You Don’t Have a Culture and That Culture is Evil

Consider that it is through my own identity in Whiteness as a White Person that I have felt immediate empathy for Muslims and Queer people alike, among others.

Being Muslim means constantly feeling the pressure to not be perceived as an extremist terrorist who wants to dominate others, despite the sad reality that there are some Muslims who do this and have power. To be Muslim under hostile eyes, even the eyes of those rightly angry because they have suffered from Islamic extremism, nevertheless means belonging to a group that is guilty until proven innocent. If a caring Muslim person wants to speak out against Islamist extremism, they risk opening themselves to other peoples’s false perceptions of permission to attack and demean all Muslim identity, despite deeply honorable efforts among many Muslims to actively decrease extremist ideologies in their communities.

So it is with being White, seriously contending against literal White Supremacists while constantly being demeaned as the racially guilty enemy in my own land just for being White and not apologizing for that.

To be Queer (transgender, genderqueer, etc) means always trying to educate others while caring for yourself and your own life experience without constant self-conscious worry, once you express your heart’s aligninment with this identity explicitly and without apology. It means looking for counselors who understand your social situation enough so that you can spend that time being cared for instead of putting precious emotional energy into educating the one who should be therapeutically comforting you.

Where my Whiteness differs from these parallels drawn with Muslim and Queer identities is that to be White means being everywhere and nowhere, being assumed “the blank slate” norm while also being denied explicit pride in one’s heritage amongst a rapidly diversifying cultural landscape. It means having almost every space available to you but nowhere specifically for you, by threat of being charged with White Supremacy. Your presence is requested for its assumed “power and privilege”, because you owe it and you should show your support, but demonized and resented when you show up; you are told that your existence is a burden to other people’s special “spaces”. If you try to shed your ethnic identity and become another, you will be humiliatingly mocked, at best, or viscously attacked for committing “cultural appropriation”, at worst- but you are allowed no explicit culture of your own, remember. Being White means You Don’t Have a Culture and That Culture is Evil.

Being White now means being taught to have no ethnic self-awareness while fearing that if you develop your ethnic White self-awareness you will be constantly, CONSTANTLY told that there is nothing good that can be attributed to your ethnic identity. You are to unquestioningly adore everyone else’s culture but have no normal, healthy, proud ancestral Self. You, White People [the voice of seething resentment] are allowed no ethnic kinship with others who look like you, though you see yourself everywhere. You are “represented” in image everywhere and in spirit nowhere. You are alone, and you must teeter in hesitancy before the possibility of even broaching the topic with another like you, On Pain of Accusation. They might Turn You In. You cannot trust Your Own because you are policed by Your Own and, in case you forgot, you don’t deserve a normal sense of Your Own, and if you try you will be suspect and viciously, publicly hated. You are told you have No Ethnic Awareness, and you wish they were right. How much easier their lie would be, if it were true. Because those who hate you the most are others like you. You are the hated Racial Blank Slate, forced to be everyone but allowed to be no one.

In Their Suffering I Face My Ineptitude

I wonder in my mind how I can engage with these political and cultural movements in a way that is both respectful for others but also protective of my own boundaries. At the end of the long day, after the energy of the shouting and marching crowd has dissipated, there are individual people, friends I have loved, who pass through inward turmoil and suffering which are inextricably tied into the fervor of these movements and their commitment thereto. And I see my frustration and weakness in the face of the human-animal suffering of every person who feels they are marginalized or under the boot-heels of tyrants, because they carry rare magic and silence in the face of what angers them is impossible, and I know I am one of them, and in their suffering I face my ineptitude.