Last Sunday I was stopped by a member of my congregation… someone from what I call my church family. She mentioned THIS is why I cannot, will not, comply, written after I explained to my son that I would probably (or not) be arrested on the National Day of Non-Compliance.
After confiding that she’d been thinking about that blog entry ever since, she started to talk about all the different classifications of Americans… Mexican, African, Native, Chinese etc.
I have to confess that I got a little nervous. Because the only thing harder than talking about race with people who are not white, in my experience, is talking about race with people who are. And I felt my shield go up, because I’ve heard one or two profoundly stupid things said in my church home, and I wasn’t sure what was coming. I was afraid it would be some argument about how all those prefixes should be dropped, and my mind was racing because I hadn’t been mentally prepared for a “that thing you said” conversation. But then she asked, “But what am I? Am I Caucasian or European American?” And I responded cautiously, still not sure where we were headed, “Well, there would be Italian, German, and Irish American…”
And then she asked the million dollar question. What can she do, in her day-to-day interactions, to challenge the assumption that Americans are of European descent by default, and everything else is “other.”
I wish I’d had a better answer. I’m a unusal case (in more ways than one, I know…) in that outside of work and church on Sunday, very few people who I see on a daily or weekly basis are white. I shared with her that I make it a point (with people who tend to use race or ethnicity to describe others when it is not relevant to the conversation), to mention EVERYONE’S race (aka, my “this white lady at walgreens” story), I don’t have those kinds of conversations often.
Tonight I was at a volunteer meeting for the Community Posada and someone (not white) mentioned Euro-Americans in a conversation, which was the motivation I needed to write this post and not table it until after I get all the other drafts in my head published. Most of the discussion on what I write happens in the link comments on my Facebook wall, but for the sake of centralizing feedback and hopefully providing some ideas and resources for others, I’d like to ask people to comment here and not on FB. You don’t need to sign up for an account to comment.
I want to hear from my Anglo/Euro/Caucasian American readers. Do you consciously use language to counteract the assumption that Americans are white by default? What does that sound like? How and when do you use it? What kind of reactions do you get? If you don’t, what kind of ideas do you have?
Thanks to all of you in advance, and a very special thanks to my sister. You renewed my faith last Sunday, as well as my commitment to continue witnessing, LOUDLY, about the costs of racism to white people. As proud as we may be to fight for justice, we need to acknowledge that we are also fighting for our own humanity.
A PS… This was written as a call for reflection & discussion to white/euro/anglo/gring@ people because I feel strongly we need to take more responsibility in creating equality and justice for all. People of privilege shouldn’t be looking to the people who are being oppressed to show us the light when we’re holding the matches and candles. That said, if you don’t fall into the targeted demographic and you have a suggestion about how we can do better or want to point out something we may do with the best of intentions that we really shouldn’t, jump right in.
- Own Your Beauty: On Being Multi-Racial in the Racist, Rural South (blogher.com)
- Why Racial Profiling Persists in Medical Research (time.com)
- All Are Alike Unto God: A Reaction to Margaret Blair Young and Darius Aidan Gray’s _Standing On the Promises_ Series (motleyvision.org)
- Ingathering – Unitarian Universalist congregations often don’t have traditional services during the summer, so the first Sunday after Labor Day is like a little family reunion. The following Sunday is when our RE (Religious Education) programming kicks off. You may remember how excited I was two years ago for Tyler to go through Coming of Age (COA) program. About halfway through the year it was obvious that his heart wasn’t really in it… he just wasn’t ready and his heart wasn’t really in it. I gave him the option to either finish the program then or do it this year (COA and OWL (Our Whole Lives) are offered alternating years). He elected to do it this year, and will go through COA with the same kids he went through OWL with. In addition to a great relationship with these peers, he has a great mentor that he also established a great bond with last year, and says is the coolest grown up he knows after me & his dad. Read more…
We don’t need no stinkin’ facts. Frankly, I’m more scared of white people than Al Qaeda sometimes. The Jihadists are crazy, but some of my people are giving them a run for their money.
Rep.Gohmert, with all due respect, YOU are a terrorist. YOU are terrorizing the American public with wild speculation about some theory that might potentially happen in some wild realm of your imagination. What you did on the house floor is no better than yelling “fire” in a crowded theater. There’s a difference between credible evidence and wild speculation, and you should be able to decipher where that line is.
I have pretty much gotten used to the average Joe on the street insulting another’s patriotism in a disagreement like this, but I really expect better from an elected official, and a former judge.
What’s wrong with the idea of mothers sneaking into the country, giving birth, and sneaking back elsewhere to lovingly rear their children into U.S.-hating mini-Osamas? Besides the fact that there’s no evidence of such a phenomenon?
Do you notice anything about those four stories — Van Jones, ACORN, the New Black Panther Party, and now Shirley Sherrod? This isn’t about racism. This isn’t a story about picking on black people. This is a story about political outcomes, about the tried and true political strategy not of targeting black people but of targeting white people, about making white people feel afraid of African Americans as if they are not fellow Americans but rather a threat to what white people have.
So it’s probably not a surprise to any of my readers (if there are any left out there, that is) that I am not a fan of SB1070. I could go on about that, but right now I am going to attempt to focus my attention (this is a struggle for me) on a thought that occurred to me earlier, while I was reading Program gives Chicago Public Schools teachers a lesson in history, culture. It sounds like a pretty cool program, and I figure that the chances of our schools implementing a program like this are slim. If I sound cynical, well… between SB1070 and our more recent Ethnic Studies Law, well… nuff said.
So as it is prone to do, my mind started wandering & I started a comparison & contrast of Phoenix & Chicago, a city I recently visited & fell in love with. Now, it’s not easy to follow my train of thought on a lot of things… sometimes I can’t even do it. But humor me today… just sit down, shut up, and hang on. Read more…
It wasn’t always this way. Whites once supported government spending, especially when we thought people like us would be the beneficiaries. Those who protest government health care didn’t object, for instance, when government-backed FHA loans helped 15 million white families afford housing from the 1940s to the 1960s, while blacks were essentially excluded. Indeed, by the early ’60s, nearly half of all mortgages received by white families were being written under this blatantly preferential government initiative. And whites didn’t mind when the government passed the Homestead Act in 1862, resulting in the distribution of over 240 million acres of essentially free land to white families.
Scenario: My sitter is black. Priscilla has been babysitting for me since Tyler was 2 mos old. So as not to deal with the hassle of receipts, I pay her by check with the note “childcare” and the dates covered in the memo section. Every month for 3.5 years I’ve written her a check drawn on Wells Fargo Bank. Almost every month for the last two years she has been cashing these checks at the same branch…