"dream great dreams and find the courage to live them"

-erwin mcmanus

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

driving time

this weekend i had about twelve hours of driving time.  and by "driving time" i mean thinking time.  as it turns out, when i have time to actually look at my life (instead of just frantically living it) i find that i'm not nearly as content with it as a lead myself to believe.

the idea of still being in classes in the fall makes me want to vomit.  the thought of reading the entire 3000-page norton anthology of british literature by the end of august (on top of the norton anthology of american literature) makes me want to quit grad school.  don't get me wrong, i love literature but it's the heinous amount of work involved in the courses that makes me seriously reconsider my career path.  i find myself thinking that i should just teach in an elementary school because it would make my masters program far far easier than the secondary ed track.

someday i'll have this all figured out.  by then, i may already have finished my masters, but hey... i'll at least have it figured out :)

Saturday, June 5, 2010

an answer. kind of.

Journal Entry #1 - What does it mean to be white?
Does this question ask, “What is white culture?” Does it ask “What does being white mean to me?” Or does it call for a simple definition: “To be white means to be of European descent.” Perhaps the question I choose to answer says something more about who I am and what I think it means to be white than even my answer to that chosen question. So I will answer both.

To be white is merely a small slice of who I am. I am a human being, an American, a Wisconsinite, a Christian, a nanny, a graduate student, and so much more. My identity is not merely based on the color of my skin, but on who I am as an individual. While “whiteness” is a part of that, it is not the most differentiating thing, nor is it the most important thing about who I am as an individual.

I have thought about this very question frequently over the last couple of years, as I examine who I am in relation to people of other ethnicities and cultures. I keep coming back to the fact that white people in America did not come from one single culture. Granted, white immigrants were all from Europe, yet their cultures and beliefs were very diverse. It is presumptuous to say that because they all congregated on one massive piece of land in the West and look similar, now they have the same culture. Though it has been several hundred years, I believe this has not melded into one culture quite as much as we’d like to believe.

“White culture” cannot possibly be defined, just as “Asian culture” cannot be defined in one particular way. Asian people come from vastly different backgrounds, as do white people. I could say that as a white Chicagoan, I am defined by a love for diversity, music, board games and Chicago-style hot dogs, but I cannot say that I can relate culturally to just any white person in the United States simply because we are both white. For example, a white Californian comes from a culture of sun and happiness and beaches, they probably love either surfing or beach volleyball and value fashion more highly than a Midwesterner (I realize these are stereotypes, but these things truly do define the culture of southern California). As you can see, being white does not demand a common culture, but merely a common skin color.

Admittedly, being white does come with unsolicited privilege. The key there is “unsolicited” as I never asked for it, never expected it, and, frankly, don’t want it. It comes from a long tradition of white supremacy in this country that has been making small progressions in the last few decades. While at this moment, to be white is to be in the majority in America, by the year 2050 it is projected that whites will no longer be the majority. It may be a difficult change, but a necessary one, as we become the diverse America that we have always claimed to be.

In summary, whiteness is merely a trait. It does not characterize a culture, though it does allow for certain unfair privileges. To be white means to be of European descent, thus have white skin. Our culture depends more on how and where we were raised than it does the color of our skin. I am more than a white person. I am a capable academic, a compassionate introvert, and an urbanite who happens to have white skin. I believe that definition to be far more important than the color of my skin, just as one from another ethnicity would ask others to see their color, and then look beyond it to see the person whom it encases.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

touchy touchy topic: race.

in a class focused on racial issues, i feel as if i'm expected to be either blatantly racist or ignorant of my deeply-rooted racism. and then i'm supposed to leave newly aware of my terrible worldview and ashamed to be white.

what if, by chance, i'm NOT racist? is that even considered a possibility? well, of course not, because i'm white. i must be racist. ugh.

oh, and according to my professor, ALL racism in america stems from white racism.  other minorities wouldn't be racist against each other if the white man wasn't racist first.  it's only logical.

(please note, this post thus far is dripping with sarcasm)

another little conundrum is that something said by a person of color cannot possibly be ignorant because they are the perpetual victim and know what they're talking about. but if they do say something ignorant, nobody can say anything about it, because it's interpreted as racist.

i suppose ethnicity is something so deeply ingrained into who we are that it becomes a profoundly personal and emotional discussion.

journal entry #1 for the class:  what does it mean to be white?  dang.