Thinking about whiteness

Well I’m thinking again. Recently, a wise soul told me that I needed to think about who I am and come back to a place within myself where I can accept who I am. That means thinking about whiteness. That’s complicated. I have a lot more white guilt than is good for me but I do not think I ever want to get to a place where I have none at all.

I have had several white men tell me in the last couple of weeks that I should narrow my focus in life. I should stop paying attention to what is happening to other people; I can’t help them anyway. Wow.

Well actually, I help people on a regular basis. I help people every month. I probably help people every week. I don’t help people every single day.

But I should stop paying attention. I should stop noticing that those people are having problems. It would be good for me.

What do you mean by good?

Sometimes it is a little weird to me, to take responsibility for America’s history of slave ownership because I don’t think any of my ancestors actually owned slaves. Sometimes it seems a little weird to me that I feel burden for something neither I nor my family did. But I do. We as a culture, as a country hurt our citizens. We hurt them very badly and we did it over and over for generations.

No one has ever wanted to take responsibility for what was going on in my family either.

I can’t save everyone. I have a specific budget. Okay it goes up every year, but so has my income. I am selfish too, I am putting money away every single month for our future. I am selfish. But I have so much extra. I know how budgeting works. I am meeting and exceeding my goals.

There has to be balance and I don’t think that very many people get to a place of balance. I feel very humble. I would not be meeting my goals if the universe did not choose to be kind to me. Many years ago when I was younger I had a brief, tempestuous affair with a young man who is pursuing an education in Ayurvedic medicine. He asked to do my chart, meaning my birth chart based on when I was born. I thought that was pretty funny. But he did it and when he came back to me to give me the reading he looked at me really funny.

He said,” you are never going to have to worry about money. And you will always win when you go against somebody in court.”

That has been weird for me in my adult life. Money has fallen into my lap like rain. It is just true. I get it from so many places. I don’t really understand sometimes. When I was younger this often took the form of getting rebates on things. I had budgeted for the full price of something not knowing that there was a rebate and I ended up getting mailed money. Every time spontaneous money pops into my lap I make progress on whatever goal is currently most important to me. I don’t ever use it for splurging.

These days, most extra money gets put towards my mortgage. Some of the investments that Noah owned before we were married send out occasional checks. His parents sometimes feel guilty. And good golly can that man make money. I did not really intend to make my financial fortune through marriage. To be fair, when I married him, his debt significantly outweighed his net worth. So it isn’t like he started out rich. What he started out with was a lot of privilege that he didn’t know how to use. What I brought to the marriage was a financial sense and an iron fist.

Who made who?

But this is how it works for white people. Noah comes from a background of wealth, wealth mostly only grows if you are smart enough to marry somebody who can help you manage that process. Guess what else happens mostly to people? Marriage.

There are privileges for white people from top to bottom in our society. I think I only see this because I’ve experienced so many different levels of society. Most of the people I talk to have a hard time understanding why I care so much about people who are not like me right now.

I have a long memory. I have come really far. You have no idea what kind of people are like me. So many people are like me. They just don’t know it yet. They aren’t like all of me. No one can be like all of me without walking all the roads I have walked. No one was with me. I was alone for so long. Not any more though.

I do not seek to be a good white person. Or rather, I do not think I can ever arrive at being such. It is a well studied phenomena that most human beings only know people within their racial group. I don’t want that. If I put my head down it might happen. I am not going to put my head down. I do need to find some kind of balance. I need to be aware of people around me who need help. I need to do so because I need to pay back the child I was who needed so much help. I need to pay forward all of the karma I have received. I do not believe that doing this will make me love myself more. But I believe it is the right thing to do.

I believe that there is no meaning in life other than the meaning we create by ourselves. I do not believe I am going to be saved. I do not believe anyone has died for my sins. I believe there have been many many people throughout history who have wanted to atone. Yet my sins are still my own. I cannot undo my past but I can make damn sure that my future is something different.

When I was a teacher I had a sign above the whiteboard in my room. It said, “Today is the first day of the rest of your life”. I told the kids that I believe that. When you walk into my classroom whatever you did yesterday is irrelevant. I did not know you then. I did not see any of your transgressions. We have a clean slate. What do you want to do with it?

I do not seek to be good. I do not think I can be. What I do is seek to lessen the pain that is in the world because I want to be a creator instead of a destroyer. I do not help these people because I know them personally. I am distantly friendly afterwords, sometimes. I do not assume friendship. Needing help is a touchy thing. Pride is a really big deal. I do not help people because I am better than them; I help because I have extra.  I want to live in a world where everyone has enough. I don’t think I can get there on my own, but I do what I can. I hope that if a whole lot more people felt the same way, we could move the needle. We could change what it means to be poor in America.

I think that being poor in America should mean that you have a safe place to live and food and heat and clean water and people who love you. I think that every person should be able to get an education for free that will enable them to no longer be poor and instead be middle class or upper class. I don’t think we will ever get away from a class system. I do think that we should change how people get into the class they are in.

I think that being upper class should mean something very different than what it means now. I hope we will get to the end of consumptive wealth displays soon. Just a few people are going to kill all the rest of us. But I am part of the problem. I travel too much. I consume too much. I definitely have a high carbon foot print.

My culture is in everything I do. And my culture is killing the planet.


P. S. This post brought to you by Dragon. I am trying to not type. This was moderately less frustrating than it has been so far. Maybe I will learn.