Monday, April 10, 2006

"Jesus loves the little children of the world. Red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in His sight ..."
My dad was a minister in the Friends Church for 14 years. As a wee one I remember singing that song with great enthusiasm. My ancestors were silent Quakers. I am very pleased about that. I imagine them freeing slaves and keeping treaties with Indians. ...

Well ...

There was a little excitement a week or so ago, here at the usually quiet Listening For Change blog. The other day I wrote my heart out as usual. But, not as usual, I didn't prequalify some of my remarks--generalizations--about white folks (me being one myself and all).

Now I feel really bad about doing that.

Hugo said:
Shed no tears for this happy white boy.


On the upside ... The next thing I knew I had 40 hits on my sitemeter. Seems Hugo and Bitch Lab don't think they have any white bitching to do about growing up white.

Well, I beleive that's only half true.

More Hugo:
News flash, folks: Anglo-Saxon reticence is not a recipe for misery! It's not inherently oppressive or misery making, at least no more so than any other way of doing things. No culture has a monopoly on dysfunction; no culture has a monopoly on healthy child-rearing practices. My ancestors were fortunate, and some of them probably made their money in ways that were cruel and exploitative. But the sins of the fathers are not automatically visited upon the sons and daughters! I can regret what my ancestors may have done without rejecting all of their values, all of their contributions, all of the wonderful pieces of a very real culture they bequeathed to me.


I never said I rejected all my ancestor's contributions and values. I love my family. I'm very close to my mom. Some of my best memories were riding waves in the ocean with my dad. He would laugh and catch a wave and he would be delighted when I rode in a wave alongside him. We did this for hours. Every summer for two weeks. (My dad happens to be drinking himself to death as we speak.)

I also had enough slack--in part due to the privilege that I had--that I figured some things out and did them differently. For example: I breastfed and co-sleep with my babies. I have used some listening tools to re-learn how to play and laugh and have a heck of a lot of fun!

But shit, my folks didn't play with me. They were, a la Dr Spock, not going to let me near their bed! And family events were often pretty damn serious. I have a photo of my mom as a child putting an ornament on the Christmas tree. She had this somber expression on her face.

My great-grandpa was the doctor who delivered Richard Nixon (and then I became related to him through marriage). What would you do? My theory is a loving one. There was some discussion as to whether Dr. William Valentine Marshburn actually spanked little Richard when he was born. And if he didn't maybe he should have?

My grandparents became multi-millionaires (big bucks then) by leasing farmland when Japanese Americans--folks who had nothing to do with D-Day--were put in internment camps. Years later, I asked my highly religious Grandma about it she chuckled and said they paid the Japanese a fair price.

But they profited off it and never spoke out against the internment.

She also placed my mother in a crib so much that the back of her head is a little flat to this day.

And at her funeral she was praised for what a good wife and mother she was. My grandpa Frank was praised by all the people he gave money to for new church buildings. Marshburn Bros. employed a full-time construction crew to build 22 churches. They thought "God" was blessing them for being good Christians. Not to be a Monday morning quarterback but hey,they were benefiting off the internment of Japanese-Americans and also using the inexpensive labor of Mexican workers to make a profit on their farms--from land originally violently stolen from Native Americans. Is that "God's Will"? I have a little trouble with being proud of that brand of Christianity.

My dear Grandma thought she was the first to introduce tacos in California. I tried to explain to my mother that she introduced tacos to white people in California. My mom also couldn't understand why I insisted she change the name of an old family recipe--she said they didn't "mean anything" by it. "Wetback Delight" is just not acceptable. In 1954 there was a forcible removal of up to 1 million "Mexican-looking" folks from US to Mexico called Operation Wetback.

It's fine that there is much to be pleased with about ourselves as white folks. (The saying "There's a human being inside that @#$%!" can be applied.) And it's fine that our parents did their very best to love us and still do. But don't diss me for writing some generalities that have a lot of truth to them. (I do think I was a bit of a loose cannon though.)

As a new blogger with modest traffic, of course my first reaction was elation that anyone was reading me at all. Now that the traffic has died down maybe I can peel myself off the ceiling and wipe the stardust from my eyes--and think.

Okay to be fair. BitchLab actually said this:
I guess I’m trying to figure out: what’s a fair claim to make about white people and whether or not we, as a group, lack loving, touching, close families? And, is this a reasonable explanation for expropriation of other cultures?


My answer: No. But it does happen a lot. And BL is right, it intersects with class issues. An owning class person of color may end up passing on isolation and their children could be as lonely as I was day after day.

But there was a third response to my blog that day.
If niggas claimed the intellectual property stolen by their betters and sold back to them/US, we'd all be 'lil Bill Gates, with "pockets so phat it'll look like they got tha mumps!"

Someone who agreed with much of what I had to say. Thefreeslave (God bless him) wrote on the very same topic! Him being black and all. I didn't have many black attackers for talking about the screwed up way (a lot of) white folks get brought up. That's where our racism gets set in. It's not our NATURE as white people to be cold and unaffectionate etc. It's taught! We're trained to train our children, or else! And then we crave what looks like black warmth. It is! In comparison to what most of us got!

I want to put my thinking out there, yes. I want to be a source of encouragement for people of color who see one white woman facing her own privilege. A white person speaking up about racism, by the way, is kinda funny. Why would they? Hugo? BitchLab? I gather, as from conversations like black lesbians say what?, you're respected as allies. I've seen other bloggers of color refer to you in this way.

I googled that question and found this paper:
Some,[privileges] like the expectation that neighbors will be decent to you, or that your race will not count against you in court, should be the norm in a just society. Others, like the privilege to ignore less powerful people, distort the humanity of the holders as well as the ignored groups(my emphasis).


So I want to un-distort my own humanity.

I also want to befriend my fellow white folks and be allies to each other. What a miracle there! This is not a competition to see who can be the smartest anti-racist ally. When we try and one up each other, I think, that is part of racism. When we criticize each other in a spirit that is not acknowledging each other's good thinking, I think, that is part of what holds racism firmly in place.

So, now that I have this experience of being linked and quoted... (And it brings up all these feelings I get to deal with!) ... I tell myself that if I wasn't making some sense, somewhere, the quoting never would have happened. And to think of it as support rather than an attack. And to think of it as something I get to respond to. Now what do I do?

I keep writing about what I'm thinking about.

4 Comments:

Anonymous Elizabeth Branford said...

I found your link on Blue Republic, and recall I have been here before and wanted to find you again! I did not witness the exchanges you have written about on this post, so I don't have much to offer except my own recollections on Spockian trauma- my "free" parents were often the talk of the family with "dirty Breastfeeding" remarks in the suburban neighborhood... I don't recall people playing with their children, and some friends even eating in a different room from their parents- like loving children was a crime!
Again, I don't know a lot about the conversation you described but admire your willingness to try to speak frankly. Hope to see you sometime at Blue Republic!

5:15 PM PDT  
Blogger Sea's Blog said...

Thanks Elizabeth. I'm liking you! I hopped over to Blue Republic and felt it a little over my head (snort, laugh) but then again, I probably have more ability to participate than I let myself beleive. See ya!

7:02 AM PDT  
Anonymous barb said...

"It's not our NATURE as white people to be cold and unaffectionate etc. It's taught!"

YES, YES, YES! geez, it's like, Hugo and B|L are cool but I think they're missing the point here --or conflating two different things. I think what you and I (in my post on the subject, a very long detour) were saying was that Ok, we white people have this particular history, right? And that history impacts us in inumerable ways, some of which might /probably includes certain aspects of white "culture".

Now it's true, that there is no one monolithic culture that could be said to be "white culture" or even "north american white culture" but there is something --perhaps it's not properly speaking "culture" at all, perhaps we lack a word for it-- but there is SOMEthing like a shared set of values and beliefs that are found amongst people who have this particular history of racism. Maybe it's not "culture" per se, but it's something.

I'm sorry if I'm not articulating this well. But yeah, the sins of the fathers *do* still affect us today and while I don't know if I'd say we are "guilty" of them, we have *benefitted* from them and they still *influence* us. In various ways.

Great post! I'm sorry I didn't see it earlier!

6:27 AM PDT  
Anonymous Douglass said...

Let's see, the term 'white' is an interesting (and loaded) term.

It has no real ethnic (i.e. German) connotation, rather it is a way to describe people with white skin, and has no bearing at all on the historically exploitive behavior exhibited by the European nations from the 14th century on.

Russians are white. Does that mean that the crimes of Columbus influence them today?

I am sick of reading senseless prattle about race relations, you must recall that the other races have exhibited similar brutalities and by singling out 'white' people, you are engaging in racist thinking.

A similar dynamic is in effect in the mind of the 'self-hating Jew'.

I don't mean to insult anybody, and I probably am misunderstanding a large part of what you wrote.

But, to look at historical data under the lens of 'white brutality' is the SAME CRIME as looking at historical data under the lens of 'Jewish hegemony' or 'Black stupidity'.

12:14 PM PDT  

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