Warning: Expect foul language. I often blog when sleep deprived, and even when I'm not sleep deprived I cuss.
Warning the second: TMI often occurs. Read at your own risk. Feel free to laugh at my expense (I know I do!).
Warning the third: I suppose I should just put a general Trigger Warning here. I talk about mental illness (Anxiety, panic disorder, depression, social shit), abuse (rarely), and my fucked up relationship with food. And...other things. Actually, just consider this a general warning: If you might be triggered by things, you probably should read no further.

Friday, May 25, 2012

On being "Other"

I don't know how to start this post. It's just kind of percolating in my brain, the product of a number of conversations. My intercultural communications teacher asked us how we relate to "the other" and my reply is, was, and mostly likely always will be "I AM the other!" with a laugh and a wink. I had a conversation with my faculty advisor (who is Korean), and it came up that I felt that "white" people (and I'll cover that a little later on) don't generally like me. She asked me why and I told her that I thought it was because I hadn't been raised to think of myself as white. She then laughingly brought up the fact that I'm just "the Other" and we had quite a nice (and for us, short) conversation.
See, my dad always stressed Native pride. He taught me history, and that being First Nations was an honour. It's not that he dismissed our other heritage, far from it. He was very proud of his French Canadian and Welsh heritage (but flatly refuses to acknowledge that we might have a smattering of Irish somewhere back there *rolls eyes*). But I can remember him telling me that he wanted his children to have the immigrant mentality, and so...frankly I grew up feeling more comfortable with non-white people, particularly if they were first-gen immigrants. So as my communications teacher puts it, I never learned to perform my whiteness.
However..I am incredibly pale. I can tan, but I have a deathly fear of skin cancer, and, frankly, my ivory complexion is very becoming. I also have a fear of turning into my aunt, who, while she is a very dear lady, looks like she was molded from leather. I don't think I would mind tanning and being darker, if I didn't have her in the back of my head. I also don't want to turn into my mother who, while she has nice skin and is very lovely, is a sun ADDICT. I swear, that's the only word for it. I understand that she likes being tan and that she loves the sun, but there are times that she...well, she doesn't look like that scary Jersey mom, but she...yeah, overdoes it. In my own way I suppose I'm overdoing it as well, with my paleness and unwillingness to worship the sun. I'm just contrary like that.
Still, even if I were darker I think I would still get the "stupid white girl at the pow wow" looks, because while I was taught Native pride I never grew up on a reservation. I've never met my "cousins" (to whatever degree) down in Oklahoma. I am proud of my heritage, and it's a part of my identity...but as a cultural identity I've never learned to "perform" that one in an obvious manner.
So what do I mean by "white" people? I don't just mean people of Caucasian descent, because that would be silly. I mean WASPs primarily. White Anglo-Saxon Protestant(s). I don't perform my whiteness properly, I don't perform my Christian beliefs to their specifications, and...I'm the other. It's not just WASPs, I encounter difficulties amongst the various subcultures I am a member of because of my Christian identity. People who meet me in passing, or in a professional environment, generally like me a lot. They find the identity I perform in those situations "charming". But that "charm" only lasts until the realization sets in that I'm not liberal enough (though how the fuck that works I don't know), not conservative enough or just not bat shit crazy enough (which is saying something!). Most of my friends are Caucasian, but while they might click that box on the census form, that's not their primary identity. Their primary identity might be pagan, libertarian, anarchist or gnostic, but it's very rarely ethnicity. They also tend to be a LOT more aware of "white" privilege. All of these things mean that in my mind, they are not "white" people. If your primary identity involves your whiteness, and you can't recognize your white privilege, then you're white. Otherwise you're just Caucasian.
Yes, I realize that this is arbitrary, but, frankly, we ARE talking about a subjective opinion from MY crazed little mind so deal with it.
Oh, and sometimes "white" people like me too much and I don't know how to get rid of them. It's usually the crazy-in-a-bad-way ones *sigh*
BUT....being the "other" and not performing my whiteness "properly" means that I get to interact with people from a wide variety of cultures in a completely unique way. And that, oh reader who may exist only in my own mind, is worth the hassle of always being the other!

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