I’m proud to be Asian, said the Asian man.
I’m proud to be Black, said the Black man.
I’m proud to be White, said the racist.
This joke popped up on my Facebook feed today, and I have had it stuck in my head for hours. Usually that means I need to get the feelings out—although I suspect I’ll step on toes. Shrug. What’s new?
Okay, let’s start with the assumptions there.
First, this person (and I’m sure I don’t need to identify them by race or gender), assumes that any Asian person proudly proclaims, “I’m proud to be Asian.”
That’s an odd statement. I mean, I’ve known people who are proud to be Vietnamese and people proud to be South Korean, I’ve known people proud to be Chinese or Zhuang or Tibetan. I’ve known people who were proud their parents escaped communism in Cambodia and people who were proud of the contributions of the Philippians in World War II, but I have never known anyone to stand up and say, “I’m proud to be Asian.”
What would that even mean?
Asia is so large that there is no such thing as an Asian culture or Asian people. Hell, people don’t even agree on exactly where the line is between Asia and Europe.
Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe people out there do say it. If so, I suspect saying “I’m proud to be Asian” is synonymous with “Fuck you because I don’t envy your white skin.”
Moving on to the second one. I suspect that people who talk about black pride are talking about being proud of being African American. They are taking pride in a culture rooted in family, in strength, and in survival. They should be proud of that. No question.
However, it’s not the skin color that’s inspiring the pride. It’s the connection to the culture and the history of Black Americans. No one in Africa ever said, “I’m proud to be black.” That’s not to say they aren’t proud of their heritage, but they’re proud of being Mende or Arusha or even of being Bantu. Although Bantu is a big umbrella for a lot of groups, it’s not nearly as broad as “black.”
So no one is running around exhibiting a lot of pride over their skin color. Nope. No one. People are proud of where they came from. If you want to be proud of being white, yeah, I’m going to call you a racist. And I am the whitest of the white folk. I burn when I think about going outside.
Now that doesn’t mean you can’t be proud of your people. I am proud of my mother’s white ancestors, strong Welsh folk who showed up in this country before the Revolutionary War and fought against the English. Yep, I’m a daughter of the American Revolution, and I’m proud of that.
I’m proud of my father’s family and their Irish roots. They took off from the old country even before the potato famine. They were too poor to even be tenant farmers. They settled in the deep south when the deep south was swamp-land and malaria and horrendous mortality rates—but they survived.
I’m proud of my German roots. Those tough old white folks that were my ancestors helped settle parts of Minnesota and Canada. They lived and died in an unhospitable world, and they made the world bend rather than get driven away.
But that doesn’t mean I’m proud of being white. My skin color is an accident. I’m proud of my German ancestors and my Irish ancestors and my Welsh ancestors.
And I’m proud of my African ancestors.
Most likely they were Ibo from West Africa. One of those dirt poor Irish fellows fell in love. She couldn’t pass for white, so they passed her off as Cherokee and ran as far west as they could. They made it around five hundred miles, which back then was one hell of a haul because this was back before the Civil War. I sometimes wonder what it was like… running when you knew your marriage was illegal. Hell, the family has no idea if she was ever legally freed or if my ancestor risked running with someone else’s slave. Some things get lost in the family lore.
That doesn’t mean I’m proud to be black because trust me… I do not look like I have a drop of black blood in me. But I’m still proud of that woman. I’m proud of a dirt poor Irish farmer who knew wrong when he saw it and followed his heart. I’m proud of a Revolutionary hero who was temporarily charged with desertion. It turns out he lost his unit in the woods… as in he couldn’t find them. He hooked up with another unit and he was cleared later when it turned out he’d been fighting the English the whole time, just with the wrong unit.
I come by my bad sense of direction honestly.
So you know that joke up at the top of this post? Fuck you Mr. Humorous.
And you can stop feeling sorry for yourself because you think you’re the only person in the world not allowed to be proud of where you come from. However, if the only thing you have to be proud of is your skin color, you really might want to consider that you are, in fact, a racist.
And if you aren’t, then you’re just whiny. And you know what? Whiny is almost as annoying. So stop it.
There. I feel better now.