i’m a confused white mutt-person

first you must go read Jason‘s post. make sure to read the link to his own ‘black with a small b’ rant too. i was going to just comment but it got way, way too intense for that.

views from the white side? i am an adopted mongrel mutt white something-or-other, and i can trace my lineage back exactly nowhere. i call myself irish because my last name is kelly but that was a father who adopted me, left my mom, and i saw two times in my life after that, both to get money from him. he sent a fluffy blanket when my daughter was born in ’82. i don’t know if he’s alive or dead. oh, and my born name was caroline jean rucker. whether or not that was a made-up thing on the adoption papers i dug out of my mom’s closet while being a snoopy latchkey child. so Jason, my fruit has no root either.

around kindergarten age i had to stay with my grandparents because my mom was a working divorcee in the mid-sixties. bastard kid with a divorced mom being taken care of by my grandparents in oakland, california when the black folk started moving in. can you say socially awkward outcast? fat little kid with a shirley temple perm that hung out with mostly old people?

my grandpa was a racist in every sense of the word. think archie bunker only a hell of a lot worse. he had names for everybody. spics, wops, micks, n-words, chinks, you name it. he hated everybody. last name of buttener, what’s that english? anyway, he hated everybody else (he was gramma’s second hubby, the first one was named kelly, hence my name. he was a ‘mick’, heh). it’s confusing.

so there i am in kindergarten in oakland in ’66. grandparents panicked about the resale value of their homes, because ‘they’ were moving in. my grandpa, for all his prejudice, doted on me, his only grandchild, and he put up with the fact that pretty much my only friends were two (black) boys that moved in down the street, named Nathan and Lionel. their parents could barely afford to live there, and i was spoiled, so i often had them over to my house to have goodies from the easy bake oven or ice cream from that soda fountain toy. we’d play with my extensive lego collection and my impressive set of hot wheels. i loved to share my toys and goodies with them, and they were the only neighborhood kids that would hang out with me. because i was then, and am to this day, rather inept socially and in posession of an impressive collection of complexes.

i never had the issue of race against me, but that didn’t make it easy for me to assimilate into society, whatever color. i grew up with conservative parents, watching the news and identifying with hippies and radicals and freaks.

i can’t claim to know what it’s like to be discriminated against on the basis of race. i always made my own barriers. i know it’s not even *close* to the struggles that others have faced. i know there is this ‘white privilege’ thing, but trust me i’ve personally sabotaged any privilege i was given. i went from confusing middle class roots to rebellion to white trash, and am headed back towards middle class, though i have come to accept i’ll always occupy the ‘lower’ echelon of the class.

so here i am, whoever that is. and i wish there were no stigma attached to race. but there is, there still is — i work with racists. they don’t even think they’re racists. they just think they’re defending themselves, or something, i can’t figure it out, because they don’t make a whole lot of sense. i argue with them as if it helps. maybe someday it will. in the meantime, my performance reviews will always have low marks for ‘cooperates with others’. it’s that social disorder i have.

35 thoughts on “i’m a confused white mutt-person

  1. Can I just say ‘wow’ to the number of people I’ve talked with in the past 2 days that have revealed that their primary care givers when they were young were racist and prejudiced? I’m really amazed. (and I would be remisce if I didn’t note that, to a person, these caregivers were and probably are good and nice people. Rampant prejudice is just a flaw in their character, in any one’s character really, and doesn’t turn you into the Grand Wizard of the Klan…which is why I separate racism from prejudice in my discusssions. Hate who you want (prejudice) just don’t be screwing with my ability to get an apartment in your neighborhood (racism) )

    Thanks for contributing to the discussion, KD. I hope more folks take on the challenge of figuring out their racial identity and where they think we are today.

    good on ya.

  2. well, we do have laws that prevent a whole lot of the ‘ordinary everyday’ prejudice from influencing housing decisions and employment — however i am sure in many ways they are overlooked at will with a ‘who will catch me’ mentality.

    trust me, prejudice is alive and well in america today. it lives in the minds of the middle class who were raised by racist caregivers but lacked the motivation or critical thinking skills to move beyond that. why did i act and make friends in direct conflict with my grandpa’s beliefs? well, mostly because i was lonely and an outcast of sorts myself. i’m sure the (white) neighbors were horrified. oh well.

    i can’t imagine thinking like the prejudiced people i work with. it’s such a lot of ugliness.

  3. Thank you so much for linking to Jason – I think I’ve read a post or two before at his site, but this was wonderful. (Plus he has great taste in animation, and I’m always looking for blogs with tv and movie commentary.)

    You and he are so brave to open up and get all personal like this. I really admire that.

    I can remember every instance of racism I’ve ever been witnessed – mainly remarks/verbal racism, and very ugly to me. Some by relatives, some by people who obviously thought “well, she’s white, so I can say this shit.” What was interesting to me was that I was so sure it was more overt in the south – but it was there in Massachusetts too, and Kansas. Having said that, I still find Alabama a damn scary place and am glad I don’t live there anymore.

  4. I find it interesting that writing the words “spic”, “wop”, “chink”, and “mick” are ok, but one starts at saying “nigger”.

    In fact, as I was just writing that I found the last one to be the most loathsome to type. Not to say, of course, that we should freely toss around the n-word… but why are those other racial slurs any easier to write? Should they be?

  5. i couldn’t do it, Pete, i just couldn’t. i tried. but, i’ve never used the word in my life. i am not sure why it’s worse, but i know for sure it is. just a feeling.

    racking my brains right now, i’ll venture to say that my grandpa didn’t ever use that word either. i was typing awfully fast when i wrote this, but if i had stopped to think, i would have recalled him calling black people ‘those coloreds’ with the approprite mix of fear and hate in his voice. they were, afterall, encroaching on his neighborhood. he was an angry man, my grandpa.

  6. besides, i can hardly recall the last time i heard someone use chink or mic or wop. and i forgot and left out nip and polack, he did use those, but they all have a rather archaic feel to them somehow.

    the n word does not. i have really no idea why that is.

    (maybe grandpa *did* say that and i’ve repressed it? who knows. my childhood memories are all pretty vague.)

  7. Kd thank you for linking to Jason’s site. I must say that I will not make as long a comment here on your site, as I have just made what equates to a post at Jason’s. I think I have experienced racial prejudice, and it hurts. This is despite the fact, that although I am Jamaican, I am very light skinned and do not have typical negroid features.
    In my comment, I did use the n word once, not in any offensive way, but to prove a point, which I hope did not offend anyone at all. That was the furthest thing from my mind, and I think you will understand what I was trying to get across if you read my comment there, lengthy as it is.
    I’ll end similarly to the way I ended my coment at Jason. It is sad that racial prejudice still exists, it can only continue to screw up the lives of millions of people around the world. My opinions my be viewed asbeing from the ‘priviliged’ side on account of the fact that I am from a country that is comprised primarily of people with African descent, but hopefully, someday, it will be possible to put all of this misery behind us and just exist as one big multiracial world. I know that it perhaps is a farfetched idea, but those of us who feel this way, can only continue to strive for it. I may not be able to see this in my lifetime, but perhaps my children (if I have any) will. Away with racial prejudice.

  8. don’t worry, Jason, one of the greatest charms of comments is their little errors here or there. it certainly doesn’t detract from the generally very theraputic nature of having such a discussion, and hearing viewpoints from such a wide variety of perspectives.

    breaking down the barriers of defensiveness is an important part of moving on. i know i get defensive, because i don’t wanna be lumped in with the members of my race, like some of my coworkers, who are still passing around racist jokes in emails (though admittedly these days it’s more likely to be Middle Eastern racist jokes, but still).

    i try not to get defensive, because defense mechanisms close down the mind. it’s the grownup equivalent of sticking the fingers in the ears and going la-la-la-la really loud so you don’t hear.

    not sure where i’m going with this, but i’m going to keep thinking. one thing i’m thinking about is the thought process itself, and how blogging and interacting with others in this medium has helped me to see and think things differently. what a journey it is.

  9. Please guys, don’t anyone think I was being defensive. If this wasn’t a topic of interest to me, I wouldn’t have joined in.

    I think what makes the word “nigger” so atrocious (over the other words) is because, thanks to movies, and media we (all races) have a pretty good idea of how demeaning that word is, how it’s been used to put an entire race down… and I can tell you from first hand experience, growing up in a lagely Black community how it’s *STILL* being used by the Black community to put themselves down.

    That has to stop.
    (You’ll also note I don’t use the term “African-American”. I say “Black” because that word was given some empowerment a few years back. I respect that.)

    Yes, the past is important to know… but only to understand where each of us is coming from. But to move forward is going to require all of us to deal with issues that are plaguing us now (education, ignorance, fear, poverty, lack of community interest & social programs.)

  10. … and maybe I should re-interate that I enjoyed Jason’s writing and I was merely adding as it struck me that say-say was implying that Blacks were the only people screwed over in America (which she didn’t, concede). The “white guilt” stuff came from a previous discussion here. That’s all.

    *Hands raised*… see? Friend… not foe. Just joining in a great discussion.

  11. I need to go read the dialog at Jason’s, but just wanted to say that yes, arguing with bigots does help. One must. They take silence to mean ‘agreement’ or worse, ‘approval.’ Off with their puny little heads!

  12. Okay, I’m not implying that black people are the only ones who have suffered in the hands of America. But, “Italians were treated like shit by Irish cops ” is not the same thing as being raped, used like a whore / maid, having your children taken away from you and your life be solely under ownership of another person.

    I’m not saying that what has happened to other races in the past is excusable, or anything. And I’m not saying every white person in America was a slave-owner at some time. But, it I think that if you look at the history of blacks in America, slavery and the inequalities we still have today (remember, I was responding to the question of the “n” word) I think it’s hard to just “forget” that something like that happened and doesn’t still spark strong feelings from people.

    So, I think that to say “nigger” to someone brings up the rage/hurt/frustration/embarassment/disgrace of slavery and how it affected people. Nigger, to me, balls up all the beatings, whippings, rape, child abuse, mental abuse,…just everything. And it says that it was right, or okay. It’s a powerful word, no matter how many rap artists use it in their songs.

    Like I said, I’m black, Italian and French. If someone called me a french fool, or a Dago, I probably wouldn’t feel the same as if they called me a nigger.

  13. totally in agreement on that one, Say-Say, it’s why i can’t even make myself type the word.

    *grin* so it’s ok if i call you a ‘frog’? kidding, kidding.

  14. This is such an awesome conversation. kd, you amaze me…and jason…rock ON, man! rock THE FUCK on.

    And mr. mischief…I think you might need to check your definition of defensiveness, because shit like “I’m off the hook” just SCREAMS de-FENCE! de-FENCE! Love ya, but it sounds like you might want to do a little more work. I come from Italian and German immigrants by the way…and the fact is that I’m in this country enjoying an economy and many conveniences that were built on the back, blood, and bones of human beings who were ripped from their homeland unwillingly and forced to work for the people who ultimately took advantage of their labor and offered nothing in return. I think Jason is so right ON when he says “Just recognize and accept that. It doesn’t make you a good or a bad person. It just is. It just is. It just is. It. Just. Is.” you fucking ROCK, Jason. And kd…”the past and future can’t be separated, maybe on a personal level they can, but not as a society. acknowledging, owning up to, and being sorry that the past happened whether it was our direct ancestors or not, is an important motivation for change.” AWESOME, mama! Just AWESOME.

    So many others have said so many things that I think are just amazing. So, rather than going on here, i will say that I posted a novel on this topic at full bleed. Feel free to go there and read it if you want more.

    Thanks again, so so much, for opening this up, Jason.

  15. Hey, kd. I always knew you were an interesting lassie, and cool to boot. Your post here just makes that even more solid to me. I could go on and on about race and heritage, but I find it exhausting at times.

    I think the reason the “n” word is so powerful and so…bad, is because there really isn’t any other race that has the American history as black people. Most people came to this country because they wanted to. Because they dreamed of a better life, future. But, many black people don’t have that kind of “memory” to attatch to their being in America. The thought of your ancestors being dragged her to be treated like a dog, raped and valued less than a horse is a thought I don’t like to ponder on too long. So, when I hear someone use the “n” word, it, for me, brings back that sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. The same one I get when I think of slavery.

    Well. Thanks for giving me the space to ramble.

  16. And mr. mischief…I think you might need to check your definition of defensiveness, because shit like “I’m off the hook” just SCREAMS de-FENCE!

    *sigh* I probably shouldn’t even post this.

    Slavery was atrocious, say-say. I never denied that, and I find it hard to believe that there is a rational human being that would believe otherwise.

    I’ll say no more. If fact I think I’ll be avoiding racial issues here from now on. It seems people are more interested in screaming at someone rather than solving problems that are going on today. The past cant be undone, the only thing we can change is the future.

    For those of you that think you have me figured out in less than two paragraphs without a clue about my past… fuck you.

  17. Eric, Eric, Eric. it’s ok. you did sound defensive. hell, my whole post sounded defensive to me, and indeed defensiveness is something that comes part and parcel of any frank discussion of race. we all have such deeply felt issues about this. discussing it without defensiveness at first would mean we really weren’t paying attention, you know?

    that was my first reaction in the other discussion of race we had here – i was extremely defensive. because, you know, i am the good guy. anyone having this discussion and not jerking their knee into mass generalizations, anyone feeling these feelings and being honest and raw and real — is the good guy.

    we’re all doing the right thing, getting our passionate opinions out here in the open and having them looked at by other passionate folk.

    it’s a good thing. it’s theraputic. trust me. it’s ok.

  18. Why is it defensive for GoM to say he’s off the hook? It may be wrong, but why must it be defensive? (slavery was alive and well in England for many, many, many years, and even after it was outlawed, it just meant that English outlaws practiced the trade.)

    Oh it happened. It most certainly happened. Slavery happened. That is not my fault. I’m dodging no bullets there. Nor am I being defensive. I am responsible for now and my actions in the past, not those of my forebearers.

    But as GoM pointed out, far more nationalities were exploited than just the Africans. Native Americans were turned against one another, the Chinese as he pointed out were exploited and then cast aside. The immigrants to this country have had and continue to have the hardest of times. Welcome to America. Yes. Let’s admit this. And then let’s get about fixing it.

    Talk is talk. Understanding comes from within, not without.

  19. i would only say it’s defensive because no one really said he’s on the hook for being mostly white (with a little native american). Eric’s my friend, i’m not bagging on him. he rocks, he’s a good person, and in this case yes that was a wee bit defensive.

    that’s all, really. i’m defensive too. i want to be one of the people whose ancestors are not at fault for the atrocities of american history.

    and we’re not. this is now, and that was then. and yes, let’s focus on what is now, what things still are happening. if we all gather together and proclaim that race should not be a barrier to anything, think of the things we could do if we just move beyond.

    but i’m ready to apologize for being a white american, enjoying white privilege, even though i blew mine years and years ago. point is i had it. point is it’s there.

    the future will be better. and it will be better for these impassioned discussions we’re having now.

  20. That’s some good stuff, kd! I have to read more of Jason’s writing, I see the “tongue-in-cheek”/searing truth in there. I like that.

    But I *do* have to disagree with say-say, perhaps it was the semantics… but America has *ALWAYS* been an equal opportunity racist country. The chinese build our railroads, and the conditions they lived in were no better than slavery. We have the mafia, because Italians were treated like shit by Irish cops and English business owners, couldn’t get jobs so they formed an infrastructure. Most Indian nations were wiped out because they were on our land before we got here, and didn’t have the nerve to leave. What happened to Black people was horrible… but I am proud to say we have fucked *everyone* over to some degree at some point.

    Me? I’m off the hook with the slavery thing. My family came here from Liverpool in the 20’s. My Massapequadi side of the family assimilated into society rather than face the fate of the Apache or Sioux. Not every Indian tribe had a “fight or die” mentality. In fact, very few did. They were peace-loving, and trusting to the very end.

    Even if my lineage (which like kd and Jason… I really don’t give a shit about) dated back 400 years in America. I still *REFUSE* to carry some form of “white guilt” over events that I had nothing to do with.

    I’m concerned with the here and now. “Where do we go from here?” is the only question I ask. I won’t even waste my time “trying to prove I’m not racist”, because I believe I have my moments. We all do.

  21. You are right, that everyone’s been “fucked” over at some point. I was just making an attempt to figure out why the “n” word’s so touchy.

    I don’t and am not trying to lay and white guilt down. I’m part white. I’m part black and part italian. I think it’s embarassing when people talk about our ____hundred years of struggle and why (anyone) should feel guilty about that shit. The only thing people should feel guilty about is the stuff they are responsible in the here and now.

    The hardest thing about racism is that you can’t feel what it feels like in another person’s shoes. You just can’t. So, I can say how it feels to be a black/italian/french person living in America, but I couldn’t tell you what it’s like to be Hmong, ya know?

    And I donno, MiScHiEf, who knows where to go from here. Or anywhere. Or anything. Blah. Let’s ask kd.

  22. well, again, about the n-word… i really do think say-say has a point, because as abhorrent as the ‘coolie’ labor was, it was more of an indentured servitude, and there were lots of europeans that came here that way as well.

    again, i’m not a historian and i can’t cite chapter and verse of american history to know why one word feels worse than another. it just does.

    the thought of predatory slave ships prowling the African coastlines, sending in raiding parties, … it’s all connected with that n-word. and that’s ugliness i can’t personally bring myself to invoke.

    and Eric, the past and future can’t be separated, maybe on a personal level they can, but not as a society. acknowledging, owning up to, and being sorry that the past happened whether it was our direct ancestors or not, is an important motivation for change.

    and unfortunately true that everybody’s been fucked over to some degree. i’ve said it before and i’ll say it again, the human race is a uniquely vicious and bloodthirsty race. we are killers and usurpers.

    speaking of which, can we please not go to war with Iraq?

  23. I’m sitting here debating whether or not to write this comment based on how I feel with GofM’s post…

    This is part of the reason why this conversation is so tough. Most of the personal accounts I’ve read, including my own, aren’t about blaming people. Yet people still feel blamed as if by simply being white they are guilty of something. And that some of the responses are “I’m off the hook” or “I’m not this way” or whatever is as if you’re saying “We can have this conversation as long as I’m allowed to looked at separately from the rest of society and be ‘the good white person'”

    First…I’m not accusing anyone of anything.
    Second…I don’t want you to feel guilty.
    Third…you missed the whole point.

    Its not about guilt, its about recognition. Recognizing that we are all a part of this as both problems as solutions. Recognizing that just as there are inherent things in society that I lose and benefit from because I’m black, there are things that you lose and benefit from because you are white. And that the benefits and losses are wholly different simply because of our skin color.

    Just recognize and accept that. It doesn’t make you a good or a bad person. It just is. It just is. It just is. It. Just. Is.

    And its not about slavery and its not about what your parents did or what your great granddaddy did. Its about skin color and identity and society today. The past matters but it matters only in the sense that it has created the situation we live in today.

    Its what we are doing today, how we see ourselves today, what we talk about about today that matters more to me. Why we make the assumptions we make, how we get past that, how we move forward.

    As I’ve said before, I think the Civil Rights Movement worked. It put in place the laws and edicts that provide equal protection for all of us under the law. So its not a government problem anymore, its a people problem.

    “People are we ready…are we really ready, are you really rady to try? Yeah. We wanna try harder.” – De La Soul

  24. No. I got defensive afterward.
    Jason had some other great points in his post, that I wanted to discuss… but if everyone is going to stay stuck on one silly line how can we go further?
    (And that’s how I feel folks, sorry! I’m part German also, am I responsible for the Holocaust too? Should I write a long list of aoplogies for *every* crime my European ancestors committed in the past 2,000 years?)

    You want to discuss the problems of inner cities, and Black America? I’m your man. I can tell you what my friends went through, with first hand experience, plus from the point of view from an outsider who sees a bigger picture.

    I was there. Growing up in the middle of an inner city. How many of you were?
    Some morons can’t see past the color of my skin, and want to pre-judge me, then my input will go somewhere that it’s heard. No biggie.

    Thanks, Naked Tiny

  25. But the thing is…I never asked for an apology. Did anybody here ask for an apology? However, what was most important for you to note, the first thing that you felt the need to point out were two things 1) America’s screwed everybody and 2) that you didn’t do it.

    Its like playing tag in school and you screamed “Not IT!”

    In this game…Everybody’s IT.

    And to me, this isn’t about discussing the problems of the Inner City. I don’t live in the Inner City. Never have. I’ve grown up middle class in the suburbs all my daggone life. Yet Race has an effect on my life everyday that has nothing to do with being poor or being marginalized. It still Matters. This is simply a discussion about how we, all of us, view Race.

    But this is why I don’t have this discussion regularly…because instead of everyone talking about their experiences with race and prejudice, its now a conversation about making sure you don’t feel guilty.

    Even though I never blamed anyone for anything, you still feel blamed. No matter how many times I suggest that its not about pointing the finger at anyone, you still are on a crusade to make sure we know you’re not a part of the problem.

    And its frustrating. I say, “We are all part of the problem.” You say, “No I’m not.”

    And all of a sudden we aren’t talking about race anymore.

  26. “And its frustrating. I say, “We are all part of the problem.” You say, “No I’m not.””

    I think what happens is that people hear different things.
    In discussing this subject I’ve talked with people for whom it’s not enough that I admit we’re all part of the problem – which I agree with – I have to take on the guilt and shame of past generations. It’s very hard to get into a discussion on how to change things when you feel forced to admit that you are white, therefore responcible for all the hate that has come before. NOT that you are suggesting that JT – it’s just that I’ve had this conversation with black and white people before. And you know, after I’ve given in and said, ok, I’ll take on that guilt and represent the entire white race (because that was what the person I was discussing it really wanted to hear, and admitted as much) – the conversation never made it much further on what they then proposed that I DO. Surely if I have the power to represent the white race, then I should have the power to change the system without diving into politics and trying to change law on that level. I should be able to make a change in the circle of my workplace and my community, shouldn’t I?

    No one is happy about the state of race relations that’s willing to come to the table to talk about it. There is such a thing as white guilt – and it’s that shame that no one is happy feeling. To know that to some people my color represents what’s wrong with everything. I can’t change it – it’s not a badge of power I wear. (I’m so damn white I glow in the dark – I envy everyone’s melanin.) Too many people say “You’re part of the problem” (not you JT) – and that’s it, for most people that’s where dialog ends. That sentence might not intend to be hurtful – but it is. It’s taking what should be a comment about society that we’re all part of and bringing it to an individual level. The Germans have the same problem with the Holocaust. Californians have the same problem with the Internment Camps. “It happened in our backyard and was horrible, and we’re sorry – but that was our grandparents, not us.” But there’s a difference in wanting to wiggle out of responcibility – and wanting not to be branded as evil. Because there’s no way to apologize enough for these things.

    This is not an easy topic. The difficulty of talking about this is always with us. Sure people get hurt. I’m not comfortable with the fact that relatives of mine were Confederates, though other family members are proud of this. I don’t want to feel responcible or apologetic for some of the stuff my parents come up with, though they’re not prejudiced in the sense that their parents were. But some of it’s there, surfaces every now and then.

    It’s hard enough to be a white person, telling family and other whites to shut up when they say certain things, and then feel – though it may not have been intended – that you are still going to be lumped into the rest of the people who are the problem. It’s hard trying NOT to be part of the problem. And to not be defeatist about it – “oh well, I’m white, I give up, there’s nothing I can do, I’ll always be part of the problem, I can’t make any difference.”

    But JT is right – pay attention to his wording – We are all part of the problem. It’s a human problem. All we can do it try not to be part of it.

  27. Whew, that went on a bit long. Sorry.
    And even then I have to add – maybe if we all learn to think “it’s not about ME, it’s about ALL of us.”
    The guilt is hard to overcome – but only because we’re all so very aware of the wrongs that have occurred. Perhaps it’s good we can’t easily throw off that guilt – that would indicate that we’re not taking the injustices seriously enough.
    And as always, all of this is my opinion and doesn’t represent the views of just everyone out there.

  28. Wow, excellent thread of comments. We’re all mutts. growing up in a small town of 1616 people and having the only minority mother (Japanese) who barely even spoke English, I guess I just learned to ignore race early on. It was either ignore it, or raise my voice and get my face punched in.

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