You Don’t Have a Culture and That Culture is Evil

Consider that it is through my own identity in Whiteness as a White Person that I have felt immediate empathy for Muslims and Queer people alike, among others.

Being Muslim means constantly feeling the pressure to not be perceived as an extremist terrorist who wants to dominate others, despite the sad reality that there are some Muslims who do this and have power. To be Muslim under hostile eyes, even the eyes of those rightly angry because they have suffered from Islamic extremism, nevertheless means belonging to a group that is guilty until proven innocent. If a caring Muslim person wants to speak out against Islamist extremism, they risk opening themselves to other peoples’s false perceptions of permission to attack and demean all Muslim identity, despite deeply honorable efforts among many Muslims to actively decrease extremist ideologies in their communities.

So it is with being White, seriously contending against literal White Supremacists while constantly being demeaned as the racially guilty enemy in my own land just for being White and not apologizing for that.

To be Queer (transgender, genderqueer, etc) means always trying to educate others while caring for yourself and your own life experience without constant self-conscious worry, once you express your heart’s aligninment with this identity explicitly and without apology. It means looking for counselors who understand your social situation enough so that you can spend that time being cared for instead of putting precious emotional energy into educating the one who should be therapeutically comforting you.

Where my Whiteness differs from these parallels drawn with Muslim and Queer identities is that to be White means being everywhere and nowhere, being assumed “the blank slate” norm while also being denied explicit pride in one’s heritage amongst a rapidly diversifying cultural landscape. It means having almost every space available to you but nowhere specifically for you, by threat of being charged with White Supremacy. Your presence is requested for its assumed “power and privilege”, because you owe it and you should show your support, but demonized and resented when you show up; you are told that your existence is a burden to other people’s special “spaces”. If you try to shed your ethnic identity and become another, you will be humiliatingly mocked, at best, or viscously attacked for committing “cultural appropriation”, at worst- but you are allowed no explicit culture of your own, remember. Being White means You Don’t Have a Culture and That Culture is Evil.

Being White now means being taught to have no ethnic self-awareness while fearing that if you develop your ethnic White self-awareness you will be constantly, CONSTANTLY told that there is nothing good that can be attributed to your ethnic identity. You are to unquestioningly adore everyone else’s culture but have no normal, healthy, proud ancestral Self. You, White People [the voice of seething resentment] are allowed no ethnic kinship with others who look like you, though you see yourself everywhere. You are “represented” in image everywhere and in spirit nowhere. You are alone, and you must teeter in hesitancy before the possibility of even broaching the topic with another like you, On Pain of Accusation. They might Turn You In. You cannot trust Your Own because you are policed by Your Own and, in case you forgot, you don’t deserve a normal sense of Your Own, and if you try you will be suspect and viciously, publicly hated. You are told you have No Ethnic Awareness, and you wish they were right. How much easier their lie would be, if it were true. Because those who hate you the most are others like you. You are the hated Racial Blank Slate, forced to be everyone but allowed to be no one.

Whiteness is But One Way of Diversity.

What do White supremacists and anti-White radical Leftists (total racists themselves) have in common? They both believe that Whiteness is not a result of tremendous human cultural diversity. They both wrongly believe that Whiteness is a pure and unblemished ancestry of only one perfectly unified group of people with no true cultural blending or deeply complex human heritage. The difference is that where White supremacists idealize the fantasy of unchanging Whiteness and endanger other peoples while they’re at it, the racist Radical Leftists scapegoat and demonize that same racial fantasy, which they, too, have bought into, aggressively applying their imaginary ideas of racial sins committed to all living White people. We begin by untangling this mess with the love and pride which acknowledges that Whiteness is valid and worthy of ancestral celebration precisely because it is but one of so many complex human ancestries. Whiteness is valid and worthy because I am not only French, only Scottish, only English, only Danish, only German, or only Swedish. I am ALL OF THESE, and my life as the living descendant of this diversity, especially as an American, cannot and should not be parsed into ancestral pieces. Whiteness is itself but one of the living proofs of cultural diversity. Any who fail to recognize this ought to be challenged passionately. As for me and my living Whiteness, I will decide who I am.

I Will Celebrate All That You Are

Your liberation is not dependent upon my subjugation. Your having a voice is not dependent upon my being silent. Your desire to “take up space” is not dependent upon my not being there. If you believe the strength of your identity is dependent upon “dismantling” mine, we’re going to have problems. But if your liberation allows for me to maintain my traditions, I will support you. If your voice and mine can can both speak without censorship, I will listen. If your “taking up space” allows space for both of our being, I will honor your being. If the strength of your identity respects the strength of my own, I will celebrate all that you are.

Let Despairing Be Dispelled

Friends of Our Wilderness Awareness School Community,

I have been thinking deeply and with a heaviness about this for some time, and I want to welcome to conversation anyone who might be silent and feeling the same way, or is interested in strengthening cross-political friendships in this time of grief and disconnect.

As some of you may or may not know, I have come to hold some different views than many of the good people at Wilderness Awareness School. I am a Conservative.

I say this outright because it is precisely the fear of saying it which I must challenge. It is this fear of social marginalization which I carry within myself, but a roar I must run to. We are all humanely prone to move in our small bubbles, not realizing that there is more intellectual diversity among our people than we realize. We are not a truly diverse organization if we welcome diversity that is only skin-deep.

Over the past couple years I have persistently worried that I am not welcome as a Conservative (even a Centrist or a Classical Liberal who is grateful for our Western Civilization) to be open with you whom I have called by beloved community. I come from a very, very Liberal background, and was still largely identifying in this way while I was an Anake of 2012-13. But we question and we grow; we challenge the unchallenged perspectives we are brought up with.

While I still empathize with and support a number of traditionally Liberal views, I also hold Conservative, mainline-Republican views which I worry are becoming increasingly demonized among well-meaning people who also want to protect what is sacred to them. We’re all carrying these sacred things we burn to protect, and I fear this growing divide. How easily we go to war with each other, and we make our neighbor our enemy. I do not carry hatred within me. I carry human anger and grief, like you. I have engaged with Intersectional Social Justice and have come away with the conclusion that it is not healthy or humane. This is my perspective. It is not the only perspective. Other good people do not share my perspective, but neither will I accept being thought of as “hateful” or a “supremacist” for not agreeing with this ideology. Furthermore, I am concerned that this ideology attempts to gather all People of Color and all gender-nonconforming people into a small political box of a perennially suffering identity which silences their independent dissenting voices, too.

We need to not be seeing each other as our enemies. A deep connection with Nature should belong to everyone, not just those we are politically in agreement with, not just the anointed ones. Insofar as issue has been taken with traditionally mainline-conservative approaches to nature, this should mean that welcoming Conservatives is all the more of a pressing need: would they not greatly benefit from what WAS has to teach?

Speaking to this almost entirely left-leaning community, we need to listen to Conservatives among us, because that is a part of this amazingly complex, diverse reality which we as a community are missing. And for the sake of real and serious peace, Conservatives must know that they, too, can safely come to communities like WAS to learn and grow as people without being told that all their views are wrong or hateful. Let them be welcomed to meet others not like them, to find delight and friendship in ancestries and gender identities unknown to them. If you want people to listen, they have to know they will be listened to, also. Let despairing be dispelled.

One of the areas we must examine is how, as a mostly-White group of people, we are rightfully eager to be sensitive to and deeply respectful of the experiences of People of Color, but at the same time we painfully and increasingly hate ourselves with such self-abuse, because we think that “whiteness” itself is some sort of inborn social evil we must spiritually atone for. Believe me, my beef is not and has never been with People of Color: it is with other White People. This grieves me heavily, that such a time as this is upon us. While I do not assert that every person reading this thinks in such a way in their attempt to extend generosity and inclusion to minority ancestries, I do maintain that I have witnessed this self-abusing trend and I am calling it out as unhealthy and lacking kindness and respect towards ourselves. Are we so frightened of some largeness within us? We are unremarkable, just another group of human beings with our own culture and history, our own deep beauty and wretched problems, with all the good and the bad that comes with any human heritage.

There is much more I could say about this, but I will end this invitation here. I have had somewhat more brief and heated conversations with a few of you before, in moments when I was admittedly feeling less gracious and more upset. That is the product of grief, and I know I am not the only one here to have wrestled that demon. Every one of us will fail to live up to our better angels on this darkened path through the Unknown World. I am shaking as I write this, because it’s damn scary to speak up to you all about this, but it must be done. I have had good dreams. I am not masterfully practiced in every moral responsibility I know I carry as one who lives in this liminal space –not unlike other cultural liminal spaces– but which is nonetheless one unseen at Wilderness Awareness School currently. It is unseen among The Left, the ones who made me who I am. That is not an intentional maliciousness on the part of our communities, I hope, but it is a cultural shortcoming which countless communities in our civilization are now dangerously contending with. I can’t be there for all of them, but I can show up for the ones that have mattered to me. I will do my imperfect best to be a good human creature, and I welcome you in your imperfect best to join me and break open what scares us. Please, speak to me. I will speak in response. Let us listen to each other.

In Courage,

Amber