Friday, March 21, 2008

Wear Your Whiteness

I haven't commented on Barack Obama's race speech. I started reading the full text and found the beginning to be the usual dribble that spills out of politicians' mouths--a bit of shine but no substance. And then I got to the part where he started talking about white folks and got my dander up.

But the [black] anger is real; it is powerful; and to simply wish it away, to condemn it without understanding its roots, only serves to widen the chasm of misunderstanding that exists between the races.

In fact, a similar anger exists within segments of the white community.

Is there really a similar anger? Is there enough of it that in white churches the preachers scream about the injustice they endure for having to live in a world with blacks in it? I wouldn't know, because I attend a church with all the races.

Obama describes white anger this way:

Most working- and middle-class white Americans don’t feel that they have been particularly privileged by their race. Their experience is the immigrant experience – as far as they’re concerned, no one’s handed them anything, they’ve built it from scratch. They’ve worked hard all their lives, many times only to see their jobs shipped overseas or their pension dumped after a lifetime of labor. They are anxious about their futures, and feel their dreams slipping away; in an era of stagnant wages and global competition, opportunity comes to be seen as a zero sum game, in which your dreams come at my expense. So when they are told to bus their children to a school across town; when they hear that an African American is getting an advantage in landing a good job or a spot in a good college because of an injustice that they themselves never committed; when they’re told that their fears about crime in urban neighborhoods are somehow prejudiced, resentment builds over time.

Like the anger within the black community, these resentments aren’t always expressed in polite company. But they have helped shape the political landscape for at least a generation.

Maybe in Obama Land, those white resentments at life's setbacks build to the point that they become racial hatred on par with Rev. Wright's screaming damnation of America, but in the Not-Entirely White World I live in, I've never seen it. Most of the people around me who have lost their jobs got angry at the corporate executives who sold them down the river.

Just to be on the safe side of the race question, the lead blogger at Malott's Blog has renounced his membership in all white organizations. I'm not sure, though, if the entire staff at that blog has followed suit. Like him, I have switched from white bread to whole wheat, though I did that years ago. On our trip, my mom and I even ate multiracial bread (rye and pumpernickel swirl--yum!).

But there's no hiding the truth: I'm a pasty-white person. I have eight nationalities in my ancestry, every single one of which is European. Nobody's going to mistake me for anything else.

No wait. Someone once asked me if I'm Hispanic, but that would be a No, because Spain is not one of the eight nationalities.

Which brings up the question, "Why fight it?" The answer is that you don't.

Mary Katherine Ham today pointed to this blog post highlighting casual wear for the Typical White Person (and his dog). It's perfect. I'm even tempted to buy the women's T-shirt in turquoise.

But back to Obama's speech. I didn't read much farther than what I quoted above. And from what I've heard and read in the commentaries, I'm glad I stopped when I did. I don't like to dwell in annoyance any longer than I have to.