This weekend I drove by the home I went to my first house party at, and it reminded me how long I have felt disconnected. I was in the 8th grade, there were only 20 or so students in the entire class so pretty much everybody hung out with everybody. But that didn’t mean there wasn’t tension, particularly with me. I didn’t fit in, I wore my hat backwards, wore different clothes and talked funny. There was one guy that was particularly rubbed the wrong way by me, and at this particular party it boiled over. He called me a wigger and tried to turn my hat around, I wasn’t going and it escalated from there. Before it got physical the adults broke it up (yup, it was that type of party) and him and I were told to go home. I remember crying when I got back to my house and wondering if there would ever by a place for me. The feeling hasn’t gone away.
It’s not uncommon for me to be asked “what are you?” The folks asking this are often times genuinely confused: I don’t present like the typical white male. Most often, then, the conclusion reached is that I want to be, or am trying to act, black. It took me a long time to really deal with this accusation: did I want to be black? The journey to answering that question has been a long and often times trying one for me. I have always tried to be as authentic as possible the problem was, and still is at times, I don’t always know what that is. I listen to Hip-Hop and have since the 3rd grade. I speak in the way that comes naturally to me, and I dress how I feel most comfortable. But, to me, the accusation got at something much deeper than my aesthetic. The accusation was more about how I move in the world. I didn’t fit in, it was hurting me, and I needed to know why.
It wasn’t until this past year that I have finally gained the tools to begin to confidently wrestle with the accusation that I wanted to be black. Through my studies at the Wellness Center I have been able to realize I don’t want to be black, I want to be cultural. That is to say I didn’t, and don’t, want to be white. I was recognizing at an early age that mainstream white American culture disconnects us from cultural practices and cultural knowledge, it is a parasite that eats at our souls ultimately disconnecting those who identify with it (whether consciously or not) from the larger human family. That is why I was drawn to Hip-Hop, and other ways of knowing (in 5th grade I asked my teacher why communism was bad), I wanted culture.
I know I am not alone in this, there are so many Euro-Americans who are hungry for something real, who want culture. They are sick of having their worth dictated by their income and stock holdings. They are sick of trading their labor for the profits of a few. They are sick, and they want to be healthy. Beyond that, the nation has come to a point where whiteness is eroding and there needs to be something to replace it. The #blacklivesmatter movement has put everybody on notice: whiteness is over. This prospect terrifies many so called whites. But that need not be the case. We are human. We have culture, something to draw on. We must use that root culture to become poly-cultural and build something here and now to replace white supremacy. It must reject the pillaging of the earth. It must value humans over property. It must value community over the individual. It must call us home. But mainly, we, those who have had whiteness prescribed to them, must hear the call and come home.