On Being Half-White in America

What does it mean to be white?  Being half-Hispanic has led me to think lots on this subject, and I've found that to answer in the positive is impossible.  Almost, anyway.  Like all the racial categories, it comes into focus only when you compare it with the other races.  The American Indians were culturally as different as the Chinese and the Italians until we showed up and made them feel similar, and France and England hated each other until Islam arrived and made the Catholics shake hands — occasionally.  To be a race isn't so much to be a race as to not to be the other races.  It's an act of identity that happens only when someone else is even stranger.

This being said, whiteness is its own thing and can't be mistaken for the others.  Here in Seattle, it means socks and sandals, lattes and hikers, techies and fishermen — a militance of white ideas (let's bend genders and encourage diversity!) but a disrespect for white people.  Either an inability to breed or a hatred of it.  Weak wrists and bad beards.  The nadir of folk-indie known as Bon Iver.  A lust for both cycling and recycling.  No cars on the well manicured lawns, no cat-calling.  What "white" means in the South or New York is another story, and one I'm not qualified to delve into; but I know that white people who come from New York are horrified at the Left Coast work ethic, and we're horrified at their bluntness.  Our inability to say things as they are and their inability to fake leads one of us to suspicion and the other one to revulsion.  We're told there's a "Seattle freeze" and that the outward display of manners here disguises a cold and ambivalent attitude toward community, or even the duties of friendship.  The weather, it seems, has changed us, and the Oakies who moved to California became Californians, who are loathed by the Seattleites for ruining Seattle, who are loathed by the people of Idaho for ruining Boise.  We have yet to see what Boise will ruin.  We say we're for immigration — unless the immigrants are Americans.

I have already mentioned the most difficult thing about being white, and that thing is the treachery.  The outright disrespect white people show for their ethnicities, and their constant unwillingness to support or praise them over brown ones, is a constant nuisance and, at the bottom of the matter, a danger.  Jokes are constantly made at white expense, and we openly complain about an influx of Amazon employees while inviting the underclasses of the third world — not only to move here, but to commit crimes without fear of deportation and to live off our welfare.  We can call people "white trash" but banned the words for black trash.  We laugh at lederhosen but celebrate hijabs.  The Southerners are a joke — but refuse to take the Cherokee reverently, and see where it gets you.  We love the strangest strangers and prefer them to our likenesses.

This all bothers me greatly because a half-breed is rarely taken for a half-breed.  Barack Obama was just as white as he was black, and we called him black, and I'm just as white as I am Hispanic, but I'm never mistaken for a Hispanic.  My mom may have come right off the streets of Tegucigalpa, and 90% of my family may be brown and speak Spanish (which means I'm more likely to see Hispanics as family than whites), but I pass as white, and this means I inherited the disrespect.  If I speak up for Hispanics, saying we don't like being called Latinx (we don't), I'm shouted down as a fraud.  I can wake up tomorrow and say I'm a woman and people will force others to swallow it, but even if a brown woman gave birth to me and raised me to remember my Hispanicness, I can't claim to be part brown.  I have the mark of whiteness upon me — and that means I've inherited the insults.  I'm both white and brown, but white people think I'm less important than brown people, and if I speak up about the border, I get branded a racist.

As such, the white race means as much to me as this country.  If the ship goes down, I'll get taken down with it — a realization that has forced me, not only out of a love of reason and order, but out of sheer necessity and fear, to take my side with the right wing.  Never once in the history of mankind has any people had so bad a case of self-loathing; and when the members of a people loathe themselves, they actually loathe each other.

I'm tired of being stabbed in the back.  It has led me to launch a long and lonely crusade against the unfair ideas and practices of leftists, not only because their ideas and practices are backward, but because I believe they are personally directed at me and my family.  Truth be told, I hate the bickering over racial issues.  I want to keep getting along with the neighbors, and if the radicals would shut up, most of us would be fine.

What's a half-breed to do in this case?  I was saddled with the burdens of a white man.  I was bred with the self-respect of a Hispanic.

Jeremy Egerer is the author of the troublesome essays on Letters to Hannah, and he welcomes followers on Twitter and Facebook.

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