I hosted the sixth annual Scandinavian potluck with some friends this year. I invited only Scandinavians, and their guests, as it was a chance to keep alive our identity. I mentioned it to various people when asked about my Christmas plans. As always there were comments, most joking, that it was a racist gathering, or the Aryan brotherhood was descending upon my apartment for Christmas. In all honesty, this is disturbing. I see that it’s harmless teasing from some. Perhaps it’s penance white people endure due to our collective behavior these past few centuries. At a basic level it reveals the prejudice of others.
Why is it when white people gather to celebrate a common cultural identity, it has to be assigned a racist persona? And what affect does this have? If some folks fail to understand that white people have something to celebrate that isn’t racist, and those folks label that gathering or identity as racist, they block the formation of positive whiteness.
I am not teased when I go out with some friends just to be social even if they are all white. Such regular informal gatherings are probably more of a concern as they affect everyday life, but no one criticizes that because we all have homogenous circles. This is a post of its own.
In truth, white people have a collection of identities, ethnicities, and cultures amidst what is considered the white race. Armenians, Latvians, Danes, and even white Americans are more than white. In mainstream culture this seems to be downplayed without us realizing it. Genealogy is celebrated and we’re encouraged to find our roots. Yet, to gather with whites on purpose for other reasons is a no-no. When members of society assign racist attributes to a subsection of white people who gather to share a common culture around food, drink, songs, humor, past struggles, or other marker of a culture, it scars white identity.
When folks use social pressure, jokes, frowns, or suspicious looks they are not stopping white people from gathering; they are insisting it centers on racist agenda. They foster racism when they spread such judgments and commit prejudice. There were non-Scandinavians at the party and they of course participated fully. They learned about other cultures; we learned more about our own.
White people, gather and celebrate. Bond over shared ancestry and ancient clans. Enjoy the fact that your ancestors survived the tribulations they felt fleeing persecution whether from pogroms in Russia or indentured servitude in the English colonies. Explore those histories fighting racism whether freedom rides in the 1960’s South or John Brown’s white-led slave revolts. Prove to the other whites and the non-whites that you can develop a positive identity not dependent on the implicit demand that it be racist.
If we want white people to be able to discuss race and grow, yet we deny the truth of their culture independent of racism, social justice falters. Whites will know that discussing race means that in the eyes of others they are racist and nothing else. This stops the conversation. And no one is just racist. Let’s not squash the hope for dialog. What ways do you present a positive perception of whiteness? This question isn’t just for white people.