Maybe I’m obsessed with validation and purpose. A needle is in my stomach. It pokes me periodically. Where are you from, poke. What is your purpose, poke. Who is your family, poke poke. I asked Them, the two relatives who would know family history, for a deeper understanding of the bodies, beings, minds, occupations, preoccupations, histories of my family. I asked Them for traditions. I asked Them for ethnicities. I asked Them for hometowns and cultural practices and stories. I want flesh and blood. I want answers. I want identity.
McDonald’s and Chevrolet. That’s what They said, myself rounding off a three-way speaker phone conversation. We’re Americans, They said. McDonald’s and Chevrolet. Chuckle, chuckle. And the needle poked through my stomach (fuck!). I want to be more than a capitalist, exploitative, environment-destroying fast food chain of greasy, guilt-and-drool-inducing advertisement. I want to be more than a capitalist, exploitative, environment-destroying vehicle company of greasy, (hegemonic) masculinity-and-sexuality-inducing advertisement.
I don’t have pride in being a product of McDonald’s and Chevrolet. I am without family history beyond the last 88 years. There is nothing that I don’t know about my family. And I don’t know anything.
Exploiting land, bodies, histories, cultures, and art. Appropriating fashion, music, traditions. White skin, tanner. Female body, thinner. College is required. Make money. Donate to charity. Marry. A man. Have children. Live in the suburbs. “Safety.” “Stability.”
Let me translate: Fuck Over People. Fuck them over, murder them, rape them, starve them, buy and sell them, take their land, take their resources, lives, break families, disreputate religions, languages, cultures because YOU, you white-skinned person with a vagina, money, and an able-body, YOU are more important. You are civilized. You are worthy and valued. You work hard. (Oh, and the number of times I’ve been told I think deeply…) Continue to oppress people, they don’t say. It’s democratic, they do say. FUCK, do they OPPRESS. Oppression is the name of the game (but don’t admit that’s what you’re really doing). And within ear-shot of White privilege, penis privilege, able-body privilege, class privilege, heterosexual privilege, oh god will they faint. Claiming “Equality” is their defensive strategy. Don’t actively oppress people, just don’t do anything. You’re not doing anything wrong, they say. Racism doesn’t exist, they proclaim. There are two genders and women are equal to men (except of course when it comes to The Wage), they preach. You donate to charity? What an incredibly kind, compassionate soul. You, YOU my white-skinned person with a vagina, money, and able-body, you are making the world a better place. But what kind of world needs charity? A world that requires charity as part of the structure to keep patriarchy, racism, classism, homophobia, ageism, ableism, capitalism, and neoliberalism in its place. A world that privileges white, tight skin, penises, money, able bodies, and brainwashed minds. I can move through this world with a lot of (but not all) ease. I don’t want to be a part of that world. I don’t want to be in it, of it, associated with it in any fucking way. I don’t fit into it. I don’t think anyone genuinely does.
I want to tear it down. Burn it. Rip it to fucking shreds. I am a product of this world. I am of this world, by this world, encouraged and praised to be part of this world. To continue, keep going. Soak in the privilege, you hard worker you. I didn’t do a fucking thing and I have a college degree, a roof over my head, food in the fridge, clothes coming out of my ears, and money from my parents. I didn’t do a goddamn fucking thing.
I want to build a time machine. Go back in time to attempt to piece together how hamburgers, trucks, and economic, racial, gendered, sexual, ability privilege could be prioritized above my family’s traditions, stories, and humanity. I want to know my ancestors. I want to know where they were from, why they came to the United States, where they first lived. I want to know why they settled in Pennsylvania, Indiana, and Wisconsin. Why did they work where they did? What drove them mad, passionate, what made them feel alive? What did they do when they felt alone? Did they miss the family and friends and lovers and schoolteachers and shoe cobblers and strangers they left behind? How did they celebrate their birthdays? What did they make for dinner on Thursday nights?
When I think of my family, of my ancestors, I feel empty. Lonely. Wondering if anyone else wants to know the same things. The homogenization of ethnicities cultures languages into cis-gendered, able-bodied, upper-middle-class, heterosexual Whiteness in the United States… (What role do geography and religion and other unnamed entities play?) FUCK, where did those ethnic traditions go? In my experience, this Whiteness discourages knowing those traditions; White ethnic practices hold no value on this Indigenous soil (White people killed and raped and stole for that, too). My positionality, of and through United States structures and culture, leaves me as a tree without roots. Bleeding with anxiety and pacing the grounds of buried/forgotten? history, all I have, all my White body with a vagina, money, and ability can hold onto, is my identity as an American.