I grieve for my lost identity.

Janel Ruehl,
Bend, OR

I’m a white American, but that doesn’t mean much to me. It doesn’t feel like a fully fleshed-out identity I can inhabit. “White” doesn’t connect me to any songs, or celebration. It doesn’t taste like any certain food. It doesn’t offer me any tradition for how to come of age, or process sorrow, or understand love. This is my privilege, because being white is the default identity in America, even though it’s no longer the majority. But for me, it is also a loss. Not so long ago, my ancestors were not “white”, they were German, or maybe Viking, or maybe Celt. I don’t know, because all those identities were swallowed up by “white” when they came to America, out of the great fear of being othered for being different- even a little bit. To me, this is the great grief of many people in America: either you hold to a sense of racial identity and are othered, or you give up any sense of identity to become assimilated- a part of the great melting pot that only ever seemed to celebrate bland sameness. I celebrate the ways this may be changing!


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