White Pride is Not the Same Thing as Black Pride

I might need a drink.

Oy! I’m going to try to explain this. Really. Black is an ethnicity. Mexican is a nationality. Muslim is a religion. White is a race.

No. No, it isn’t. In the United States black isn’t just a race. And your meme is stupid.

Attention white people. I’m gonna’ address some things here, and I really hope I manage to be coherent. Because this shit’s important. I think it’s no less important a subject of discussion for anyone of any race, but I really want anyone who has ever said anything to the effect of “Why is it OK for someone to say they’ve got black/Muslim/Mexican/etc. pride, but it’s wrong for me to be proud of being white?” to pay extra close attention. Much of what I’ll be writing about will be simplified, and some readers may think it’s overly so. That’s fair. I’m also going to be using the term racist colloquially to denote prejudice against an individual based on their race.

If you’re someone who’d be classified as white in America, chances are your family immigrated here. While there were plenty of examples of people (mostly, but not exclusively, Catholic Irish and Scots) who were forcibly relocated to the Americas, it was a comparatively short-lived practice. These people weren’t really a good choice for use as forced labor in hot climates where cotton, tobacco, and sugar were being harvested. The heat killed them. So, European colonial powers went a little further afield and started buying people in Africa. Higher up-front cost, but a better long term investment.

Even if your European ancestors were forcibly moved, they maintained their culture. They remembered where they came from and could largely maintain their lineage. Think about it, theoretical white reader. When someone asks your background I’ll bet you answer that you’re German, Irish, Polish, Italian, or identify some other country on the other side of an ocean. Your family kept their traditions and history. They didn’t lose that identity. You’ll find organizations all over the country devoted to these cultures; the Ancient Order of Hibernians, the Order Sons of Italy in America, the Polish American Congress. There are festivals for these cultures daily celebrating food, art, dress, and history.

I personally identify as Scottish. My ancestry is primarily Scots, with some Irish and, like everybody that comes from the British Isles or western shores of Europe, no small amount of Norse. I don’t really think of myself as white, unless I’m checking off a form for a government agency. There’s probably less in common between Scots and Ukrainians, historically, than there would be between a Roman Italian and a Turk. But, me and and that Ukrainian are both checking the same box on that form. White.

Black Americans, and pretty much anyone of African ancestry on this side of the Atlantic, don’t have that ethnic background. It was taken from them. Black isn’t just a box on a form for them. It’s their cultural identity, not just race. Their ancestors didn’t come here by choice. They were intentionally separated from family and clan to be grouped with people from disparate backgrounds, often without a language in common. These people created a new culture that was a mishmash of different African traditions and those of the people in power over them. Before they got here and were told they were black they weren’t a single people, and they had the same history of fighting, making alliances, and carrying prejudices toward each other that people of any European nation did against their neighbors. This should all go without saying. Yet, here I am saying it.

Here’s another one for the white folks. Black Americans, Caribbean Islanders, and South Americans are culturally distinct from one another. They’re even MORE different than Africans! You’ll hear black Americans say “he/she’s not black” when someone talks about Idris Elba or Lupita Nyong’o. They’re of African ancestry, so they may be of the black race, but one is English and the other is half-Kenyan. They aren’t part of the black culture in America. Individuals from different African nations are as different as those from different countries in Europe. And, even if they’re from a place with the same name on a map, they might not identify with their own countrymen. The closest equivalent I can think of might be Italy, where you’ll find some pretty deep enmity between Italians; say Sicilians and pretty much the rest of the country, for example. One day a coworker at a former job made a comment to a Kenyan woman in our department about her having warrior Zulu blood. You’d have thought someone called a Paddy a limey!

The only times that Europeans have grouped together and referred to themselves as white people has been when they were separating themselves from another group. Usually so they could kill or oppress those people. It’s’ never been a term of inclusion, but of division from people of other races. It’s not an ethnicity and carries no identity with it. Other than a fondness for mayonnaise and an inability to dance, I guess. Umm… we get sunburned easily?

When someone says they’re black it can refer to two different things. Race or culture (also both). And what that culture actually is can be a hot topic. One that I’m not even going to weigh in on, because I’m not quite that masochistic. A 30-something white guy talking about what it means to be black? I somehow feel less qualified to do that than all the other things that I will expound upon despite my ignorance. That’s saying something.

The next time you hear about a black pride event, don’t immediately think “why is a white pride event racist?”. Think about the “Proud to be Irish” pin you wore on St. Patrick’s day or the “Full Blooded Italian” t-shirt your buddy wore last weekend. There’s your analog.

Now I’m gonna’ address all you theoretical black readers for a minute. First, let me say that I appreciate you not hating me. Now, I want to make sure you get something I touched on above. Most of your white friends don’t think of themselves as white, first and foremost. They generally think of themselves as whatever their national ancestry is primarily. Unfortunately, US history is fucked up (thanks white people!) and whenever anyone says “it’s a black thing, you wouldn’t understand” they first think of it in relation to a “white thing” as opposed to an “Italian thing”. Not all white folks are alike. This is related to why you always find it so hard to insult us! Generic insults for white people don’t really bug anybody. Get specific! Mick, wop, sheepfucker, kraut, polak! These are the terms you want to go for. Honky is just silly.

When your cracker friends tell you that Black History month is racist, don’t tell them every other month is white history month. That sort of frustrated reaction might be understandable, but doesn’t really help. Compare it to a festival for a nationality. St. Patrick’s Day, or Bastille Day, or Cinco de Mayo. Whatever. Doesn’t matter. If they look doubtful, or continue to give you shit about it being an entire month, tell them it’s because there are 28 countries on the continent of Africa, and considering the loss of national identity of Americans of African ancestry the decision was made to use the entire month of February. One country for each day of the month. This is bullshit, of course. Africa is made up of about 55 nations. But, don’t worry. White people won’t know that.