The Myth of the White Race

I know many wonderful white people who think they’re not racist, but they still have subconscious racism. (I deal with this in myself as well.) My hope was, that as “one of them,” maybe I could say something, anything, to help them acknowledge the reality that people of color face. In the age of Trump, however, I can see that a certain segment of the population is a lost cause, and that segment was larger than I originally thought. Indeed, there are many white people out there who are so delicate, so fragile, that a person of color cannot express their true feelings about their indifferent, thoughtless, or outright racist behavior without the white person feeling viciously attacked and provoked into responding with, “Reverse racism!” This response is the intellectual equivalent of, “I know you are, but what am I?”

This is how thin-skinned whites avoid ever having to deal with their own issues. A black person is clearly never supposed to even hint that a white person might be, a little, maybe, hurtful? rude? In the grown-up world, this is called being honest about your feelings. “When you do that, it hurts.” Healthy grown-ups can deal with this sort of dialogue when they’re on the receiving end. Interestingly, you know what kind of grown-up cannot deal with this at all, ever? A personality-disordered one. And when it comes to people of color, many whites respond narcissistically: “Oh! How could you! I am SO not that, I am not a racist, I would never. I’m a very good person. Some of my best friends are…” This is what we call “blaming the victim” and “refusing to take responsibility for their actions.”

I have noticed, in my advocacy for people of color, that some whites love to tell me how sad it is that “I’ve turned against my own race” and other such bullshit. Yes, they reason, she must be a self-hating white person to take the wrong side on this issue. These people will argue that systemic racism is a figment, that no white person these days is ever racist, ever ever, and that the ONLY reason racial tension exists is because those uppity colored people just will not keep their place. Okay, they don’t put it that way, but in effect, that is what they mean. They should be quiet and suck it up, just like Elizabeth Warren. And yet they persist. Yes, there’s always an excuse ready to hand when a black person is unjustly and unlawfully killed. The mental acrobatics involved with avoiding uncomfortable truths is an astonishing waste of energy, which belies the argument about being a “superior race.” Clearly, we are not.

But about this race thing. There is no “white race.” The (weird) term “Caucasian” that we check on questionnaires means “of European origin,” or more specificaully, “from the Caucasus.” The Caucasus lies between the Black and Caspian seas. In Asia. It includes Georgia and Azerbaijan. And that’s just a start.

English and most European languages are Indo-European. Finnish, Basque, and Hungarian are not; those languages are descended from the original European cultures who lived there before the Indo-Aryans came. The Picts occupied Scotland before the Celts arrived. The original inhabitants of Ireland are enshrined in myth as the Tuatha Dé Danan, who occupied the island before the Celts. The Indo-Aryans themselves came from, duh, the region of India. They interbred with the existing European tribes just as homo sapiens, as we know, interbred with Neanderthals. And it’s not like the mixing stopped there. Many a Spaniard has Moorish (African) blood, as does, no doubt, most of the population of the northern Mediterranean. The English are hardly “pure-blooded” anything. Celts, Romans, Anglo-Saxons, Norsemen, and the French have all inhabited the island. Were these all “white?” They had profound cultural differences, some more than others. It wasn’t that long ago that none of these peoples would have laid claim to being a “common race” with one another.

Nowadays, the definition seems to be expanding. Russians, now, are becoming “white.” But Russia is a very big place, and it contains many different ethnic groups, including some Indo-Europeans, actual Caucasians, Siberians, and those of Turkic or Mongolic origin. And of course, they have Jews, who may bear white skin, but keep getting locked out of the “white club.” (Semitic, by the way, applies to Arabs as well as Jews, ironically.)

So what is “whiteness?” It’s a social construct, a belief, much like a belief in the Tooth Fairy. “If you look like me, you’re white.” Unless, of course, you have a drop of black blood, but can “pass” for white. An octoroon, an old word for a person who was 1/8 black, was still black because apparently the 7/8 of their genetic makeup didn’t matter at that point. These white race rules get kinda complicated.

The truth is, most African-Americans have white blood in their veins. And the corollary is, there are a lot of “white” people out there with black, Native American, and Latino blood in their veins, too. Do they know it? Probably not. Is Barack Obama half-black or half-white? Do “whites” know that their European ancestors may well have had fairly recent African, Asian, or Middle Eastern influence? Probably not. Are they aware that all of humanity originated in Africa? Probably not, although if they really believe in the Adam and Eve thing, humanity only had two parents. Which makes us all related.

We know, scientifically, that the concept of “race” doesn’t make sense, because we can do DNA testing. One individual’s DNA may have ties to peoples and cultures all over the world. To me, that’s beautiful. It’s wonderful. It’s indicative of our Oneness. I get that thousands of years ago, we lived in tight tribes, basically extended family groups, and “other” tribes could be in-laws, friends, or foes. There’s some wiring there. But we don’t live like that anymore. Or at least, we don’t have to. It’s time to recognize ourselves in one another and give up the ego-protecting defense mechanisms that make us okay with another’s suffering. We really are one race, the human race. Some people won’t see it. I’m sorry for them. But the rest of us need to move forward now.

Watch this fantastic video about DNA testing and what it tells us about ourselves.

Writer, painter, cat fancier, troublemaker, democratic socialist, & antifascist.

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