Pretty haunting really. Even weirder was after reading about raising people 'color blind' and realizing that it's just as bad as white washing. Well-meaning allies can be just as insensitive as outright racists. You can't ignore someone's color, culture or gender. You can't just appropriate someone's cultural practices and flaunt how 'not racist' you are. It probably even makes it worse. It's not fair. It makes them generic and ignores that while it's a well meaning idea, it's still pissing into the wind. Black, Hispanic (I know - I'm looking for a better term and I'm sorry) and Middle Eastern men get arrested at far higher rates than white people. But do you know? White people are more likely to be serial killers, and commit just as much crime. It has as much to do with economic status as race. Poor whites commit crime too, even if they don't get caught for it.
Now, I don't want to fall into a giant pit of white guilt here. Do I wish that sometimes I weren't white? Oh yes. Dear God yes. I look back at how generally awful we've been to the world and shake my head. We had diseases and guns. That's how we came to power. And it's tragic. We caused most of the problems in Africa today by randomly setting borders without thought to tribe relations, water supply and ignoring traditional boundaries. We told the lighter skinned people in Africa they were better, they were in charge (See: The Tutsi and Hutu) and played havoc with local politics. We encouraged the Japanese to take over other Asian Countries and created resentment that still exists today because we bought into imperialism and the idea that west is best.
How could I be proud of that? What kind of monster would I be? Even gunpowder that we so happily turned against other humans - we stole /that/ from the Chinese. If anything, I wanted to rip off my skin and run. Run as far away from it as I could. But then does diving into someone else's culture without understanding the suffering skin color brings really make it any better? I felt guilty and trapped. I'm either a monster or a thoughtless, clueless ally. Then I read an article on why white women are hard to reach. They burst into tears when being called on their BS and the person who calls them on it gets seen as mean. Nothing constructive comes of it (Abagond's post on this is good). What could I do? Who wants to be a giant asshole, racist or stupid 'color blind' white washer?
And on the other hand? Just apologizing and crying really isn't any better. Modern racism is an insidious beast, even if we're not wearing KKK outfits. We still internalize it, a lot of people still think of white as 'normal' and everyone else as 'exotic'. People with race neutral names, excellent credentials go in to an interview only to be silently treated badly once it's discovered that they aren't white. And it's tragic. People genuinely feel that affirmative action and quotas make up for racism. They don't. How do a few scholarships and jobs make up for genocide, murder, political oppression? Oh yes, America's been genocidal at least once. Those things have to be in place because for every yutz who insists he hires regardless of race, there's at least two who would happily turn away every non-white person. And even that yutz might just be falling into 'OMG I'M NOT RACIST' mode.
I used to fall into that trap too, and now I see that it's wrong. I am racist to a point and it's incredibly painful to admit, even if it's unintentional racism. Think of it this way: How many of us have heard or seen 'ironic' racism from white people? Yeah. How many of us dive into something like belly dancing or yoga and think 'boy I'm multi-cultural now. SHAME BE GONE'? So many of us. And y'know what? It freaking HURTS to admit. It's this dull ache. It's wrong, it's shameful. I want to move past it. I want to try very hard to do so. But I wonder if it's possibly to be entirely free of racism. I hope so.
I don't want to just parrot articles - but the truth of it is (for our TL;DR crowd) I want to move to the final stage of not being racist. autonomy: you can mix freely with people of other races and see them as individuals and yet still as members of their race. You are still white but now with a much deeper and more solid understanding of what that means. This. This, a thousand times this. What's my place in the world? How can I respectfully wear clothes and participate in another culture's activities without treating it badly? Yes, appropriation and 'omg so exotic see how multicultural and NOT racist I am!' are just as bad. Racism may not come in the torch-wielding KKK as much anymore, but it is still a dark bruise on America. Ask the Native Americans. Ask the Japanese who lost valuable properties in California (Now worth hundreds of thousands at least) because they got shipped to internment camps. Ask the people from Asia who see their culture mass marketed without any explanation behind it and mashed together with others because it looks good together.
I should be guilty and ashamed to a point. Wallowing in it, apologizing meaninglessly and continuing on won't fix it. I'm white. Of mostly European descent (Oh boy, I could go on a rant about the time someone told me I should claim Native American status because one of my great or great great grandparents was Cherokee in Oklahoma. No, I shouldn't. I haven't experienced their disadvantages, suffering or even participated in the culture proper. It's not fair to claim the benefits).
It's hard to be white and not step on someone or appropriate culture it seems. My very existence is reminder that I am privileged at the expensive others. But that doesn't mean I can't try, or that I should defeat my efforts with self pity. In the end, I think I may donate that cheongsam and get something else or just give it to someone. I will ask to see if it is offensive to say, learn to belly dance or go to yoga. I want to know. I want to treat other people's cultural practices with respect, not something I can poach from at will because my own heritage is either horribly racist or non-existent (At best, we're mostly English. At worst, my ancestors boned their way through Europe). I like art that isn't European and I understand that I am not part of that culture, no matter how much I like it. I don't know if it's okay for me to wear something like a cheongsam or dreadlocks or what have you, but I'm definitely working on learning about it.