.

The question "Who Are You runs deep. It is so complex. So very difficult to even express it in words.

I am a loving, spiritual Being. I am a Mom. I am Me. I am Human.

Peace,
Liz
 

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"But who are you? When you look in the mirror, who stares back at you with eyes full of wonder, mystery, and knowledge?"

I am a very tired young woman who often tries to do too much at once. I'm a very empathetic person who doesn't like to see others get pushed around or mistreated. I had a lot of that in my childhood because I grew up in a small town where racism was not as socially condemned as it is in other places, so it was more apparent.

"If you had to describe yourself, what community, race, or cultural terms would you use for yourself? When other people or institutions in the community describe you, what racial terms do they give for the complexity of your lived experience?"

I like to think of myself as just being me, but being that we live in a world of labels, I am African American, Irish, and Cherokee on my father's side, and Caucasian (Irish, Norwegian, and Swedish) on my mother's side. I didn't really know any people who were "like me" racially until I was a teenager, so I don't really identify with any ethnically based culture, but I am a Lutheran most people I know would call me a bit crunchy. I live in a city now and love the life.

Like others, I often get asked about my ethnicity (sometimes in a rude way, and sometimes out of curiosity). My usual responses (depending on the tone) are: "Lots of things." or "A person, and you?"
I don't like the question because I don't think it should matter.

My husband's family is of Irish descent, so for the past few years I have been celebrating in the Irish American tradition.

"Do you use the same descriptions as others? If not, why do you think there are differences?"

I am proud of my heritage, but I usually don't think about it because when I was growing up there were many times when I wished I wasn't different. I pretended I wasn't, so honestly I don't think about it without provocation. I also don't really know much about my father's family because I didn't grow up around them, so I don't really have any cultural ties on that side to think about. All I really want is to have the freedom to just be...me.
 

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I am a first generation american citizen, born in the U.S.A., but both of my parents were born in Czechoslovakia, a country that doesn't even exist anymore.

When I look into the mirror I see a "white" woman. I don't really buy into phenotypes, like who looks French or German, or what. I don't know that I look "Slavic" or what that really means. Cutlural experience can also be very individual. I never felt like I was part of a cultural group, there was never an American Czech community where I lived and I was the only person I knew who spoke Czech at home and had family on the other side of the iron curtain.

When I look at other people in my family I am aware that I don't really look like them. My grandfather was Russian and I don't have any picures of my Russian relatives and don't know them personally, perhaps my facial features resemble some of my Russian ancestors? Sometimes I find myself romanticizing my Russian blood, but I am not always so proud of being Slavic. There is alot of ugly history in this part of the world as well. I now live in Prague where my parents were raised and where my husband comes from. This city used to have a large German-speaking and Jewish population, there used to be Czech Roma (gypsies) living here in large numbers. All of these people are no longer here because of bloody evilness during the second world war, but the sentiments that caused the evilness were alive and are still alive, sadly.

So I also see myself as a white woman breaking from her past and trying to free herself from prejudice and stereotyping. Well, I don't know if I really "see", but behind my eyes, the feelings and freedom are there.
 

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I have exotic eyes, or so I've been told. People have said that they just can't "place" me. I have to admit I was a little confused the first time a stranger asked, "I just have to ask. What are you?" Um, human. What are you?

Growing up I felt that I hovered on the border of two worlds; two different races, communities, and cultures. I grew up relatively poor, in a tiny duplex in a rough area of the city. It was a predominantly Hispanic area, and while I check off "Hispanic" on forms, I never felt Hispanic enough in my neighborhood. My mother is white, so my skin was fair compared to most. My father referred to my two brothers and I as his little Sponkies, half **** and half Honky. I remember around age 12 asking Dad what those words meant, and he frankly replied, "They're derogatory terms for Spanish and white people." I asked him why he would use derogatory terms towards his own children, and he just laughed. "It's just my little joke, Hijta. If you can't make fun of yourself, who can you make fun of? If it really bothers you I can call you Hispanglo." In my teen years I was a little embarrassed when he would tell anyone his little joke, but I always knew it was a term of endearment to him, and his (albeit a little strange) way of keeping us connected to a culture that we weren't really connected to.

Education was important to my parents, and we went to private schools located in suburban neighborhoods. It was a huge sacrifice financially. I was the poor girl in school, and one of very few minorities. I actually had a few friends whose parents wouldn't allow them to come over to my house because it was in a "bad" neighborhood. And a few friends who could come over, but joked about going to the "ghetto." I never felt that I fit in completely. But honestly I was never ashamed of where I came from. I was proud. People would be absolutely aghast that my house was so tiny, and that I had to share a room with my brothers. "Bedrooms are a place to sleep," I would retort, "not a private sanctuary." And I would argue that living in close quarters made for a close-knit family, which I really do believe to be true. There was no running away from conflict because there literally was nowhere to go!

Anyway, back to my exotic eyes. I have a Japanese great grandfather. Or at least, many in my family suspect I do. My paternal grandmother never knew for sure who her father was, but she looks very much like her half Japanese brother, so we suspect they had the same father. My brother, a couple of cousins and I definitely look like we have that heritage. So besides Japanese on my father's side, we are Hispanic/Latino/Spanish whatever you want to call it. We've traced the family name back to two different Spanish conquistadors, who ended up settling in the Four Corners region. My grandfather's family goes back at least five generations in southern Colorado. Sadly, he told me about being called a dirty Mexican, and while we don't rule out the possibility of having one or more Mexican ancestors, we are not from, nor have we ever even been, to Mexico. My grandfather fought in WWII, and one of the saddest comments he made concerning that time was, "Before the war we were all dirty Mexicans and *******. During the war we were all brave Americans fighting for our country. Then we came home and went back to being dirty Mexicans and ******* again."

My mother is currently in the process of researching her genealogy, and so far my ancestors on her side originate from Europe (mainly Britain, but some from Sweden and Germany), and she has also found some Native American ancestry.

So, to sum it all up, I am a mutt. I have always felt confused about claiming any kind of racial or cultural identity for myself. I've never had a sense of belonging. I'm too brown for white world and too white for brown world.
 

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Originally Posted by Karen Salt View Post
But who are you? When you look in the mirror, who stares back at you with eyes full of wonder, mystery, and knowledge? If you had to describe yourself, what community, race, or cultural terms would you use for yourself? When other people or institutions in the community describe you, what racial terms do they give for the complexity of your lived experience? Do you use the same descriptions as others? If not, why do you think there are differences?
like the majority of the posters so far, i am a white north american woman. as such, i have the luxury of pontificating about race (my father was an immigrant, after all, my parentage is a mix of protesrant, catholic, atheist, irish scottish, welsh, german english, and french - does "white" accurately describe that "complexity"?) without having to deal with the harsh realities some other people - people who are visible minorities - have to face every day of their lives.

occasionally people have asked about my background because of my colouring (some guesses: icelandic, portuguese, slovakian, japanese, italian, first nations), but i've never been stopped for "driving while white" (who has?). i've never been ignored by shopkeepers for being white, or shadowed by security guards. i've never had political or medical concerns in my country dismissed on the world stage as being unimportant or unsolvable or not worth worrying about because of the colour of my skin. i've never had someone refuse to help me because of the colour of my skin.

life is by no means perfect, but when i look in the mirror, the person who looks back at me - while occasionally annoyed when people make assumptions based, basically, on having really dark hair - is grateful to have "won the lottery" by being born white in the western world, accepts that a white woman can never really know what it is like to live as a visible minority person does in our country, and considers it a responsibility to do whatever possible to make the world a better place, as an expression of gratitude for this good fortune.

as a white woman in north america in the twenty-first century, no matter how difficult life can be at times, i think it is important to never forget how lucky i am to havve the life i do, and remember that it is all just luck, and many are not so lucky.
 

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When I look in the mirror, I see a woman finally coming to terms with the only real requirement for living -- maintaining the strength the and tenacity to seek one's own truth. The mirror reflects all the turmoil that emerging from the uncertainty of my twenties and a society that expects (sometimes demands) my cowed compliance -- from my slightly overweight 5'4 frame to my intense brown eyes -- always poised for the next fight.

If I had to describe myself, I would call myself an African-American. I believe that being the first generation descendant of West African parents -- mom and dad were both born and raised in Sierra Leone, West Africa-- that this term is the most accurate description of race for me. Growing up in the ghettos of State Island and eventually the suburbs of Southern New Jersey, I was certainly made aware that I was not just "black". At a time when geneaology and racial pride was in its fledgling stages, I at times felt my "Africaness" more in the presence of my "black" peers, then white ones ( I doubt they thought about it much -- black was black).

Being a by-product of an American cultural upbringing, pervasive via media and the education system, I am a far cry from my mother -- a woman who married (arranged) my father out of respect and love for her own father. But the richness of family and tradition reflected in the way I dress for social occassions, wear my babies, and feed my family are most certainly Sierra Leonean. So, I believe that the term African-American most closely represents my own cultural heritage.

Society has many terms to classify me racially, sexually, culturally, and even religiously -- all of which in the United States is systematically reduced to the connotation of black once I'm seen.

Does it really matter? Yes, and No. Yes, because as the mother of a developmentally disabled black male (high-functioning autism), I worry about his chances in this world. No, because regardless of what a person initially perceives me to be, they soon come to know me as a strong, intelligent, passionate mother and advocate.
 

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Sometimes when I look in the mirror, I surprise myself. You'd think I'd be used to this face after 36 years, but some days it feels almost foreign to me to be housed in a body.

Racially, I am caucasian. My mother is English and immigrated when she was 19. I have visited England several times to visit family and have always found comfort in the traditions. I think the world would run a lot smoother if we could all just settle the hell down and have some tea and scones around 4 o'clock everyday. There is a lot of tension in my family (my parents divorced years ago) and my sister has no regard whatsoever for her British heritage.

My Dad has some deep Southern roots but family history points to Scottish and English ancestory. On my Dad's side of the family there is an interesting racial mix. A number of cousins have married Mexican-Americans, but for some of the older generation, there some denial. My favorite thing is how the old folks can't bring themselves to say Mexican. Instead, they use the bafflingly ignorant and overly P.C. "Spanish".

I actually have a Spanish degree. I have a love of the language, although I have some intellectual amnesia after having children. I appreciate but do not appropriate the Mexican customs in my community. They are not mine to take.

I married a man with deep ties to his Irish/Catholic background. I converted to Catholicism but more for the traditions rather than religiosity. Spiritually, yoga has brought me deeper meaning.

I am part of the natural birth community, the yoga community and the writing community. I mourn the fact I have no real cultural identity, just a white woman.

Sometimes, I close my eyes and try to imagine what it would be like to have brown skin. It scares me. Doing so forces me to acknowledge the tragedies near and far that have affected people of color, people who with our eyes closed are just like us.
 

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Quote:

Originally Posted by Karen Salt View Post

A Conversation about Race

If you had to describe yourself, what community, race, or cultural terms would you use for yourself? When other people or institutions in the community describe you, what racial terms do they give for the complexity of your lived experience? Do you use the same descriptions as others? If not, why do you think there are differences?

Thich Nhat Hanh, a spiritual teacher whom I greatly respect, talks about having family ancestors, land ancestors, and spiritual ancestors. I really like that way of thinking about who I am and who I come from. My family ancestors are from Germany and England, mostly, and I carry white privilege and light skin. Because I live in the United States, I also am connected to my land ancestors here, the people who came before me who did wonderful things as well as genocidal things. People who built hospitals and schools and libraries, and people who tried to exterminate others, who destroyed the natural world, and who engaged in warfare. I have to accept ALL of that history. My spiritual ancestors are Lutheran by birth, and Buddhist by affiliation, and sustain and nourish me daily.

My daughter is adopted, and she carries a different genetic legacy than me. Because she was born in Guatemala, I know her experience of living in the United States will be very different than mine. One of the reasons I want to participate in this forum is to become a better ally to her as she grows up.
 

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I don't think of myself as white, as in the white that is associated with the dark history of North America. However, that is exactly what I see when I look at people looking at me. And what bothers me the most is that they seem to have no problem with it because they are the same. As if God has a 'chosen race' and I'm part of that. I would never call myself WHITE.

I have olive skin, blond hair, brown eyes. I tan nicely and burn too...but I won't say that I'm white because, to me, it's only racists who are 'white'. My mother's side is from Italy - I've actually lived there for a while. My father's side is some of this, some of that - Irish, English, German, French...I think that all my ancestors were immigrants to America from Europe. I love them all for their struggles and victories, relocating in a new country, learning a new language. I'm sure it was not easy for them. I am learning more about each everyday. I wish the records of our family was better taken care of. However, it's what has maybe been 'forgotten' or 'ignored' that intrigues me the most. It's the 'Indian in the wood pile' that I want to find. That's what people say/said if they had Indian (NDN) in them and they didn't want people to know it. I want to finally find the lost Native line... I feel for all the lost souls of my ancestral past...

When I have to check the box - race - and I see what the gov't sees as -race- it infuriates me. Caucasian, African American, Hispanic, Native American, other... The only ACTUAL race listed there is caucasian. The rest are either ethnicities or cultures.

I have a Colorado/Michigan/Texas/Maryland accent - my dad was in the military...I say I'm 'from' Colorado because I love it...and I live on Turtle Island (North America) because America's politics are corruptive and I don't want to be considered a white american at the moment. I'm not a democrat. not a republican. not anything. I vote, but I won't check the box 'white'. It's not just a color anymore, it's a state of mind.

And what makes me even more angry is when I'm with other 'whites' and they make comments about Native Americans and my DH, therefore, my children too, are NDN. When I point that out, they are like, hush hush...The fact that I read and educate myself about NDN issues, traditions, recipes, authors...is another one of those 'hush' moments. A few friends of mine actually whisper the word 'Indian' as if saying it will hurt them!...

I'm mostly afraid for my children being of mixed races and the challenges they will face. That is why I try to educate and live in all the worlds that we are from, be it Italian or Native, or american... I want my kids to dance at Pow wow if they want...but I'm not sure if people will accept a blond boy and a curly toped brunette out there with all the 'real' Indians. People around here only accept you for what you are ONLY if you look the part.

So maybe that's why I'm mad, because I look white, am considered to THINK like everyone else and the fact that I don't and am not makes me sad, because it's scary to be friends with someone and then one time you talk about race they 'find out' what you really are...and you find out that they are raciest and you are no longer friends...sometimes I feel like I live in KKK territory in the minds of those around me, friends and family...
 

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I am a white woman, and a rural, small-town white woman at that. I am sure that is what others see when they look at me, although I am occasionally told that I have a slightly exotic look "for a white woman." My dark brown hair seems slightly out of place with my ivory-white skin and intense blue eyes, like I should have blond hair instead, and my facial bone structure is quite strong. I check the white/Caucasian box on forms, but as others have said, the label doesn't describe the complexity of my heritage.

I am 1/4 Czechoslovakian Bohemian/Roma/gypsy, 1/4 unknown Scandinavian heritage, and 1/8 German. The other 3/8, my family describes as "Heinz 57" or "American frontier," a mix of at least a dozen European nationalities, tracing our ancestors in this country to pre-Revolutionary War indentured servitude, with some Native American and Melungeon thrown in.

It is this "American frontier" heritage that I have most identified with in my life. Growing up, I enjoyed hearing my father tell the stories of our Scotch-Irish Protestant ancestors who fled to indentured servitude in the American colonies, of the people who traveled westward across Appalachia, and especially of the great-great-something-grandfather who settled in this small community nearly 200 years ago. My identity of growing up in this small town is really at the core of how I identify myself, and everything else usually feels peripheral. The connection I feel to my ancestors when I walk the woods on our farm or visit our family cemetary is so intense that I consider it part of my spirituality. For some reason that I can't explain, I am proud of the fact that my daughter is the 8th generation to be raised here. But this "frontier" heritage was mixed with the German background of my maternal grandmother. She was raised German Lutheran, still uses German words for some things, and is thrilled that I'm learning the arts of pickling and fermenting.

However, my mother's "Bohemian heritage," as she calls it, has affected me a little bit as well. She is a second-generation American who lived in a Chicago neighborhood that was an ethnic mix of Bohemian, Italian, and Polish. From the stories that she and my aunts have told, it sounds like ethnic jokes were thrown around between the different ethnicities often. I know there must have been experiences growing up in a poorer ethnic neighborhood and "being Bohemian," but my mother doesn't really talk about it. She moved to my father's small town and left most of that behind, teaching me instead about domestic things like baking kolacky and my grandmother's blown eggs. Honestly, just typing this has made me want to talk to my mother and learn more.

Part of what makes heritage discussions so difficult for me is that I am an anthropologist at heart. My father has spent the better part of his adult life compiling our geneology, has a database with hundreds of thousands of names, and specializes in the Native American-French intermarriages that occurred in this area. I am fascinated by cultural practices, immigration patterns, ethnic phenotypes, languages and accents, regional linguistics, etc. I can tell you about my Scandinavian eyes, my Bohemian nose, or my Melungeon teeth. However, as a predominantly white person, I feel like my interest in such things is often frowned upon. It is important to me to not offend or hurt people, but I wish that I had an avenue for discussing these things.
 

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Quote:

Originally Posted by Karen Salt View Post

A Conversation about Race

But who are you? When you look in the mirror, who stares back at you with eyes full of wonder, mystery, and knowledge? If you had to describe yourself, what community, race, or cultural terms would you use for yourself? When other people or institutions in the community describe you, what racial terms do they give for the complexity of your lived experience? Do you use the same descriptions as others? If not, why do you think there are differences?

As a white appearing woman, I have the luxury of not seeing racial identity as the first thing I see in the mirror. Most people don't see me in racial terms; rather they see a hippie, intellectual, liberal, heavily tattooed, mama to a special needs kid(plus a couple more!), raving human rights activist, social worker type. I'm 50 years old, have long dark brown hair, and have been asked if I am Greek, Spanish, Italian, and like that.

My Mom is Scottish/Irish/Native American, but we don't know much about her background because she was an orphan. She looks exactly like that mix - light skin, black hair (well, before it was sparkly white) Native eyes and facial structure.

My Dad was Jewish, and this is my strongest ethnic identification. His parents were born in the Ukraine and Poland, but these were bad places to be Jewish at that time. Dad was born in Germany, and only a few of his family escaped the holocaust. After the war. he moved first to Mexico, then to the US. I am a secular Jew, and feel a bond with Judaism, although I do not share all the beliefs and rituals. Dad never considered himself German, although he was born and raised there. I have never felt American; indeed I have never felt geographical ties to any place, perhaps because of my father's transient history, and our wide spread family.

What people don't see about me are all the connections I have to other cultures. One of my adopted sisters is Creole, and my nephews are Black. Another sister is Polish, but lives in Spain. I have cousins in Malawi, Japan, Mexico, Costa Rica, and many European countries. I don't how they feel, but I think it was just chance that I was born in the US - it doesn't feel any more like home than anywhere else.
 
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