White people’s family roots are deeper than those of ethnic minorities.

Another example of white privilege and othering is when white people assume that racialized people have deeper roots and stronger family ties than white people. The othering is based on the notion that “non-white” people are foreign people, and that “non-white” people have a stronger ethnic identity because we are more homogeneous and monolithic in ways of thought. White privilege allows white people to ignore the ways in which a white-majority society encourages only white families to lay down their roots and blossom, while historically, it enacted laws to extinguish and suppress “non-white” and racialized families.

White Americans envy African Americans for having “roots” in “Africa”, while ignoring the fact that Africa is a heterogeneous continent (like Europe), and that most African Americans cannot trace their African ancestry precisely because of white racism and slavery. It is no accident that African Americans are more likely to find documents attesting to the existence of their white ancestors. White Americans whose ancestors have been in the United States for multiple generations are the ones with the deepest roots, the ones whose histories were allowed to be recorded, the ones who own property passed down from generations, when all this was denied to non-white people.

White people envy Native Americans and Aboriginal Canadians for having “culture”, while ignoring the fact that white racism and colonialism committed genocide against millions of indigenous peoples, and systematically stamped out most of their cultures with government-sanctioned forced assimilation. Residential schools in Canada ensured that indigenous children lost their languages, cultures, religions, and family ties, while ensuring the proliferation of the English language, Western European culture, white-messiah Christianity, and white institutions, until as recently as 1996. In the United States, these were called Indian boarding schools, and enrollment peaked in the 1970s.

White people envy Japanese Americans and Japanese Canadians for being “connected” to “ancient Japan”, when it is precisely this insistence that Asians are perpetual foreigners that led to the internment of Japanese Americans and Canadians during World War II. American and Canadian governments confiscated the property of people of Japanese descent, such that their family heirlooms could not be passed down to their descendants like family heirlooms were passed down the generations of white families. White people who have been in North America for multiple generations can open up their grandparents’ original attics to find tokens of family history, while most Americans and Canadians of Japanese descent do not have their grandparents’ original attics, because of racism and their lack of white privilege.

When white people wish that they were “ethnic” and cite the “roots”, “culture”, or “family history” of ethnic minorities as the point of envy, their thinking is privileged and fantastical to the extreme, as if their concept of people of colour is wholly constructed by fictional archetypes of the Magical Negro, Noble Savage, and Oriental Wiseman.

For example, a white person commenting on Stuff White People Do: wish they were “ethnic” wrote the following:

I am so fragmented that I have no idea really what cultural traditions I might have spawned from…so to me I am just American who grew up on mac and cheese with hotdogs. I assume a lot white people feel similar to me in the sense that our ethnicity has been so diluted you almost feel void of a past beyond your immediate family. [...] I have a few friends who are very rich in their culture, be it Italian, Greek, Japanese, etc and I do somewhat envy the warm sense of oneness they seem to enjoy through a rich tradition of food, celebration, and language that has been [passed] down to them from generations past. I feel like they have a story with roots.

(Note that even when people of colour grow up on mac and cheese with hotdogs, white people still perceive us as “other” on account of our race, and not as culturally “American” (or Canadian) as white people.)

Compare this white person’s envy with the reality of many Chinese Americans:

Odder still, their father claimed to be an only son, with no surviving relatives in China or America.

“For us, the question was always ‘so who are you anyway?’ ” Steve said. “There was the sense that you have no past.”

[...]

But the legacy of the Chinese Exclusion Act and the paper son phenomenon lingers. The result is that a younger generation of Chinese Americans like Steve Yee grew up confused about and disconnected from their family history.

[...]

Worried about Lillie’s progress in school, their father insisted the others stop speaking Chinese at home. Today, none of the six children speaks Chinese.

“Basically we were told to put down your chopsticks, we’re going to eat hot dogs and watch the Giants like everybody else,” Yee said.

[...]

For her own children’s sake, Yee’s sister Lillie Yee-Shiroi, 61, also wanted to learn more about her father’s life and family history. There was so much basic information they didn’t know. What was her father’s real birth date? When did he arrive in San Francisco? On what boat?

“When my son was in fifth grade he had to do a family history project and make a family tree,” recalled Yee-Shiroi, a retired social worker who married a Japanese American.

“On my husband’s side there were all these relatives. On my side, besides my brothers and sisters, there was question mark, question mark, question mark.”

The white privilege of white people, especially those of multi-generational descent, allowed them to have deep roots to their family, culture, and history. At the same time, white racism directly caused the erasure of racialized people’s pasts. Ironically, white people act as if racialized people have “ethnic” privilege, when what white people envy—roots—are exactly what white people have more than us. Roots, culture, and family history are benefits of white privilege, not “ethnic” privilege.


Related posts:

Tree roots photo by Mr Poortom under Creative Commons; from Wikimedia Commons

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46 Responses to “White people’s family roots are deeper than those of ethnic minorities.”

  1. Robert Wiblin Says:

    “White Americans envy African Americans for having “roots” in “Africa””

    Really? Maybe I’m just weird but I’ve never felt this way about any racial group that I can remember. Can any white guys here confirm having felt this?

  2. macon d Says:

    Robert, as a white American, I haven’t felt that about African Americans, since I recognize that those with “roots” in slavery have had their connections with much of anything in “Africa” brutally severed.

    I have, however, felt envy at times over what I’ve seen as different “cultural” traditions in other American racial/ethnic groups, especially in things like family cohesion; in the process, I’ve seen my own family relationally, thinking that it has no cohesion, and few if any “cultural traditions” as well. I think I can better recognize now what’s racist about that — about assuming that my family and culture lack traditions, including our own forms of cohesion. So many of my family’s white, middle-class American ways have been normalized, to the point where I couldn’t see their socially positioned specificity. I think Restructure’s post does a lot to explain how that kind of delusion happens (I would also point to financial aspects of the fact that whites do have “roots.” Contrary to most whites’ awareness, much of white privilege consists of a history of generational transference of material wealth.)

  3. uu Says:

    Maybe some white groups wish they had deeper cultural roots like some non-white groups “supposedly” have is because they were not told the truth. I don’t mean the light fluffy truth of there being slavery but it ended thanks to “good-hearted” white men and everyone sang songs in the end, but the brittle, sharpe, bone crushing, bring-one-to-their- knees truth. The kind of world shattering truth that makes one dislike themselves, makes them wonder if everything they worked for was in fact a lie, or dislike oppressed groups even more or makes you ill at heart and mind. I think that’s what white culture is steaped in, I think that’s what America is steaped in.

    Its blood. Black, sludge, rotting, disgusting blood that has feed the roots of White America. It sounds conspiratorial, it sounds crazy, but that’s what it is. Our beautiful wonderful lives here in the U.S wouldn’t be possible without that rotting bloody nourishment. And we will need more of that blood to continue our livlihood. So we have to expand to other places, where there are more people to exploit for more blood. If I had a family and/or cultural history consisting of that harsh truth, I wouldn’t be surprised if my ancestors kept it from my parents, who in turn wouldn’t tell me. I think it would be too much for everyone, anyone. I’m just worried now that keeping this very potent history lesson away from people is going to catch up to us, and we all will have to explain ourselves and be ready to pay the cost somehow.

  4. Restructure! Says:

    Robert Wiblin,

    Shelly Tochluk, a white person, wrote:

    Even if African Americans do not choose to reconnect with their African ancestral culture, many white folks generally imagine that Black culture in the United States is rich with meaning.

    (“Choose”?)

  5. Robert Wiblin Says:

    OK, I accept – I guess the US is different to Oz.

  6. Nquest Says:

    I thought the loss of ethnic culture (or at least certain kinds of loss) were part of the arguments and historical observations made by the “How X Became White” books including Irish, Jewish and other “white” ethnic Americans.

    Of course, the forces in society didn’t impose those cultural losses (those that exist) on the White ethnic groups under the threat of violence and/or government sanctioned or government led actions.

  7. Restructure! Says:

    Yes, and loss of culture is insufficient to make somebody white. If you’re not white, people will think you’re from a different culture anyway.

  8. mchelle09 Says:

    Culture and tradition are the stuff of “non-white others”…Ha! Say that to a white supremacist!

    “Maybe some white groups wish they had deeper cultural roots like some non-white groups “supposedly” have is because they were not told the truth. … The kind of world shattering truth that makes one dislike themselves, makes them wonder if everything they worked for was in fact a lie…”

    @uu- you channel my thoughts. It must take years of programming for a “superior” people to come to the place where they have internalized the “Big Lie” to the extent of even devaluing their own culture and identity. That is one of the major pitfalls of self- idolatry, though. In the end, all that is visible is the false image that stares back at you – full of contempt. But the ego goes into overdrive to maintain the status quo, so that you can’t even acknowledge the parts of you that are actually worth something.

  9. Lxy Says:

    While White people may whine nostalgically for some kind of “ethnic heritage,” they apparently haven’t figured out that they do have a heritage that defines them above all else: Western neo-colonialism and the subjugation of indiginous and colored peoples.

    After all, the reality is that nations like the USA, Canada, and Australia are one thing and one thing alone: White colonizer nations. Past and present.

    This is the fundamental social, cultural, and political basis of these self-styled Anglo liberal democracies–when their pretense and propaganda are stripped away.

  10. Maysie Says:

    Thank you for this, Restructure.

    My father immigrated to Montreal from China in the early 60s. Both his parents died before he was 10 years old. I don’t know their names. And there was so much secrecy about how my dad arrived in Canada form China, I don’t even know what region he was from.

    This fragmentation is an inherent part of being an immigrant, and it goes beyond just one generation. Language, culture, family, traditions become less accessible, if they were ever accessible at all.

    Making the connection to: why has this happened? Why has this become integrated into what it means to be an immigrant, or a descendant of immigrants? The systemic powers have made it so.

    And the ultimate insult, the meta-racism of white folks “envying” that which has been destroyed, or clung to with shame and secrecy, or discarded and then reclaimed, is simply abhorrent.

  11. Restructure! Says:

    White people mistake racial otherness for ethnic cohesion. I’m not white, so they think that it’s because I haven’t lost my culture. They reason that since “ethnic” whites became white by losing their culture, the fact that I am not considered white must mean that I kept my culture.

  12. macon d Says:

    Restructure wrote,

    White people mistake racial otherness for ethnic cohesion. I’m not white, so they think that it’s because I haven’t lost my culture.

    Yes, I’ve seen a lot of that, and I’ve done it too. I also think that such “celebrations” as racial/ethnic “heritage months” exacerbate it.

    Have you had white people say that to you in person with admiration and envy, as if you have something in that way that they wish they had? If so, how does that make you feel? And what have you said to them in return to such odious envy?

  13. Restructure! Says:

    macon d,

    Yes, white people have said such things to me in person, but in an indirect way, but I can read between the lines. It made me feel even worse about my sense of loss, like pouring salt on the wound. However, I said nothing, because it’s too complicated to explain. . . especially in person.

  14. Tiffany Says:

    Interesting post, although i’ve never met any white person who has envied a black person for having roots in Africa

  15. S Says:

    I agree with this post completely. And this is off-topic from what you’ve said here, but what makes me even sadder is when, being a person of colour myself, I see people of my ethnic group dropping their cultural roots on purpose in order to “Canadian-ize” themselves more. Despite the fact that they are already born here or they have been here for many, many years, white people do not assume that – they always assume you MUST be “foreign” and they pigeon you into all sorts of offensive stereotypes based on the colour of your skin. As a result, some people of some ethnic groups (not saying all) strive to show they are indeed “Canadian,” even to the point of aligning themselves with white racists. They make it clear that they don’t eat their ethnic food, practice any customs related to their culture, and they do not know their “mother tongue” language. I’m not talking about third or fourth generations, I’m talking about some people of colour who PURPOSELY do this. And I feel this also plays directly into the “plan” of erasing people of colour’s roots.

    Once again, my apologies for going quite off-topic, but this post reminded me of this, for some reason..

  16. Restructure! Says:

    S,

    They make it clear that they don’t eat their ethnic food, practice any customs related to their culture, and they do not know their “mother tongue” language. I’m not talking about third or fourth generations, I’m talking about some people of colour who PURPOSELY do this.

    Disclaimer: I’m a Canadian of colour, I don’t normally eat the food associated with my ethnicity, practise customs related to my culture, or know my parents’ language, and I’m second-generation.

    I used to try to make it clear to people because of internalized racism. However, I still have a tendency to do this, perhaps because I haven’t removed all my internalized racism, but I think I do it because all those things are true. I want people to know the real me, not see me as a stereotype, insisting that we eat Chinese food because they think that it’s my food preference.

    One time, this white guy asked me to translate one sentence in Chinese, and I told him that I couldn’t read Chinese. He thought I was lying, joking, or lazy, and said, “No, really, can you tell me what this says?”

    Of course, at that point, I had to make it clear that I can’t read Chinese, so that he might actually get the message. (I experience these incidents as white people unintentionally rubbing it in that I fail at being Chinese. Of course, I still get the Orientalism and racism, and being othered by culturally Chinese people as well, without the benefits of actually having that culture.)

  17. S Says:

    I agree with you on the internalized racism, I’m also going through the same thing right now (thanks to living next to a roommate who, in the end, couldn’t hold it back any longer and finally admitted she was actually a racist [her exact words] to explain her hostile actions towards me) and I am a second-generation, woman of colour as well. I’ve, too, also experienced a lot of odd reactions from other white people based on my skin colour – e.g: “Have you ever eaten a hamburger before?” WTF. I’ve already told them I’m Canadian-BORN aka I grew up eating McDonald’s and eating the same TV shows (or whatever defines being Western. Funny enough, white people here can’t define what makes them Canadian, either, other than the fact that they’re ‘white’). Anyway..

    My point here is to apologize about the paragraph you quoted from me. I sincerely did not mean to imply that 2nd generations did not feel this way. I actually meant to say that since it is commonly assumed that 3rd/4th+ generations would have assimilated so much into the “Canadian” culture (whatever that means) that it probably wouldn’t have been intentional that they “dropped” their cultural roots.

    On the other hand, 1st and 2nd generations are seen to have more ties (at least from my experience and amongst my friends) to their “culture” (again, as you have pointed, how much history do we really have when racism has been perpetuated for decades) and, as a result, they often get cast as the “foreigners,” which often result in 1st & 2nd generations *purposely* distancing themselves from everything that encompasses their ethnicity in order to throw off the stereotype. In these efforts, they have also shunned their “own people” which makes me sad. Which, I hate to admit, I have been deeply guilty of doing as well (and vice versa).

    By the way, I emphasize with your last paragraph so so much. I really hate this shitty situation that people of colour are often in and I’m constantly being confronted about it on a daily basis. Why the fuck do I need to CONSTANTLY prove myself? If I wrote grammatically incorrect sentences on a daily basis, it would be attributed to my race so I make sure all my essays are perfect. If a Caucasian person does the same thing, no one ever says what terrible English skills they have because they are “white” and it is assumed that white people are masters of the English language. FUCK THAT SHIT. I swear, white supremacy is still a strong ideology out there and deeply embedded within our system (e.g: white privilege), but because we are now supposed to be “politically-correct,” no one says these things aloud unless they’re an idiot. And surprise surprise – it just gets brushed off as an “isolated” incident.

    I am so sorry for rambling. As you can see, I still have not forgotten my discriminating experience. Of course, I don’t want to generalize all white people as racists, but I truly believe a majority of them secretly harbour these prejudices. And, of course, racism is not as blatant as wearing a white sheet over your head anymore.

  18. Restructure! Says:

    Funny enough, white people here can’t define what makes them Canadian, either, other than the fact that they’re ‘white’

    When I read comments on CBC, I see white people saying that minorities are only “Canadian” in the sense of having a “piece of paper” that says we are Canadian. They insist that culturally, we are unCanadian, while offering racial stereotypes about how people of particular ethnicities do things differently, or not offering any examples because it would sound racist. They don’t see that we seem like The Other to them because they are othering us, not because of what we do.

  19. S Says:

    They don’t see that we seem like The Other to them because they are othering us, not because of what we do.

    Very well-said! I also hate it when white people use the reverse tactic and say things like, “Will ‘people like you’ be able to adapt to us (white people)? You know, ’cause we’re white and.. you’re not.. because of your “culture.” [As you've already correctly stated, "culture" is used as a form of Othering. It has never occurred to them to stop using "culture" an excuse to treat someone differently. Or, the one that peeves me off the most: "Oh, it's in their culture to do/say that." But continuing this infamous talk I've had..] “Also, we white people aren’t racist, we’re just worried that you non-white people are – basically, we’re worried that you non-white people would treat us white people differently because we’re not part of your culture.”

    In conclusion, that fucked up conversation on “reverse culturalism” (I made up that word, I dearly hope you understood my point) has, sadly, happened more than once. In essence, what I’m saying is that this conversation makes people like me (people of colour) feel that WE are the ones who need to accommodate these poor, white people because they cannot deal with non-white people and their cultures. In other words, it is PoC’s responsibility to make sure that white people don’t feel “alienated/lost” within this culture talk. WTF.

  20. Restructure! Says:

    “Also, we white people aren’t racist, we’re just worried that you non-white people are – basically, we’re worried that you non-white people would treat us white people differently because we’re not part of your culture.”

    Which is why many white people I meet for the first time bring up that they love Chinese food, have travelled to China, etc. to try to “relate” to me. I find this highly offensive and don’t want to continue interacting with them, and then they probably file this in their minds as Asians distrusting them because they are white.

  21. S Says:

    LOL! Oh yeah, I’ve also lost count of the various times that has happened to me as well – where white people, upon meeting me, IMMEDIATELY ask, “What’s your background?” and then proceed to launch into every information they THINK they know about my culture (never even taking a closer look at my expression to see how pissed I am about this). And like you, it sickens me, and I can’t talk to them anymore because they’ve already got this stereotypical image of me stuck in their head and whatever else I say/do next, they will attribute it to, “Oh yeah, people of your culture/colour tend to say/do that a lot.” In trying to show they weren’t anti-racist and that they were “open-minded,” this tactic backfired immensely because the fact that they had to ask the “what’s your background/ethnicity/race?” question in the first place meant they couldn’t look past my skin colour at all. In fact, because it bothered them so much, they HAD to ask that question in order to pigeon-hole me with all sorts of “facts” they knew about people who looked like me.

  22. S Says:

    Oops, I meant to say, “in trying to show that they were anti-racist..”

  23. Dr Know Says:

    This whole notion of a “white” identity is complete bs. I am Italian/Irish and have never once associated myself with a “white” identity. I have a deep cultural heritage that stretches back to my family’s (both sides) homelands long before they came here. This whole idea that all “white” people are some bland vanilla “non-ethnic” group is very racist and quite offensive. I am proud of my cultural heritage, and because of this I don’t try and act like some white-guilted wasp when meeting people of other ethnic extractions. My people had to deal with a lot of racism when they came here, and your misguided anger at “white people” has left you so with selective vision. You claim that “white” people have hurt the cultural history of non-whites, but us “ethnic whites” were the victims of just as much abuse. We don’t whine about what happens to use, we don’t create excuses for why our family histories were damaged, we moved forward.

    You really know nothing about “white’ people at all. Did you know that Italians were interned during WW2 as well in America AND Canada? Did you know that in the southern US whites and Italians were forbidden from marrying until the 1920’s in many counties? Maybe things happened differently in Canada, but I think not. I think you’re misplacing your anger, and trying to attribute the emptiness you feel to someone else. If you think its wrong that you don’t know enough about your heritage, maybe you should get off your ass and go learn about it.

  24. Restructure! Says:

    Dear Dr Know,

    This whole notion of a “white” identity is complete bs. I am Italian/Irish and have never once associated myself with a “white” identity. [...] You really know nothing about “white’ people at all. Did you know that Italians were interned during WW2 as well in America AND Canada?

    If you do not identify as white, why do you take offense to this post, and identify Italians as white people?

  25. maysie » Blog Archive » Links Says:

    [...] Restructure: White People’s family roots are deeper than those of ethnic minorities [...]

  26. Lxy Says:

    European Americans are a colonizer class. Period.

    Whether they identify with Whiteness or some ethnic specific identity like “Italian American” or “Irish American” is beside the point.

    Ultimately, they are part of the European conquest and occupation of the Western hemisphere–the greatest land theft and probably the greatest genocide in history.

    People like Dr. Know want to distance themselves from White identity–not because they oppose the privilege or power that comes from being of European descent–but precisely because they wish to deny the reality of this racist system and their own place within it.

  27. Restructure! Says:

    What I find telling is that Dr Know rushed to the defense of white people, when the post groups Italians under ethnic minorities.

  28. Dr Know Says:

    @Restructure:

    Many people identify me as white, and I would be surprised if you did not. What I am trying to say is that white, asian etc (race) is a construct and not real. The only reason the reason “black” can even be used as an accurate cultural descriptor is because “black” (at least in the US) applies more towards Black Americans in particular moreso then all people of African extraction (though it does refer to both). Black Americans are obviously a unique and specific ethnic group (again referring to those descended from slaves who have developed their own unique culture).

    @Lxy

    Your racism just astounds me. Obviously you either know nothing about European history or chose to ignore it to further your own racist perceptions. The upper-class English are certainly a horrible group of oppressive colonizers. So are upper-class Italian nobles. So are all those descended from European nobility. But so are the upper-class Han Chinese, and the upper-class royal Arabs. All of these groups have perpetuated the destruction of many cultures. Would you say the same thing of the Han Chinese or Arabs, both of whom committed multiple cultural and physical genocides over the years? I really want you to answer this question, because if you answer no you are indeed a racist and either way you are certainly ignorant.

    The Irish in particular ave endured just as much racism and oppression at the hands of the English as the native tribes of American and coastal Africa have. Our people’s culture was PERMANENTLY destroyed by the English, and to say that since our skin is the same color as theirs that makes our plight completely ok is just horrible and wrong.

    All of my ancestors up until about 50 years ago were poor peasant farmers, many of whom were oppressed by horrible royalist and mercantilist class structures. In every culture, every group there are the rich and the poor. Race was created by the rich to divide the poor into attacking each other instead of attacking the class structure that bound them. There is no such thing as race or racial privilege. There are rich Han and poor Han, rich English and poor English etc etc. the poor or middle-class should not be blamed for what their rich overlords have done.

  29. Restructure! Says:

    What I am trying to say is that white, asian etc (race) is a construct and not real.

    Race is a social construct, but it is still real, as people treat me differently from how they treat you, because I’m not white. See On Human Fictions and Constructions of Race.

  30. Dr Know Says:

    You can tell yourself what you want. Again, I know little about the internal workings of Canada, but here in the states “asians” are judged in a positive light (if it all). Any pertaining stereotypes are usually positive and “asians” have a higher average income then “whites” are certainly more then Italian-Americans. To assume I am not judged based on my ethnicity is wrong, and American society has made it a recent trend to make fun of Italians. I am faced with more negative stereotypes then the asians I know certainly.

    Again, I don’t know about Canada, but if things are really that much different then I would be amazed. You make a slew of assumptions based only what you are told by society or other “non-white” people.

    You may be judged by SOME people by your physical characteristics, but I can say factually you are judged more on the way you dress, or your outward personality traits or your car or the music you like. You would like to think that people judge you on immutable characteristics, but largely that is less true in modern times. It is really your mutable characteristics that affect people’s perceptions of you.

  31. kaerulicious Says:

    I think you might have to remove the part about Africans being envied. Africans have been ridiculed by Europeans for the longest. I think that’s what those other white posters who said they never envied an African are trying to say. In any colony, and even in Europe itself, one thing that is consistent is the unrestrained ridicule of everything African and having to do with being an African. It’s not a hard thing to find since it has never really stopped.

  32. Restructure! Says:

    Dr Know,

    You can tell yourself what you want. Again, I know little about the internal workings of Canada, but here in the states “asians” are judged in a positive light (if it all).

    First of all, Stereotypes of East Asians are not all positive. Secondly, even the “positive” stereotypes are only “positive” in a superficial way, and “positive” stereotypes are always paired with a negative one. For example, the stereotype of Asians being good at math is linked to the stereotype of Asians being bad at English.

    Any pertaining stereotypes are usually positive and “asians” have a higher average income then “whites” are certainly more then Italian-Americans.

    Where is the evidence?

    To assume I am not judged based on my ethnicity is wrong, and American society has made it a recent trend to make fun of Italians.

    Nobody is saying that. It is just your interpretation that my post is an attack on “whites”.

    I am faced with more negative stereotypes then the asians I know certainly.

    Have you ever asked the Asians you know whether they agree with this?

    You make a slew of assumptions based only what you are told by society or other “non-white” people.

    You make a slew of assumptions based on only what you are told by society or other “white” people.

    You may be judged by SOME people by your physical characteristics, but I can say factually you are judged more on the way you dress, or your outward personality traits or your car or the music you like. You would like to think that people judge you on immutable characteristics, but largely that is less true in modern times. It is really your mutable characteristics that affect people’s perceptions of you.

    This is absurd, and it is something that a typical white person would say. People judge me all the time as someone who doesn’t speak English, and it has nothing to do with my mutable characteristics. Ever since I was a child, I purposely acted and dressed as un-Asian as possible, yet people still assumed that I was an immigrant and that I didn’t speak English.

    You are a white Italian, so for you, it’s only when you act or dress stereotypically Italian that people will treat you like you’re Italian. If you wanted, you could pretend to be a white person (say for a day), and you would pass. That’s not how it works for non-white people.

  33. Lxy Says:

    @Dr. Know-Nothing

    Your Orwellian manipulation of the issue of racism is what should astound you.

    Your argument is, however, representative of how 21st-Century White Supremacy and racism will look like: it will come disgused behind the mask of White Victimology.

    It is not just the “upper-class English” that are American colonists.

    European Americans in general in comprise a colonizer class in the USA. Past and present.

    The very idea of Whiteness is a coalition identity to get ethnic Europeans of all stripes–including subsequent latecomers Irish and Italians–to identify with this White racist system.

    In fact, you are playing a cynical political game: you invoke historical acts of discrimination vs. Irish and Italian Americans in order to DENY the PRESENT DAY reality of White Supremacy that European Americans like Italians and Irish have become part of, benefit from, and tacitly defend.

    European Americans always whine about people of color
    “playing the victim card” when issues of White racism are brought up.

    Dr. Know is a classic example of the Orwellian opposite: playing the (Italian and Irish) victim card to deny the present reality of White racist power and privilege.

    It’s been well documented that groups like the Irish and Italians began as outsiders to this system BUT LATER JOINED and became part of American White supremacy.

    See the book “How the Irish Became White” as an example.
    Don’t pretend that you don’t know about this development, Dr. Know.

    Indeed, Irish and Italian working classes have been historically racist to people of color including against Chinese people, Mexicans, Blacks, etc.

    See the role of Irish American labor like Denis Kearney and his role in fomenting anti-Chinese racism in the 19th-Century. Mind you, this was during a period in which you claim that Irish Americans were nothing more than poor virtuous victims.

    Denis Kearney and the California Anti-Chinese Campaign

    http://immigrants.harpweek.com/chineseamericans/2KeyIssues/DenisKearneyCalifAnti.htm

    The White working class historically claims discrimination vs. the White upper class–BUT they also seek to maintain their privilege and power over non-Whites beneath them through racist violence.

    – Secondly, it’s interesting that you try to shift the debate from the USA to world history and starting going off about “Han Chinese” or “Arabs.”

    Trying to change the subject and deflect blame again?

    We are talking about AMERICA and the greatest genocide and crime in human history: Western Colonialism.

    Europeans stole and currently occupy an entire hemisphere–the Western hemisphere, genociding and destroying the native culture as a result.

    Indeed, the West has tried (indeed is still trying) to colonize the Eastern hemsiphere as well–from Africa to the Arab world to India to China.

    Western colonialism has been ongoing since 1492. It’s a 500-hundred year old continuing crime.

    See the current Western invasions of occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, where over 1 million people have been murdered by the “democratic” West.

    It goes without saying that both Ireland and Italy are actively and criminally involved in these Western wars.

    “The Irish in particular ave endured just as much racism and oppression at the hands of the English as the native tribes of American and coastal Africa have. Our people’s culture was PERMANENTLY destroyed by the English, and to say that since our skin is the same color as theirs that makes our plight completely ok is just horrible and wrong.”

    This is White Victimology at its pathetic and cynical worst.

    Irish culture has not been destroyed by the British and the Irish are not equivalent to Native Indian tribes in the USA–many of whom were displaced and ethnically cleansed by guess who …. Irish American settlers in the USA.

    And apparently, you have never heard of the Republic of Ireland, the vaunted “Celtic Tiger” nation that is part of the wealthy European Union and powerful Western military alliance.

    – Finally, so-called “positive” stereotypes about “Asians” promoted by Whites are a cynical propaganda exercise.

    It’s called the Model Minority myth.

    This idea was designed to put Asians in a superficially “positive” light but only for ideological reasons: to uphold them as “successful” and well-behaved models of behavior for rebellious minorities like Blacks and Latinos to emulate.

    Dr. Know’s smug and superifical praise of “positive” stereotypes about Asians is exactly the type of argument that Right Wing defenders of White racism always make.

    And that reveals everything about your political agenda, Dr. Know.

  34. Lxy Says:

    Many people identify me as white, and I would be surprised if you did not. What I am trying to say is that white, asian etc (race) is a construct and not real.

    This is another disingenous argument used by White apologists.

    It involves the manipulation of Social Constructivist theory to deny the reality of White racism and power.

    They argue that since race is not genetically based (i.e. socially constructed), it hence is not real.

    This is nonsense.

    An identity does not have to be genetically based to be real.

    Ethnic and national identities are also social constructs (i.e. not genetically based), does that make them unreal?

    If that is the case, then Dr. Know’s beloved Irish and Italian identies are equally unreal.

    If Whiteness and race are social constructs, imagined national identities like “Italian” and “Irish” are also social constructs, fictions, and myths as well.

  35. White people do not understand PoC’s existential angst. « Restructure! Says:

    [...] White people’s family roots are deeper than those of ethnic minorities. [...]

  36. Vancouver 2010 pretends indigenous people have institutional power over Canada. « Restructure! Says:

    [...] White people’s family roots are deeper than those of ethnic minorities. [...]

  37. CryinLion Says:

    First of all, I’m thrilled I find your blog via Things White People Do… lively discussion, consummately aware, and cutting-edge posts.

    I’ve spent a lot of time agonizing over questions of origin, “authenticity,” and rootedness. And one thing that’s been left out of this particular discussion is the question of how white North Americans’ pining for origins inextricably linked with the dissolution of communities, a greater focus on mobility over “rootedness,” and bioregional illiteracy. I, for one, refuse to take the issue of “heritage”–whoever’s heritage it is we’re talking about–without reference to place.

  38. hexalm Says:

    By the way, Dr. Know mentioned WWII internment. Fact is, some 62% of the 110,000 Japanese Americans interned were US citizens. The number of German and Italian Americans interned was much smaller, and virtually all of them were not naturalized citizens of the US, but were still German or Italian citizens. Some 600,000 Italians were required to be identified as ‘enemy aliens’, but mostly they weren’t rounded up, and far fewer were forced to relocate than were the Japanese. 10,000 Italians were forced to move inland from coastal areas, and the total number of Germans interned was on the same order, about 10,000.

    Part of this may have been simply where these people were located and how many of them there were overall (not to mention when they emigrated), but it still seems like a pretty good example of how differently white and non-white minority groups are treated. Japanese were assumed to have more connection to Japan and loyalty to the Japanese emperor.

  39. hexalm Says:

    To respond more generally to the OP and this thread, it seems to me like a lot of white people are just projecting their own desire for a feeling of family/roots in a racist way due to ignorance of the backgrounds of themselves *and* people of color. I think this ties in with the notion that white people are “non-cultural” (as Dr. Know mentioned), which is certainly held by many white people. Obviously, this is racism in both directions—it’s not true of white people that we have no culture, and it’s not true that all non-whites have stronger cultural ties, for reasons that have already been covered here.

    The fact is that it’s easier for white people to trace their ancestors, but in terms of day to day life, I don’t think that necessarily helps anyone—records don’t translate to culture. Lots of white Americans talk about how they’re X% German and X% English and X% Croatian, etc. But I don’t think it goes much deeper than that unless your family has stronger ties to some cultural traditions. People probably assume that Asians are more recent immigrants and therefore have closer ties to their family’s background cultures.

    It’s clear that regardless of color, you can’t make any such assumption—in the defense of one of the comments quoted in the OP, it sounds like the guy has Italian/Greek/Japanese friends with strong family bonds, so it can’t really be assumed to be racist (and certainly isn’t applied only to non-whites!). Based on comments here though, it’s pretty clear people do assume there’s more of a connection to your family’s country of origin if you’re not white.

    In many ways, I think “white culture” has simply become consuming the fruits of colonialism in its various guises—so I’m not surprised white people are confused enough about their own identities and background and culture that they would conjure this kind of fantasy of the ethnic other.

  40. MCA Says:

    This has got to be one of the most racist articles I’ve read in a long time. And I especially resent this statement, “most African Americans cannot trace their African ancestry precisely because of white racism and slavery.”
    First of all, the SPANIARDS did more for kidnapping and selling into slavery than any other group in the world! And yet everyone just loves to blame the white man. America was working on everyone being equal and free before EU, before Spain and who knows how many other countries.
    We as a society have spent BILLIONS of dollars on projects trying to help those in slums and the projects. They are not there because white people held them back, they are there because their parents taught them they are entitled to things they are not! They are there because black leaders taught the parents they are entitled to things they are not. We are still blamed for what happened years and years ago simply because the more they complain, the more dollars the bad white man throws their way in hopes it will help them.
    Most white Americans I know don’t care about roots outside of America, as you stated, because they have generations of family here. Others who have recently moved here, came here to FORGET where they came from and therefore start their roots right here in a Free America!
    Funny thing how every black person is now referred to as African American when the closest they’ve come to Africa is seeing it on tv. What about the blacks whose roots are in EU? Or the blacks from the middle east? And we are called arrogant?
    People in America would do so much better if they were to look at each other as AMERICANS! No more hyphenations! You want to study your “roots” fine! But don’t push it on the entire race! Just like Kwanza pushed on all blacks, just to keep them segregated. Who did that? Not white people. Most black people don’t even know what it is! They say it’s how blacks celebrate Christmas or they believe it’s really a holiday from their roots. I have yet to meet one black person that knows it is a holiday created in 1967 by American Ron Karenga to give Blacks their own holiday rather than share the Christmas holiday with whites. It was their own black people who did that in order to stay segragated. People like Jesse Jackson, Farrakhan, etc, they lose their job if we all got along and became Americans, united under ONE flag, ONE body of people made up of all races! Put them out of a job! White people have been trying for many years to get along and it’s long past due that we do!

  41. goaler Says:

    I wonder how this continent of north america would look like if the confederate army had won the war?
    All these minority in -greats tend to forget it was the white union army
    that went to battle!
    Just as all these ethnic in-greats forget it is a all white canadian army that does the peacekeeping all over the world in these
    god awful places like haiti,afapackistan,and that shit-hole somalia.Why even rebuild haiti? racist voodo cesspool.
    If the Sir lankins had their way , our white boys would have been over in that dump also!
    You will not rank in this country until you step up to the plate
    and contribute for the life you have been given here!
    It seems to me all these newcomers want but are not willing
    to give back to this great white cristian founded nation!
    In the early 1900s all the western immigrants chipped in!
    Why did we ever cease brinning in these folks?

  42. Isabel Says:

    Another dumb blog for guilty white liberals to wallow in.

  43. Ugh Says:

    Can I add to this? Ugh. Dr. Know makes me embarrassed to be Irish American. Yeah, Ireland got colonized by the English. If you are so passionate about that, and so disturbed by it, then for crying out loud *learn* something about it, and don’t stop there – learn about colonialism in general. No, the lines you got from Fox News about “the Arabs” don’t count. You still benefit from white privilege and specifically from the white colonialism and occupation of what’s now the US. Instead of being so defensive, why don’t you look at what your ancestors went through, try to understand the privilege you benefit from and how that directly ties to others’ oppression, and see how you can put those things together to work in solidarity with people who are still targets of colonialism and injustice. People *in Ireland* get it…when I was recently there someone told me about working on organizing a joint conference on linguistic resistance to colonialism with American Indian/Native American activists.

  44. Commercials conflate whiteness with modernity. « Restructure! Says:

    [...] White people’s family roots are deeper than those of ethnic minorities. by Restructure! [...]

  45. Toby Says:

    “We are talking about AMERICA and the greatest genocide and crime in human history: Western Colonialism.”

    Colonialism and genocide are separate issues. Most of the worlds greatest genocides were committed by pocs: China (over numerous centuries), Arabs and other Muslim nations, Cambodia and Uganda to name a few. Of course we can’t forget Nazi Germany and Stalin’s Russia either.

    “Europeans stole and currently occupy an entire hemisphere–the Western hemisphere, genociding and destroying the native culture as a result.”

    Europeans learned those lessons from people of color: the Chinese, Mongols, the Arabs and, even further back, the Chaldeans, the Persians, the Babylonians and the Egyptians.

    “Dr. Know is a classic example of the Orwellian opposite: playing the (Italian and Irish) victim card to deny the present reality of White racist power and privilege.”

    if you want some “privilege” then earn it. As far as being racist I think you have that down pat.

  46. a.j. Says:

    Hi, I just read your post, and I don’t think there’s anything I disagree with, but I (as a “white” American) wanted to share a sort of opposing view. Sure it’s true that there are alot of white people who “envy” the real or imagined togetherness of certain “ethnic” people. However, it’s also true that sometimes ethnic people end up having so many experiences with white people who are like this that some ethnic people seem to believe or at least suspect most all white people they are around envy them for being “ethnic”, and as a white person, that is just tiring. I also think that sometimes (though not most the time) it is difficult to be “white”. For example, when I hang out with a group of blacks, hispanics, or middle easterners, I’m often asked about my ancestry/heritage, and feel unable to offer a short yet honest answer, while they sit and make jokes only they understand, talk about happy childhood memories unique to them, work out challenges only they seem to face, and so on. I have tried to use this as a learning experience, and often times it is fun/educational. However, I admit that sometimes I wish I could jump in and have a more interactive exchange with such people. Let me give you an example. I met one Afghani girl when I was a teenager who seemed completely convinced that women in her society were oppressed. Ok, well I guess that’s a rather vague statment, but I saw no reason to pursue the issue (she seemed to discuss the issue on an almost completely emotional level, while I tend to get uncomfotable about expressing any emotions at all, and generally try to understand things from an “objective” standpoint). I met another Afghani girl who (upon first meeting me) told me she was really into femenism, but she changed the topic quickly.. So later in life I meet another Afghani woman who seemed abit more level-headed/mature, and when I asked her a question out of curiosity about women’s rights in her country she seemed to get angry, as if I was accusing the honorable men in her family of some horrible deed (and I wasn’t). I was simply curious why she thought there were so many images of Afghani women as oppressed, and why Afghani-American women I had known in the past seemed like such staunch femenists, or perhaps believed that Afghani males hate Afghani females, etc. So perhaps Afghani women are no more irrational than anyone else, but I think as an outsider, I’m able to offer some critical analysis of their attitude. This attitude is one which (to outsiders) pretty much sounds like “I’m really concerned about this problem in my community, but don’t you (outsiders) dare inquire about it or bring it up” which is just silly. If they don’t want to go into more detail about it (ie perhaps atleast a few sentences), why bring it up at all? Of course it is rational on some level, but it is also silly. With black people, and other “ethnic” groups, there is often a “I have a different perspective because I’m black person from the inner city” kind of moment where they test white people to test the waters. This to me makes a certain amount of sense, but what I (as a white female) have experienced with other ethnic groups simply does not. If that offends people because I’m white, and able to point this out, so be it. So yeah, in conclusion, I’m glad I’m white. I rarely even ware much makeup, or dye my hair..I like who I am, including the vast majority of my flaws. Also, I wanted to make one last point. I, like most white Americans am ethnically mixed. I have English, Irish, Scottish, German, Danish, and Creole ancestors. However, in some of the neighborhoods where I grew up the majority of adults were “non-white”, or immigrants from some other country. I thus consciously identify more with alot of people from Mexico, India, etc than people from England, Germany, or those who speak Creole. After all, I never really knew my part-Creole grandparent. My dad’s family sees themselves as “Irish”, and are in many ways defined by stereotypes about Irish people (red haired, working class, yet average-above average intelligence, Catholic, from a big family, etc) yet they have about as much English ancestry as Irish. Never the less, my paternal grandfather hardly knew his father “James” who was 100 percent English. James was protestant, abusive to my grandfather’s mother, and an alcoholic. Thus, I see know reason why I should identify strongly with that side of my family (perhaps aside from the fact that I choose not to drink, that I speak English, and have inherited Caucasian features). However, I don’t identify too strongly with being Irish either seeing as my mom’s family was well educated, pretty affluent, protestant, I don’t have red hair, I’m not extremely knowledgable about Irish dance, I rarely eat potatoes, etc. Never the less, I don’t identify much with my mom’s family either seeing as I wasn’t raised in a particular religion, I grew up in an abusive home despite having material wealth, I watched movies (ie Pocahontas, Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast) rather than memorized oral traditions (songs/stories) passed down by Scottish Americans. Thus, I think in some ways “white people” really have had it rough from being de-ethnicized. Does that mean non-whites have had it easier? Well in certain situations they probably have, but for the most part, no, and in many cases, I guess the opposite is true.


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