Do White People Have ‘Things’ Like We Do?

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  • Paige Lyon

    I completely understand stand what you are trying to say but to say that someone doesn’t have a thing because their thing isn’t their race just shows that ignorance isn’t just for those that are white. We all hold on to what we feel makes us different. We all are marked by moments in our life. And relive those moments with reminders of our differences. You are correct that what marks us are things that are more universal to many different races but not to everyone and are usually more unique. I had cancer in high school. I was called anorexic and that I looked like a boy. I lied about my scars so I could pretend I was the same as everyone else. But each time it was my “thing”, all alone. I am also Mormon and I have always been. I get to hear people call me evil because I don’t believe the same things they do. I don’t hate anyone for their choices in life but many believe I do. Every time I heard someone say they would never vote for a Mormon president it was a “thing”. And for every time someone believes that because you are white you don’t feel alone, judged or have “things” that mark you forever and will continue to do so, that is a “thing”.

    • Thanks for stopping by.

      It seems you may have missed the point of the post. There is a qualifying statement in the title “like we do.” The point of this post is dealing with post-racialism. The ‘things’ I mention here are about race. All other experiences would be cross-racial and non-unique. And, while we all have moments and memories, they do not induce the same types of emotions. Feeling alone and being ostracized because of one’s religion is universal. It could happen to anyone.

      But, how many stories have you heard of young white Mormons being shot in the face when asking for help in the middle of the night? How many young people with eating disorders have been dragged behind cars in a statement of hatred and prejudice?

      Having an internal thing or personal thing is different than the institutionalized othering that racial, gender, and sexual minorities feel. This is not to say that one is more important than the other. But, it is important to acknowledge that they are wholly different. And, they make manifest a completely different set of life possibilities when present for an individual. Would you agree?

  • Chuck Kinsey

    As a whole, no, white people don’t have ‘”things” related to race. Unfortunately most of us don’t even recognize what we have instead: white privilege. Furthermore, even those of us who recognize this often live our lives blissfully unaware of the “things” that tear at the souls of African Americans and other oppressed people.

    How do we overcome this? Well, in my humble opinion it is not to seek to become a “post-racial” society. Rather, we need to seek to become a mosaic of different parts that depend on one another for completeness. This means blended families and communities.

    My wife and I are both white but adopting African American and Hispanic girls 20 years ago created a complete paradigm shift for us. Now helping to raise our African American grandson we feel horror over the stories of innocent young men racially profiled and met with barriers ranging from daily acts of micro aggression like being followed in the store to being gunned down in the street. I am angered at the negative portrayals of black women and their imprisonment for defending themselves.

    Do I feel the same as those directly experiencing “things? ” Of course not. The most I can do is empathize and attempt in any way I can to change systems, educate people and care for the people I love. I believe this is our only hope for racial justice.

    • Chuck Kinsey

      Fight on, Trojans. LOL

    • Thanks for stopping by and adding such great dimension to this conversation.I couldn’t agree more with your first paragraph. And, I agree that post-racialism is both unrealistic and non-optimal. Empathy and acknowledgement are much more powerful than ignoring race all together.

      Your story is really powerful in that it shows one way that whites can experience some of the injustices nonwhites experience everyday. Maybe you can’t put the shoes on but you can certainly walk with others who have no choice but to wear them.

      Thanks again for coming by and sharing your unique point of view.

      • Chuck Kinsey

        🙂

  • Libby

    I commented on your other post. I did not realize you were from Oakland! Come home 🙂

    I went to a mostly black school from K-2. My given name was rarely used. I won’t type what I was called, but the initials were “WB”. I was continually bullied and beaten because my skin color was different. At the same time, all the friends I eventually did make were black and they were appalled that this was happening to me as any good person would be. Others felt it was perfectly acceptable to mistreat anyone that looked like me because we had it coming. People who were in authority turned a blind eye. I came to know through many ways that not everyone has this view of course, but sometimes I wonder and it haunts.

    Another thing that was my “thing” was my mother was single and abandoned by her child’s father. This is all abandoned mother’s “thing”, that shame.

    My mother also developed mental illness that was not to go unnoticed, much to my dismay. And there weren’t meds and therapy like there is today. This was the big “thing”. The lack of understanding and acceptance of mental illness as a medical condition then was the biggest “thing” I ever experienced.

    Oh, that and government cheese, food stamps, social services and pants that were too short and shoe laces that rarely matched and always had knots to make them last. These were all “things”. Unique to white people? No. But you know? People who judge like that tend to eat their own. Might be why I’m not comfortable in white suburbia. We would visit relatives that lived that life and I absolutely hated it. Still do. We were admonished and eventually abandoned for living where we lived, looking the way we looked, not conforming, finding a new husband (that’s what you did,you know) and, believe me, those people judge their own. Harshly. We were traitors.bBut its easy for me to care less. I stopped caring about them long before they me.

    My father was horribly abused by his father. His father literally hated him and everyone in his family and wherever they lived knew it. That was his “thing” and it ultimately led to a lot of my things, his wife’s things, etc. I try to be conscious and aware to keep these things out of my family now.

    A lot of these things–but not all–have nothing to do with skin color.

    Yes, ALL people have their things.

  • alex

    This sounded very good (read scholarly) for about the first 90%, but I think the conclusion was contradictory and, because of how the rest had been written, felt hasty.
    Your opinion is that no group feels things like the groups the things tend toward. You even stated, “we are all marked differently, but marked nonetheless,” but did you mean all but whites?
    Then there’s that bit about Halloween and blackface, which is insensitive, for sure. However, your conclusion seems to want to leave the reader with an image of thousands of whites in blackface – which is pretty bigoted coming from someone wanting to ask an open ended question. This conveniently lead me to an answer: I personally have never gone around in blackface, murdered a black, lynched anybody, or owned a slave, and I am white. Does this mean I have passed the sniff test yet? Can I be myself and be free of this ‘thing’ where I have to not only commiserate with someone who believes we have nothing in common, but then convince them I am not their enemy lest I be judged and labeled racist? The answer is no. Even if i do these things, and i have, im still never really ‘in.’ There is nothing I can do about it. It’s because so many of the blacks in this country are so convinced by your point of view that I have a ‘thing’, or a social tick that I have to live with until I die. All because I have ancestors from Europe.
    I could come up with more, but there’s two answers to your question: 1: i never personally did anything wrong but I will pay for what my ancestors did to your ancestors my entire life with no incentive, and 2: no matter how hard I try to (directly) address and resolve talks like this, I still get marginalized by blacks and labeled at best as a respectful white guy, but never just a human being who doesn’t mean them harm and does deserve their trust. Both of those are exclusively because I am white, they are imposed on me by another sect against my will and there’s nothing anybody can do to change them.

  • Tonka

    Well, I am white and I am sad to say that yes, under some circumstances white people do have things as well. It is possible to be white, live with whites, and still be part of a minority. I am the child of Croatian “guest workers” who immigrated to Germany 40 years ago. My things include listening to a politician as a child how immigrants take away jobs and how criminal immigrants must be thrown out of the country, back to where they came from. My mother always telling us kids that we need
    to be better than the German kids if we want to be treated the same way
    as them by teachers. Being turned down by landlords who do not want to rent to immigrants (my sister using the name of her German boyfriend on forms just to be able to get a chance to talk to a landlord). Being denied governmental student scholarships because I am neither a German nor a foreigner, but an “educational native”, which is a group not recognized by law and thus not eligible for scholarships.
    Learning the results of the PISA study that seemed to show that kids of immigrants are responsible for the bad German results, leading to a public discussion regarding genetics and the intelligence of poor, uneducated immigrants and of course, their kids. Every time some immigrants´ kid beats up a German I want to hide under the bed even before the tabloids go wild. So when I sit in the bus and some old German guy complains about new black immigrants in town, I feel a lot closer to the immigrants than the Germans.
    I am “lucky”, I don´t look too “different”, I cannot even imagine what it must be like if your looks identify you as a member of the minority.

  • This is a great point. I grew up in a “colorblind” family, and I didn’t start understanding these issues until I moved overseas for 5 years. I still looked similar to the host cultures, so I didn’t face that difference, but every time I opened my mouth, I was marked as a foreigner and a minority. That personal experience of being a (very privileged, I admit, and only temporary) member of a cultural minority had a profound impact on me in both positive and negative ways.

    If that was hard, I can’t begin to imagine what it would be like to be a minority in your home country, for your entire life, in a system that is rigged against you and that robs you of almost all privilege based on race.

    So maybe the experience is about the intersection of privilege with the experience of being in the minority? I experienced being a minority because I was a foreigner, but not the lack of privilege that usually accompanies being a member of a racial minority. It taught me empathy and it marked me, but not to the depth you write about here.

    Still, it is perhaps an experience that more majority members should seek out. It does improve understanding, empathy, and a healthier emotional response to structural injustice when you’ve experienced it a time or two and there’s absolutely nothing you can do about it! It also paves the way for developing friendships with people from different cultural, educational, racial, and socioeconomic backgrounds, which is a big step on the path to sensitivity and awareness.

  • Umwee Hughes

    I think that people can have things if they’re white, but it depends on where they’re from. I have a weird sort of story, since I was the only white child in my daycare, pre-school, and kindergarten. The rest were all black kids. So my earliest memories of school or social situations were in a black community. I think the worst of it was the shyness. Sometimes people not talking to me very much. There were a couple of weird instances where an argument with another little kid turned into a an anti-white rally aimed a me with other people joining in, but that was only maybe once. The other instances were just when a kid would get mad at me and call me a “slur” (?) that was against white people. That happened a few times. For the most part, it was okay though. I know I’m listing negative stuff, but that’s only because I’m thinking of “things”. For the most part, I got along well with the others. I especially liked when the older girls would baby me, since I was a little kid at the time. I had friends. Not very many. There was even one girl who said she couldn’t be friends with me because I was white. But for the most part it was okay. I’m glad nowadays that I have that as a part of my life, the part where I was so close in a black community. Makes me feel privileged to understand some things about black people on a deep level. (Your mind develops in certain ways at that age, and a lot of cultural things that are black are ingrained in me.) But, yeah. We’re all people. We all have stuff. I think black people are doing a good job of creating an empowered culture. I hope bigots are taken out of the media. The only reason they’re on there is because they have shock value, which can catch peoples’ attention. But the negative side of that is that people walk around thinking that that “stance” is legitimate- or that a lot of other people actually think that stuff- because it’s publicized. A shame. I don’t think it represents a large amount of people, but that it encourages bigotry because it’s shared in the media.

  • Jaster

    Yes, white people do have these things.

    I remember the first time I was called “White boy.”

    I remember the first time I was discriminated against because I am white.

    I’m constantly reminded that apparently I don’t have any adversity in my life because I am white (never mind the fact that I grew up in a single-family home, my mother had to get food from our church, I couldn’t afford to complete college, and I had to join the military just to be able to do something with my life.)

    I am told that I can’t enjoy and partake in black culture because I am white, though black people can partake in white culture.

    It is automatically assumed that I am racist simply because I am white.

    I am reminded that black people can feel their “race” is superior to whites, but somehow cannot be racist.

    I am constantly reminded that somehow, I am in a different race than black people, even though we share the same DNA, are all just people, and there’s actually no such scientific thing as “race.”

    • Chuck Kinsey

      With all due respect to your perseverence despite the difficulties you have experienced, you have missed the point. Your hardships were, as Jenn described, situational. They had nothing to do with the color of your skin.

      Yes, you are right that there is no such scientific thing as “race” at least in biology. However, in social science race is a very prevalent factor, although one with very blurry lines. You yourself give credit to the construct of race by identifying yourself as “white” and feeling that you are prohibited from participating in “black culture.”

      The point of the article is that you and I do not experience “things” constantly just because of our outward appearance. Others have described these “things” as microaggression. When you walk down the street do you hear car door locks click and see furtive glances? When you step into an elevator do women tense up and clutch their purses? Are you constantly followed in stores? If you were to go jogging at night in an exclusive neighborhood would you be likely to be stopped and questioned by someone in authority?

      As you correctly point out, white folks can and do face hardships and discrimination. However, by virtue of our features we can not begin to experience the constant “things” that serve to place nonwhites at a disadvantage in our society.

      • Jaster

        Thank you for the reply Chuck. I do disagree with you regarding “missing the point,” and my “things” not being due to the color of my skin. All of the things are because I am white. For example: some people assume I am racist because I am white. That is not situational, that is because I am white!

        It doesn’t matter what color, gender, or sexual orientation you are, you will have “things.” Now, my things aren’t the same things as Jenn’s, but she asked a question in her article. She asked if white people had “things.” And just like black people, white people will experience “unique things.” I mean really, to state otherwise is just being intellectually dishonest.

        Yes, there are people who think that every door automatically opens for me because I am white. People do not think every door automatically opens for blacks.

        Yes, there are people who don’t care about my opinions because I am white. White people are expected to care about everyone’s opinion lest we be racist.

        Yes, some people assume I am racist simply because I am white. People don’t assume everyone else is racist.

        So, yes, there are unique things that white people experience simply because they are white.

        If the point of the article is that we don’t experience the same things, then yes, you are correct. But white’s still experience “things” nonetheless. And from what I could tell Jenn was asking a questions to whites. Maybe it was rhetorical. 🙂

        And I get it, people don’t want to hear about the “white man’s things.” Being a white male means I have to shut up and take whatever discriminatory action comes my way. I, however, don’t think we should shut out one group of people in efforts to prove that another group shouldn’t be shut out, but who knows.

        I’m not comparing white people’s things to black people things; they’re not comparable. But, the article asked if white people have things, and I simply answered.

        Thanks!

        • Chuck Kinsey

          I do respect your perspective. I read Jenn’s article a bit differently. As white people you and I do not face the daily marginalization experience by nonwhites. We do not constantly have to be vigilant due to the possibility of insult, injury or worse coming to us or our peers. Your point is well taken though, incorrect assumptions based on appearance hold you and I back from being all we can be.

          • Jaster

            Thanks Chuck. Good luck to you.

          • Being called a name or other personal insult is not quite comparable to having to worry about one’s mortal danger every day. Having daily mental reminders that one’s skin color could mean physical violence, harassment, persecution, police brutality, and/or death isn’t really the same as being sad because someone called you “white boy.” I actually think that response is kind of a joke.

          • Jaster

            I stated in my response that I wasn’t comparing. You asked, I answered. There’s multiple other white people who have responded that they have things as well. If your just going to belittle an answer why ask in the first place?

          • I don’t care if you understand me. I am not here for you. This conversation isn’t about you. The fact that you believe this entire conversation hinges on your personal feelings denotes the real problem. There are no white centric solutions to racism. Your feelings don’t matter.

            Sometimes, figuring something out means no challenging, not questioning, not undermining, not making oneself primary. You know. All the things you are not doing.

            I am not going to engage you seriously if you can stop putting yourself ahead of the real lived experiences of black people.

          • Jaster

            You don’t care if I understand you? But, isn’t that the point? For white people to understand what black people go through?

            “This conversation isn’t about you. The fact that you believe this entire
            conversation hinges on your personal feelings denotes the real problem”

            The title of this article is “Do White People Have ‘Things’ Like We Do?” Shouldn’t we expect the comments sections to include multiple white people talking about their “things”? I guess I just thought this conversation would include my personal feelings. I apologize if I misunderstood the intention of the article.

            “Sometimes, figuring something out means no challenging, not questioning,
            not undermining, not making oneself primary. You know. All the things
            you are not doing.”

            Agreed. Again, I thought this article was asking about white people’s things, so I geared my comments towards that subject.

            “I am not going to engage you seriously if you can stop putting yourself ahead of the real lived experiences of black people.”

            Definitely not intending to do this. This comments section has a bunch of white people talking about their “things.” I included mine. I never stated they were more important that other people’s “things.”

          • Actually, no. The point of empowering and elevating the voices of the oppressed is not to convince white people that our voices matter. The article is obviously written to other people of color hence the title not saying “White People: Do you all have things like us?”

            Honestly, there is a difference between the other commenters and the steps you took to try and breakdown the real lived experiences of people of color by making yourself and your whiteness the center of the conversation. While I have an issue with anyone who attempts to take the focus off of people of color in these types of conversations, your comments seemed like they were made for the sole purpose of derailing.

            Having this dialogue – like I said before – means not standing on the stage at the microphone. Reflecting doesn’t require that people of color be forced to prove anything to you. I am not here for that. And, if your attempts to navigate this very difficult subject requires that people of color hold your hand and guide you each step of the way, you aren’t doing it right.

        • I can’t take this seriously. You are not in mortal danger because people think you’re racist.

          • Jaster

            Do you mean I’m not in any mortal danger from a black person because I am white?

          • You’re incorrigible. Honestly. If you mention the knock out game, I can’t even take you seriously.

            White on white crime is much more prevalent and statistically possible than black on white crime. Folks typically commit interpersonal crime within their own community. You are reaching.

            http://watercoolerconvos.com/2013/07/17/maybe-we-should-rage-against-white-on-white-crime-too/

          • Jaster

            Jenn I’m not the one being combative. I am simply asking questions and trying to understand.

            I never said anything about black on white crime being more prevalent than white on white crime; of course it’s not. How did you get the idea I was saying that? I was simply saying that whites can get targeted by blacks because the color of their skin. I really hate having conversations over the Internet because context is so hard to convey.

          • Jaster

            I feel like my comments are being taken out of context here and on your Twitter account. I sincerely apologize for any misunderstanding my comments may have caused. I am honestly attempting to understand the perspective of a black person, but I am having trouble getting it. I understand this may be an issue with how I am trying to talk to you. I’ve read through most of your articles and agree with a lot of what you have said. Your articles are also well written. It’s just the race issues that I need to learn to listen to and understand more.

            Again, please accept my apologies as I sincerely wish we could just all live on this earth and be treated equally. Thanks for your time Jenn.

  • DMC15

    I noticed you used the term WASP. WASP stands for White Anglo-Saxon Protestant. Characterizing all whites in the US as WASPs is outright incorrect. The term “white american” is probably better since it refers to what you were talking about whilst differentiating whites with legitimate connections to Europe from plastic paddies and the like.

    I’m French-American, and I can tell you, I think white American culture is a dull joke. It’s a disrespectful, bastardized combination of multiple European, Latino, Jewish, African-American and Japanese cultures. Southern US culture (which I consider different), for all of its horrific faults, at least stands out as not bland to me (well, the good parts of it, not the racism and horrific history of slavery). But what you’re characterizing as “WASPy” is more of a “white american” thing, not a legitimately European-American thing.

    This might sound confusing, so I’ll give a quick breakdown. Most white Americans are descendants of Europeans. However, as time went on, they lost touch with their cultures and became “Americanized” (think of it as whitewashing for white people). Unlike African-Americans, most white Americans can trace back the ethnic group they descended from; but they lost any idea of what that culture truly is. Most don’t speak their nations native languages, have little idea of their history, do not visit, etc… A great example is Irish Americans, many of whom are Irish American in descent, but have little to no knowledge of Ireland. An actually Irish person would likely take offense to he term WASP, because they are totally different: only relatively recently classified as “white,” Celtic, and Catholic. They are far from what you think of when you say “WASP.” Now, a plastic paddy is still not a WASP by blood, he’s still Irish descended, but he’s Americanized and no longer has the right to identify himself as Irish. Simply put, he’s Irish ONLY by blood, calling himself Irish in any way more than a vague descendancy is offensive to the actual Irish.

    So if you were to call a plastic paddy a “WASP” you would be wrong in terms of descence (not Anglo-Saxon and likely not Protestant), but what I think you mean to say: an assimilated white american; is correct.

    Using “white American” also helps keep white immigrants and Jews (including people like Eastern Europeans, who face a lot of prejudice and anti-semestism) from being confused with a term like “WASP” or “white.” Simply put, they aren’t like the general white american culture, they are unique and in generally uninvolved with white american culture.

    I think I read one of your articles a while back (can’t remember what it was called) and got hotheaded and rereading what I wrote I’d 1. like to apologize, my response was unnecessarily rude and 2. like to put forward what I really think I meant to say: European cultures ARE culturally appropriated in the US. Wen you say “white people” you target a far larger population than the US, you target Europe and parts of Latin America and Africa. While I’m not denying racism in those areas, I think that most of what you write is relevant largely to the context of the US. As such “whites” should be replaced by “white americans” unless you are specifically challenging white groups beyond the US; simply because we don’t want to be confused with America’s disgustingly boring, lame culture.

    TLDR: Whites are not a monolith, White Americans are (with the possible exception of Southern Americans, who are radically different culturally from the rest of the US). We whites not from the US would prefer to be kept separate from our dull, uninteresting cousins in the US.