The other day, a piece posted and shared fairly widely among my Facebook friends suggested that white people have no culture, or at least that other cultures (or at least that one the author was standing in) perceive us as having none. It struck me as one of the most narrow minded, bigoted, and yes, offensive things I’d ever read, what with being a white person and all.
I’m a white person. I have a culture. It’s not the one the author described. Even if the culture I live immersed in does fit much of that bill, it’s not mine. The whole world lives immersed in it, these days. I know folks for whom much of that description is accurate, it’s their culture, they’re not all white folks, no, not at all, and some for whom being judged based on it might be really offensive.
Just as offensive as to others, others whose cultures we judge aspects of, go figure.
My culture isn’t white. It tends to be fairly tan, or at least the culture I grew up in was, which was along the east coast of Florida, on the beach. That’s where I spent most of my childhood, it’s what shaped me, and my friends, as did our families and their life experiences, some similar, some not.
One might even say that a new culture was born there. It was a lot like the culture of old Key West, neither it nor my home town is so much what it was any longer, people come and go too quickly now, culture changes, it evolves, it gets eaten by the Machine. I can see it so plainly in the piece written, how different my world and culture from hers, I suspect I’m of a different era than she, just as she and I are different from the folks who were hosting her.
But my home town and the people in it were very, very different from the culture that shaped my Italian American friend from the Bronx’s, also white, and while he had some of that southern, olive toned white Italian (as opposed to the whiter white alpine Italian) thrown into his cultural background, he was all Bronx, as are lots of ethnically Hispanic folks with all sorts of skin tones, folks whose parents came from all over the world, however many generations ago, folks who live there.
It’s the Bronx. It’s got a culture. For some folks there, it fits right in with that thing the author calls “white” culture, for others, not. So does the region that includes Kentucky, have a culture, the place the author of the piece comes from, and it’s different from the one in Maine or the Bronx, quite a lot. My culture is so different from that of the Queen Mum's, whitey, and so much more similar to that of the black person from coastal Florida's, it's not even funny.
My culture was very different form that of Southern California, which is different from Northern California, which is different from New Jersey, which isn’t nearly as different from New York as Florida was, although immigration really shaped Florida, just like New York, go figure, and I don’t even want to get into Oklahoma, where after 30 years of world travel among folks of various shades of skin, that’s a color, I just named it, skin, I first experienced deep culture shock, and it was “white” and “black" and “brown” and “red”. Not blue, not except when mixed with the red and the white.
And that the culture of the Bronx might be different from that of coastal Florida is no more unusual than the idea that the Algonquians might have been culturally different from the Pueblo peoples. Certainly, we can say that air travel and cultural mixing have changed things, drastically, over the past century, but those things have affected all of us.
My culture was assimilated by the Machine, too. Imagine that.
There is no culture that is “white” culture, no matter what the author says. The things she says about "the majority of white people" (what, globally? in New York? In small town USA? in Bosnia? I know my ancestors, thanks, lots of folks do) don't apply to me, nor to many people I know. The descriptions that she gave for her perception of what “white culture” might be, or is, offended me, beyond offense. My friends and I who sat on the beach all day and smoked weed and played frisbee as kids had a culture, and I don't care much about how she feels about it. Why are those fireworks, invented by the Chinese, about ugly white American culture? I don't like them, either, lots of folks do, and they're not all white. Why, that people take a day to give thanks, and no, it's not about the horrors of what happened between the colonials and the natives, most know that now, nobody ever gave thanks for horrors, we gave thanks for the lies we were told, and believed, and it made it not a celebration of killing others, not at all, you can go there, don't worry, if you celebrated that, I never did. Neither did my parents. That perhaps we hoped that the one we were sweet on might give us a 10 cent valentine, or that Santa Claus Jesus would give the good girls and boys gifts, like Karma, is not evil. A whole lot like karma, that legend went, how non white of us, we’d already heard of karma, same thing, different terms. How dare I use that term, that idea from the Noosphere, not white.
Every culture on earth has traditions, and none are based on thinking oneself a horrifically bad guy.
Lots of folks are very serious about their Christian Christmas, and it’s not about bling, or junk, at all. We’re quite diverse. We're not all white. We don't lack culture. We just lack a common one, just like black people and brown people and people from Africa (so big) and the East (so diverse) lack a common one.
But in my neighborhood we were mostly white, not all, and we mixed, imagine that, in fact, the few kids of color were “unique” enough to be automatically pretty cool, and all of our parents (or fathers at least) had “served” during WWII, the folks they were warring with were mostly white folks, go figger, and certainly, very few of our fathers had grand ideas about taking over the world, they mostly got drafted or were mad as heck at Hitler and the Japanese, justly or not.
Just people, just like you, and me, and that one over there.
Yes, black lives matter, and I get the sentiment, right now. There is racial injustice in the US, if we want to assume something called race, and a whole lot about that is about poverty, which is about race, and things that happened so long before I was born it’s painful to be blamed for it. That the folks who were here when Europeans showed up were treated so badly just sucks. I didn’t do it. If I could bring people out of poverty, I would. I can’t, I’m not so far out of it myself.
But our fathers, in my neighborhood fought that war between whites, just like the wars that (probably, we’re not sure) existed between tribal peoples on the American continent before whitey got here, those that existed in New Guinea, or Africa before Africa was overrun by those seeking the almighty dollar. The agriculture which many think drove the drive, originated not among white European people, no, whatever white people might’ve existed before the great march of humanity across the globe were marched across as surely as any, we’re pretty darned sure it didn’t originate in white western Europe, agriculture, or wherever there might first have been white people.
White comes from evolving at high latitude, not much sun, nothing more, nothing less. It doesn’t make you an asshole.
Let’s blame the Dutch. Or the Spaniards. They’re white enough, unless you go south too far. Or maybe the dark skinned folks (or pre-folks) who first walked out of Africa, maybe it’s all their fault, this mess the world is in.
How dare she lump all white people into, and exclude others from, that thing she describes as “white culture”. The world eating money machine, that thing she described, the tacky crap at Christmas, or whatever the holy or not holy day for the rich, no, it is not white culture. I’ve not done Christmas in a very, very long time, nor any of those non-holy days. Maybe she should call it Christian culture, she seems to have zoomed in on that group of white folks, many of whom aren't white (or very Christian). The sports thing? Hello? We aren’t nearly so obsessed as the whole wide not white world is with REAL football, soccer. Do you know where La Crosse came from, and how obsessive those matches?
The one she describes is the culture of people with too much money and too little spirituality, too little love of earth and other people, people of all sorts of colors and from all sorts of places, perhaps the one she grew up in. The Taj Mahal is decadent, it’s not a tower of justice, as are the Great Pyramids, symbols of inequity, the Mayan temples, not the homes of humble, peace loving folks, no, not at all, and not white folks, either.
It’s probably the men’s fault.
Sure, all those folks had culture. So did we, and it wasn’t all awful. It wasn’t based on skin color any more than anyone else’s was. The folks who inspired the blog piece had no interest in colonizers. I don’t either. Get out of my skin.
The map that shows us the ecological footprint of people from various places doesn’t explain to us that one (not the only one, no) reason India and Africa look so incredibly “good” is only because there are so many people living in the dirt, abject poverty, starving to death, while a few very wealthy ones, some white, many not white, look the other way. We’ll get there soon, don’t worry, here in the US where our footprints are big, there, where they're small. It’s not all that, the not starving, that makes our footprints so big, no, the World Killing Machine has convinced many of us, white and black and brown, that the Whole World can live in air conditioned luxury, soon we’ll enslave AI, live forever, and then we can all kill the earth as a unit, collectively.
This awful white culture of ours has laws that suggest equality and collective action is something we believe in, even if the rich folks have taken that from us, go figure, that's just how horrible we are.
Shall we adopt a formal caste system based on bucks or birth to disavow our whiteness? Do those cultures with wealthy folks, those folks driving the machine, folks whose skin is not some shade of brown, but not white USA, or Western Europe, do they count as white, or something else?
Are they all awful, too, those other whitish folks, or the tannish ones, or do their cultures (they have them, rest assured) not count? Are their cultures pristine, beautiful, non-violent things of beauty, are only Americans ugly? Only white folks?
Not all white folks are intentional colonizers, or without deep spiritual practice, or are ready to cover every surface with lights and cheap plastic crap during peak retail season, not even among the Christians. Not all want to play Native American, many are willing to stand and fight with the Sioux to protect water, a thing we all share. Not all of us disrespect nature, or folks not quite pale enough. Not even most of us. Look at the laws of the land, followed or not. Lots of not very pale people do all sorts of heinous stuff. Pale makes me nervous, it’s what kept me out of molecular biology when I went back to school, those folks who lived down in the labs all day were pasty white, they didn’t get outside enough.
And none of us can decide what we’ll be born, now, can we?
There is incredible inequity and greed and cheap plastic crap and amorality in the US, and in white western Europe, and white Eastern Europe, and poverty, too, and gods, I guess we need to get out the skin tone chart as we move around the world. Those things exist in Africa. And China. And India. Pretty much everywhere. We didn’t invent those things here, well, maybe the plastic, but not the culture, no. The UK didn’t invent it, either. Neither did Spain, nor Alexander, as he conquered the world. Maybe it was the Greeks, Aristotle. He was white enough, I guess.
There’s also plenty of bigotry here, and loathing of self and other. I don’t hate myself, or my whiteness, well, except for when I’ve not spent enough time, outside, in the sun, at all. I don’t hate the other, either, not based on something like skin tone, how silly is that?
The culture that's eating the world? The inequity? Material wealth, well, I can get a little judgmental about the haves vs. the have nots, certainly based on work done, or merit, or theft, for sure. That the CEO makes more money than the janitor is wrong, nothing white about it. That the CEO is more likely to be white sucks, that is becoming less and less a reality, good, yes, same thing with the skin tone of the janitor. The disparity in what they get paid is getting worse and worse. That’s not white culture, it’s money culture and it sucks.
Don’t hate yourself, or me, just because we’re white, please. There’s enough hatred in the world already.