Confessions of a White American

A few years ago, I was curious about my ancestry and I had my DNA tested.  The results, I am:

  • 43% Northern European
  • 36% Mediterranean
  • 19% Southwest Asian
  • 2% East African

If you ever meet me, you will notice the European characteristics are dominate.  My skin is white, but I am not fair skinned.  My eyes are blue.  My hair was blond until I was six or seven years old, then it started to turn brown.

In America, race has always been a hot button issue and it is at the heart of a lot of conflict among our citizens.  Now that I know about my heritage, I am more interested in the conflict and have a greater desire to improve the situation.

Here are my confessions as a white American.

I know some of my ancestors were racist and some were criminals.  I know they fought against civil rights and they joined the Confederate Army.

I am not proud of what they did, but I don’t feel guilty about it.  These things happened before I was even born.  I am not responsible for their actions, and I am nothing like them.

I wish I could talk openly to people from various minority groups.  I would love to ask questions and hear what they have to say about the American culture and race relations.  However, I am afraid my questions my sound offensive and that is not my intent at all.

I want to talk to someone old enough to remember the civil rights movements in the 1960’s and 1970’s, to see what they believe has improved and has not improved.  To hear what they think should be done today.

I want to talk to young people that are a part of minority groups.  I wonder what discrimination they have endured.  I am sure there are things happening in our society that I never noticed, because I am white and it has not effected me personally.  However, those things would effect someone that is not white and they would be very aware of the situation.

I teach my niece to never judge people based on things like skin color, race, religion, or ethnic origin.  Instead, you should look at their actions and their character.  That will tell you what you need to know about the person.

Is telling her that enough?  Is there more that I should tell her?

I have no control over my skin color or my ancestors.  I don’t want to be judged by those things and I don’t want to be the kind of person that judges others by such things.

I understand there are things that I will never experience as a white American that other races will be forced to endure.

I also don’t want to offend anyone or be insensitive.  I just want to learn more about the issues and feel free to ask questions.  I know I will never understand it the same way as someone who lives it, but I want to try.  I want to be better than my ancestors and I want to teach my niece to be better than our ancestors.

 

 

 

 

30 thoughts on “Confessions of a White American

  1. Sounds like you could create a questionnaire and send it to the appropriate group without them knowing the background of the person asking the questions. Have them reply in pre-paid envelopes. Of course if you could befriend an Afro-American who could answer the questions relevant to her maybe she could introduce you to other groups to try. There will always be those who will feel not enough has been done and those who would take such questions personally as though you’re responsible for the current mess. But enough may be honest enough to treat the questions seriously.
    xxx Huge Hugs xxx

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Much of Trump’s support from white working class males. I think it is because of not so much their alleged racism but that they are tired of being made the villains of everything and being the only group at which disparaging remarks against them are acceptable in this PC world.

    Liked by 7 people

    • I have to add that I was a high school history teacher in predominantly black high schools in Miami, Florida for 33 years. I was a likable teacher and helped a lot of at risk teens make it through. I still got the the racial slurs and contempt from black staff members and some kids and parents. I even lived in the community. Some of my grandchildren are mixed race. I really resent it all.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Crosslife Spaces says:

    Being an idealist I like to see beyond color of skin, racial origin, and geographical boundaries. I admit there are unique differences between even individuals of similarities in many aspects and such are the mysteries I cannot comprehend. I never managed well in anthology or any similar studies. I have not checked my DNA but I too believe there are percentages from many different origins, reading how mobile human have been even from the olden days. Does it matter what color the skin had turned out? Have I been privileged or underprivileged? I sometimes ask myself. When I weigh the pro n con I realize it’s not a simple matter to answer. Is there such a person as entirely a pure derivation from the first couple ancestors? Too big a subject for me to ponder. My only concern is am I happy being me? My rather personal centered answer is yes. Do I wish I were born as someone else? My answer is no. But if I were born into another person’s life, I pray I would still have met and loved someone close to me and not be a stranger. Love matters. Regardless…

    Liked by 4 people

      • Crosslife Spaces says:

        Having lived ad worked with individuals of many different ‘colors’, in many countries, I have discovered that not one group can claim supremacy. Each is unique and endowed with gifts, talents and value in characters others cannot match. I admit my own limitations in many fields. I lament the time I have lost in not learning more and caring about others while they were still around. Looking back I wish I had loved more.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. It would also be interesting to know people’s “take” on this issue at the national level and their own personal experience level. I suspect this is not a one size fits all issue. Perceptions play a huge part in how we look at circumstances…..both good and bad. What speaks racism to one person is just an honest question to another.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. I think this is a lovely post, Lynn, because of your awareness of white privilege and racism, and your curiosity and desire to build understanding and community. My husband is primarily African American and I’m primarily European and our kids are a blend of multiple races. Needless to say, we talk freely about the current politics and stress related to race.

    As always, our words and actions are the real teachers that can normalize differences between people. We can choose books and movies with lead characters that are non-white. We can visit museums, go to music festivals or street fairs where a different heritage is celebrated. We can chat with all kinds of parents at the playground in the park as we encourage our children to play together.

    What seems important to me is simply the reaching out in our daily lives and making connections that honor another person’s human self. Opportunities for deeper, more personal questions may or may not present themselves. But in the meantime, kindness and a recognition of our shared humanity will go a long way and bring about quite a few smiles. Plus it’s easy and fun 🙂 ❤

    Liked by 7 people

    • Well said. I believe the issue of racism, white privilege, and bigotry will be overcome by one on one interaction long before any legal rulings. We maybe cannot change the world but we can influence those around us…..like ripples in a pond.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I agree. I think we need to continue to speak up and challenge wrongs when we see them. But so much of the healing and future depends on our own kindness and willing to replace fear with respect and care in our own spheres of influence. And they are ripples; they spread and spread and spread beyond us. ❤

        Liked by 2 people

  6. Hello Lynn;

    Your post was very insightful. I admire your openness and honesty.
    I also admire the fact that you’ve reached out in an effort to acquire more wisdom and understanding on the issues of race and racism.

    I can tell you now that the keys to resolving the problems we’re facing; the ones rooted in the differences in the the tone of our skin or the texture of our hair, are knowledge, understanding, and wisdom. These can only be attained if the mind is open.

    I too have subjected myself to Ancestry.com’s DNA test. My results are as follows:

    61% African
    37% European
    1% Pacific Islander
    1% West Asian

    I am brown-skinned, brown-eyed, and, although bald now, I one had curly textured hair.

    There has never been any mistaking the fact that I am of mostly African descent.

    But I am primarily a man. A human male.

    Shakespeare said, in the play, “Romeo and Juliet”, “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet”. In other words, no matter what you call it, it’s still a rose.

    No matter what you call me, I’m still a man who just happens to be, genetically of African, European, and Asian descent, in varying degrees. These degrees, however, do not change my species designation.

    You and I, and all who have responded here, are of the same species.

    I personally, do not hold you or any other person, currently living responsible for the attitudes, beliefs, or actions of any person or persons from the past.

    However, if you still, harbor and/or promote; in any way, shape, form, or fashion, the; attitudes, beliefs, or actions, of those past miscreants, I hold you responsible for that.

    If you support, believe in, vote for, act on, or promote any person, cooperation, or system, which oppresses, or seeks to oppress any other member of our species, in any, way, shape, form or fashion, I hold you responsible for that!

    I was born in 1961. I lived in and went to school in SW Georgia in the 70’s. I know some things about prejudice, discrimination, and racism, first-hand and some through my older relatives.

    I’d be glad to answer ANY questions you might have, openly, honestly and non-judgementally.

    You are invited, urged, and welcome to come to my blog site brownsemts.com (TheTime Tunnel). There, we discuss these types of issues often and without passing judgement.

    You’ll be privy to real life experiences from those of us who have been through and seen some things first-hand.

    My mom writes there also under the title (what else?) “Ron’s Mom”. She provides a perspective from an even earlier time. She’s also open to questions about her life as a “mixed race” American.

    I think you’re on the right track. Keep moving forward in your journey towards enlightenment .

    Sincerely and with Love
    RON from “THE TIME TUNNEL” at brownsemts.com

    P.S.

    Also visit my 1st cousin’s blog, “seekthebestblog” as you can tell by the title, she’s seeking the best life has to offer.

    I can recommend a couple of other good sites with good people if you like.

    Liked by 3 people

  7. Lynn, terrific, reflective post. As a 58 year old white man, I pretty much can go anywhere I want without many repercussions. The same is not true for a black man, even when dressed in his Sunday best. If stopped by a patrolman, a black man must move very methodically as this might be the last thing he does on earth otherwise.

    Unfortunately, racism still exists in our world and country and the best we can do is to embrace our similarities and celebrate our diversity. We must do the best we can to walk in another person’s shoes, but as white person, we need to also better understand the power of white privilege, which many do not recognize. Of course, all lives matter, but Black Lives Matter is a much needed movement and cry out for recognition and to be heard.

    I grew up when schools were integrating and I remember those days vividly. My schools fortunately did not have violence, but there were some that did. Change is scary when supposed leaders fear monger. I also remember as a child the protests and burnings after MLK was assassinated. When he was killled, many felt their light had dimmed. MLK is a hero of mine now, but then I was a child and did not know him well. I had to learn later the power of civil disobedience and how he learned from Gandhi, who also stood up against tyranny of the oppressed. To do what he (and many others) did in the US south is a marvel, especially after many years of Jim Crow treatment.

    We must shine white spotlights on bigotry and hate speech. And, in the words of a key song from the movie and play “South Pacific,” we must recognize that “bigotry has to be carefully taught, by the time we are seven or eight, to hate the people our parents hate.” That is the only way we can continue the huge paths forward we have made.

    Sorry for the soapbox, but this is a key issue of mine. Thanks for raising these issues and questions. Keith

    Liked by 4 people

  8. Brilliant post!! I do agree that you shouldn’t have to feel bad about your ancestry. You should never feel guilty for crimes you did not commit. And it’s great that you are showing compassion and empathy for other people 🙂 I hope people respond to you and are willing to talk openly 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  9. I have an essay I wrote and wanted to post but I think it would offend people. It’s my thoughts my opinions. I came up in the 70’s born in the 60’s and I felt racism indirectly because I’m light skin as a result of my white father who I didn’t know. I grew up pro black but believe we are all humans and should respect each other.

    I think it’s good that you teach your niece to respect all people and to be color blind but she also needs to know that all people don’t think that way. And t’s not her job to change or get angry for differences of opinions but to be respectful of that too and continue to be the person you taught her to be. Some people have racism embedded in them to the core. Some people choose to ignore the ugly and promote the Utopian dream. But as you say we need to put the ugly mess on the table and have a conversation and not get offended or on the defense as we usually do.

    My essay I will continue working on it and try to get it where I feel it won’t offend.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Hey Lynn, I’m Scottish/Irish on Mom’s side and German on Dad’s side. I have the Irish pale skin, green eyes and dark dirty blonde hair… I guess from the German side. 🙂 And I was raised Italian bc my real parents couldn’t take care of me… they were too young I guess. So, I was raised Italian! LOL

    Ciao!
    Sam

    Like

  11. Hi Lynn, I have created a Facebook group intended for productive conversation between people of all identities and backgrounds to propose questions such as these. Let me know if you would like to be added, you can ask to join via fb on your own too! The group is called Interactive Dialogue.

    Much love

    Like

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