White People’s Collective Spiritual Mess, Pt 1: The Lie of Purity in America
I’m baffled by a very real trend in the spiritual world with white people, which is not a sentiment that is new to me. It’s like we go one of two ways: we eschew all shadow work in pursuit of the purifying rays of love (which really means turning a blind eye to the ugliness in the world instead of addressing it), or we go full-pagan and “worry” about the purity of our Europeanness. Which is precious, because America is full of European mutts, and even people with more of a claim to one country/culture than another don’t necessarily connect with their actual ancestral homelands. (Looking at you, “Irish-Americans” who go batshit for St. Patricks day instead of, you know, actual Irish history.)
Listen, I’m down for ancestral ways. I mean I am seriously down for it. I even find it difficult to believe that my pre-Christian ancestors didn’t have *some* discriminatory attitudes about *some people.*
But even if they did, I’ve determined something very simple, but very important:
We don’t have to be that way.
We can literally do better, right here, right now.
White supremacists do a good job of convincing isolated (and sometimes not-isolated) whites that somehow, in some twisted fashion, people of color are to blame for the loss of our heritages in the U.S.
If anything is to blame for the loss of our connection to our ancestral lineages, it was the capitalist and Christian conquest for empire, the resulting white supremacy, and assimilation. Yes, indentured servitude brought many Irish and Scottish to this country, but not by people of color. It was other white people that did that. Those, like my relatives from Sicily who came here three generations ago, eventually had to give up their languages, cultures, and traditions in order to assimilate into “American culture,” whatever the heck that is. Again, not because people of color were threatening our racial “purity”— but because we had to assimilate to a white supremacist society in order to survive and thrive. Also, it’s not exactly like Sicilians and Germans and Lithuanians and the Brits all get together and celebrate “European” pride — which is part of why “white pride” is such a joke. White doesn’t exist outside of its inherent meaning of “not-black.” How European do you have to be to be white, and what about literal black Europeans?
The arguments always start to fall apart so easily.
Class has always been leveraged against our ancestors in order to convince them that the real problem was people with darker skin, not elite whites. This is what turned the Irish, and later the Italians, into “white people.” When slavery was originally threatened as an economic system by people, you know, not being okay with slavery, wealthy whites knew that they could be overpowered if poor whites banded together with literally everyone else, and a hard campaign started to prevent that from happening. It worked - newly "white" people actively stepped on people of color to get ahead. Interracial marriage wasn’t even that much of an issue until rich whites had to start convincing poor farmers that there was some better “American dream” that they were entitled to, that they could have access to if they just worked hard enough, because they were white (Gross, 2008; Lipsitz, 2009). If that sounds familiar to what’s happening politically right now, there’s a reason for that.
Also, if you’re a US citizen concerned about hostility towards European purity and you’re living on stolen indigenous land that was cleared out by genocide committed by Europeans, well - that’s one hell of a hypocrisy.
Gross, A. (2008). What blood won’t tell. Harvard University Press.
Lipsitz, G. (2009). The Possessive Investment in Whiteness. Temple University Press.