I’m white. I’m just plain white.

Sara
Fairview, OR

I’m white. I’m just plain white.

My mother is very proud of her Irish heritage, and my father is very proud of his Welsh heritage. Since I was raised by my mother, and was often times surrounded by my very large and proud Irish family, I identify as Irish as much as I can. Hell, we even have our own holiday, so that’s fun, right? But really, I’m white.

I’m very white. I burn easily, and there’s no missing my blue vein when blood needs to be drawn. My skin is like paper. Like most white girls, I hate it. I constantly wish I had a tan, but of course that costs money, and takes a while to cultivate, because I can’t lay in a tanning bed for longer than 5 minutes without getting burned.

As a Sociology major, and a generally observational person, I know that people of color (Asian, Black, Hispanic, etc) deal with racism on a very regular basis. Even people with just an accent, like Russians, I hear racist comments about. I work as a waitress, and I constantly am confronted with blatant racism from my co-workers. “We have a big table coming in – ASIAN.” “They wanted no ice in their water? Were they Russian?”

I always stare at them with disbelief when I hear comments like this, but I shouldn’t, because I’ve studied it long enough on my own time to know how common ignorance is in our culture.

However, I do feel white guilt, and for no reason at all. I’m not racist in any way, I empathize with the racism my friends of color meet with every single day of their life, and yet I still feel guilty. I suppose that’s why I cling so happily on to my Irish heritage. I’m not really Irish, I’m not from Ireland, and I’ve never been there. I’m a white, blue-eyed, blonde-haired American girl with nothing special about me. But I love owning at least being Irish…. having just a little bit of Irish blood.

My boyfriend is 1/16th Native American (Shawnee). He doesn’t really celebrate it very much, because he is white skinned, dark haired, and blue eyed… he jokes about being Native even, and I tell him that he should celebrate and embrace his heritage.

I think this is an important thing to do. I don’t know what my point was. I guess it’s basically the yearning to want to belong to a group, so I hang on to being Irish, because I think a lot of white people are like me – even though we know it’s difficult to be a person of color, we want a group to belong into… and not the one that white people are often times subjected to. That is, either that white people are over-privileged brats (I do understand though that oftentimes white people have it easier than people of color of course), or that white people are nerdy and awkward, and if they listen to rap they “think they’re black.”

I think, if you are dealing with racism, and I know many people here are, remember, you belong to a group. Never let go of your heritage, remember who you are. Of course, everything you are isn’t just your heritage, but the next time you get mistreated, remember that you are not alone, and that these experiences shape you and make you who you are. Be strong, be proud, and on behalf of many white people – I’m sorry.

 

Tweets by Michele Norris