www.whyville.net Jan 25, 2009 Weekly Issue

Times Writer


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"The color of pure snow, of the margins of this page, etc.; reflecting nearly all the rays of sunlight or a similar light" - according to the dictionary, the colour white is adequately described in a single line. Snowflakes are certainly what I associate with whiteness. But I also think of all the metaphysical associations hammered into my brain by school and pop culture - of purity, and innocence, and I think of pristine white bread in the Wonder Bread bag. I am, without a doubt white bred, and it occurs to me to wonder what this means.

When people speak of race - it is not images of whiteness that come to my mind, but the icons of the Civil Rights movement, of slavery and revolution and I envision the families of third world countries, who live in desperate poverty and have nothing but their dignity - but I am not Black. In discussions on "ethnic minorities" I have no place - I can not contribute but to say that I am not: Chinese, Latino, Korean, Japanese, Mexican, Asian Indian or Native American. I am part of the middle class, white majority.

I am white. What does this mean? I am not, Russian, Dutch, British, Irish, Ukrainian, Swedish, Norwegian or even American. I consider myself to be of British descent but when I asked I always qualify, "It's not important." And though there may have been a time when the sun did not set on the British Empire, it is no longer the beacon it once was, whiteness is no longer a measure of greatness. My great great grand parents were British subjects who owned cotton-picking slaves on Jamaica - if anything they are my history of the evils of Whiteness.

I cannot meet the eyes of others on the street. I feel as though some sort of shameful secret has been infused into my very being. I come from a long lineage of conquerors and, as if I were somehow responsible for the entire history of the globe, I would like to apologize to every society decimated by the white man. When I applied for university, I qualified only for financial aid if I belonged to a racial minority. I have one aunt who is Korean, but only by marriage - I did not qualify. Statistically speaking, there is the impression that white people are less likely to be poor, more likely to healthy and guaranteed to be driving an SUV. These assertions may or may not be true, but either way I have convinced myself that I do not deserve financial aid solely because I am white.

Some people would argue that there is no such thing as "race". We are all the same "race". Black people come from ancestors who lived in sunnier regions of the world, and black skin is a defense against elevated levels of UV. White men are defenseless. And slanted eyes are protection against the glare of fresh snow - another armament the White race can only hope to imitate. And still the census asks me to identify my defenses by checking off a box.

I would like to say that it is not my fault that colonization happened - the burden of the world is too much for me alone. I would like to embrace my Caucasian ancestry but how can I do so when the precedent is set by people like Hitler and groups like the KKK? I did not elect this people to represent me and still they proclaimed the superiority of their Whiteness. It is no surprise then, that the slogans "Black power" and "White power" don't mean the same thing, they don't carry the same weight.

I once read an article in TIME magazine. If it is to be believed, the white race will disappear within a few generations if we continue on the present course. I cannot help but feel that the White race will be absolved for all its past misdeeds when it finally relinquishes it's grip on existence. I will be long dead, but I too will find atonement because I am white. Whatever it means to be white, that is what I am, that is who I am. I have not fought for my rights for 400 years, and for that I am thankful - but the guilt of being white suggests that they did not come without a cost, all the same.

Editor's Note: This is obviously a very sensitive subject, and so I strongly encourage you to be respectful and appropriate in the BBS. Thank you.


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