I was born and raised Caucasian, though of course, like most Caucasians, I was referred to and referred to myself as “white.” But like so many, I found myself attracted to African American culture, and, generally, more accepted by African Americans.
As I’ve grown, becoming an instructor of English and therefore, an observer of language, I began to appreciate the inherent privilege offered by the label “white.” I cam to understand that “white” as an appellation used to describe a culture or ethnicity, only begins to appear with the advent of European slavery. Prior to this, Europeans referred to themselves by their nationalities. But to separate themselves from those they enslaved, and to insure the rightness of slavery, they came to refer to themselves as “white,” a term that had implications of purity and innocence, and defined those they enslaved, Africans, as “black,” the opposite of white, and therefore, impure and guilty, in need of “civilization” and “conversion” to Christianity. I note also that Europeans and their descendants often like to claim the intellectual precision ad exactness of their culture, yet, most Caucasians’ skin, when put up against, say, white paper, will stand out. Likewise, few people of African descent will blend into a sheet of Black paper.
We live in a nation where, because of the hue of my skin, I will be allowed to go into certain areas, take part in certain events, and NOT experience many pressures that darker skinned people will. I have a privilege due to my perceived “whiteness.”
In my writing, what I try to do is expose that “whiteness,” that privilege. It seems to me that the essence of the “white” experience is to ignore whiteness, to claim it does not matter.
I hope that by being conscious of whiteness and its privilege, I can expose and, possibly, subvert it. I can do nothing about my ethnic descent: I am a Caucasian of French, German, British, and Scot – Irish descent.
I can try to not be “white.”