Is this some backdoor way of pushing for the preeminence and preservation of White culture not unlike the rallying cry of David Duke type of White nationalist, albeit, a much more stealthy, more benign kind of “white culture”? I thought White anti-racism, on some level, seeks to “abolish the White race” (or act as saboteurs) and, by extension, white race-culture — i.e. the race-focused, color-line race culture created by Whites?
So, I have to ask: Why do White Americans want to have something they can call “white culture”? And when they say they feel a “lack of culture” when compared to other groups, what other groups have anything resembling a racialized construct for their culture for Whites to say, “we don’t have/see something commonly called “white” culture like they have [insert a color] culture.”
(Note: The notion makes culture a race/racial product as opposed to the result of the collection of ethnic or national beliefs and customs. Again, what is “no white culture” being compared to?)
I’m still at the “what is this all about?” stage. Which is the reason I asked why do White Americans want or wished they had “something commonly called white culture” like WET (White Entertainment TV), WAR (White Agenda Report)… like explicitly calling sports “white” hockey/soccer, “white” hunting/fishing and other things “white” guns & religion would make everything all better.
Certainly the “we don’t see something commonly called ‘white’ culture” sentiment sounds like those White Americans bemoan some sense, perhaps, even a “real sense of loss” of White culture. Of course, country’s shifting demographics have been met with “State of Emergency” calls to recognize the “Whiteness” of American culture and to preserve that Whiteness. But we’re not talking about ostensibly “racist” (as in overtly racist or racially antagonistic) whites. So what gives?
Well, it’s not like I haven’t questioned the validity of what Macon believes to be self-evident. Let us expand on that for just a brief moment, shall we:
“… a groundbreaking new study on whiteness and race relations by University of Minnesota sociologists shows that whites in the U.S. are far more conscious of being white–and the privileges it brings–than was believed. The survey is packed with fascinating findings, some surprising (a stunning proportion of whites–77%–say their race has a distinct culture that should be preserved)…”
With that duly noted, casting doubt on the “no white culture” myth/belief/sentiment really isn’t what I wanted to do here. What drove me to make this blog-post was the initial questions I posed and my rereading of the discussion we already had.
Trying to get to the bottom of this, I kept asking Macon questions he just couldn’t answer. He couldn’t answer because he was intent on continuing the charade. A charade that was fully exposed when he explained:
“… white people don’t perceive some collective, simply “white” culture of their own, and they do tend to perceive others as having it.
So some white Americans, many of whom aren’t even sure which countries their relatives came from, feel a lack, a “hole” in this sense…”
I kept asking Macon about the last part, especially how not knowing where one’s relatives came from was part of the idea of a lack of “WHITE” culture and how that had anything to do with people/groups that aren’t “white.” Macon obviously couldn’t answer. I noticed that. But what I didn’t notice was just how Macon was restating what the author, Tochluk, had been driving at herself.
“White folks who cannot fully recapture a lost cultural heritage, like myself, often experience a real sense of loss…”
In the midst of our discussion, I completely blanked on the first part and, instead, focused on the “real sense of loss” clause. But Tochluk’s lament about “lost cultural heritage” was a theme that ran throughout the piece Macon quoted from.
“..many of us find ourselves looking at other groups and longing for the connection we imagine they feel with their roots, their homeland, their culture…”
Now the picture is starting to form. Tochluk wishes she had a connection to a cultural heritage that has, somehow, been severed. So, if Macon is right, then White Americans like Tochluk, at that time in her life, feel like something has disrupted or cut off the connection from the “white culture” they used to know to the “no white culture” they have today? Is that what he is saying? Was that what Tochluk was talking about?
TRADITION TRADED IN FOR WHITENESS
Tochluk amazing illustration of the kind of ephinany she had when she witnessed a White performing artist dramatize the blandness of whiteness ended with this revealing and important statement:
I stood transfixed in front of the white female artist. She sat on a chair on a square stage four feet above the crowd in a glass case. She wore a delicate white dress and was holding a bag from Pier 1 Imports. She admired the exotic artifacts from lands abroad one after the other. I stood transfixed for several minutes, trying to sort out the emotion rising in me.
There was something very discomforting about seeing her that way. I recognized that woman. She was me. Or at least, she had been me. She was my mother. She was my grandmother, perhaps to some lesser degree. I felt that, that blandness, that plainness, that whiteness. I felt her whiteness as a lack, a loss. I felt this loss in my bones. I could barely move as I was reminded of how I loved what other cultures have precisely because I know the emptiness that results when tradition is traded in for whiteness.
And what tradition would that be? Well, I’d suggest a little consideration for what’s been considered in “How The Irish Became White“:
Ironically, Irish Catholics came to this country as an oppressed race yet quickly learned that to succeed they had to in turn oppress their closest social class competitors, free Northern blacks. Back home these “native Irish or papists” suffered something very similar to American slavery under English Penal Laws. Yet, despite their revolutionary roots as an oppressed group fighting for freedom and rights, and despite consistent pleas from the great Catholic emancipator, Daniel O’Connell, to support the abolitionists, the newly arrived Irish-Americans judged that the best way of gaining acceptance as good citizens and to counter the Nativist movement was to cooperate in the continued oppression of African Americans. Ironically, at the same time they were collaborating with the dominant culture to block abolition, they were garnering support from among Southern, slaveholding democrats for Repeal of the oppressive English Act of the Union back home. Some even convinced themselves that abolition was an English plot to weaken this country.
Upon hearing of this position on the part of so many of his fellow countrymen now residing in the United States, in 1843 O’Connell wrote: “Over the broad Atlantic I pour forth my voice, saying, come out of such a land, you Irishmen; or, if you remain, and dare countenance the system of slavery that is supported there, we will recognize you as Irishmen no longer.” It’s a tragic story. In a letter published in the Liberator in 1854, it was stated that “passage to the United States seems to produce the same effect upon the exile of Erin as the eating of the forbidden fruit did upon Adam and Eve. In the morning, they were pure, loving, and innocent; in the evening, guilty.”
Irish and Africans Americans had lots in common and lots of contact during this period; they lived side by side and shared work spaces. In the early years of immigration the poor Irish and blacks were thrown together, very much part of the same class competing for the same jobs. In the census of 1850, the term mulatto appears for the first time due primarily to inter-marriage between Irish and African Americans. The Irish were often referred to as “Negroes turned inside out and Negroes as smoked Irish.” A famous quip of the time attributed to a black man went something like this: “My master is a great tyrant, he treats me like a common Irishman.” Free blacks and Irish were viewed by the Nativists as related, somehow similar, performing the same tasks in society. It was felt that if amalgamation between the races was to happen, it would happen between Irish and blacks. But, ultimately, the Irish made the decision to embrace whiteness, thus becoming part of the system which dominated and oppressed blacks. Although it contradicted their experience back home, it meant freedom here since blackness meant slavery.
… And so, we have the tragic story of how one oppressed “race,” Irish Catholics, learned how to collaborate in the oppression of another “race,” Africans in America, in order to secure their place in the white republic. Becoming white meant losing their greenness, i.e., their Irish cultural heritage and the legacy of oppression and discrimination back home. Imagine if the Irish had remained green after their arrival and formed an alliance with their fellow oppressed co-workers, the free blacks of the North.
The thing to note here is that Macon got Tochluk all wrong. Tochluk was not expressing a desire for or otherwise bemoaning the lack of “some collective, simply white culture” to call her own. Quite the opposite. Tochluk was making a statement against any and everything that is or could be called “white culture” because of what WHITENESS had wrought — Whiteness being the historical assimilation process in the U.S. that European immigrants went through that severed the connection to the particulars and essence of their individual ethnic cultures in an attempt to E Pluribus Unum them into a collective “white” culture of dubious virtue and, perhaps, even more dubious in value.