I'm in the midst of some white family debates for which this module was helpful. I'm focusing this post on white privilege, the loss of ethnicity, and stereotypes of Native people. The family debate centers on a particular white cousin who suggests the 'original trauma' white people experienced was leaving our homeland, and now we suffer 'trauma' by occupying an oppressor class within a racist capitalist society. He is exploring"becoming Native" to reestablish ecological interdependency- and plans to listen to "Native teachers" to achieve this. So... I'm pushing back on that.
First, I think this white family needs to be honest about our lineage - Module 1 walked us through some of this- my white ancestors either gave up ethnicity to gain whiteness or were Anglo-Saxon and originally complicit in the development of white supremacist culture that began with genocide and forced displacment of Native peoples here. For myself, trying to re-ethnicize (oh, I had a Celtic ancestor...), or pick and choose who I include in claiming ancestry from, is delusional and unproductive. White people aren't homogenous, heard that. But the only thing I achieve by identifying as 'Euro-descendant' instead of 'white' is distance from understanding my racial identity and how I benefit from being born white-skinned in a white supremacist society. So if white people need to take on culture, claim culture, I'm wondering how we do that without denying our lineage, the continuing damage of white supremacy, and without delusional grabs for the 'culture that was' before we claimed white privilege.
As far as 'becoming Native' - yech. I appreciated the historian's talk in Module 2!! Thank y'all for including that. White privilege includes the entitlement to take on pieces of other cultures' religions, without any of the corresponding oppression/stigma/risks. Claiming kinship to peoples' experiences- or to land itself- that I am still colonizing just seems wrong. My family's ancestry is the colonizer - why lie to myself that I could find salvation in 'becoming Native'? The stereotype of the Noble Savage comes to mind, as this cousin emphasizes Native wisdom, guidance, and spiritual practices to support his idea. There is so much to admire, honor and learn from Native peoples -- but (for white people) a lot of it is also Not For Us. We don't get to or need to be Native to have our own spiritual, emotional, practical + profound connections to land and ancestry. We do need to spend, in my opinion, just as much time listening critically to our white culture (and intervene!) as we listen to those who are Different and Desirable.
Finally, this cousin refers to certain white 'suffering' as 'trauma'. I'd like to propose that we refer to the racial suffering of white people as 'moral injury' (a term used for soldiers' distress upon reviewing actions taken they later cannot reconcile with themselves). I'm uncomfortable with the idea of co-opting the language of those I have hurt to also describe how those actions (upholding racist dynamics/policies) hurt me. It does hurt me, I get that- but it's a different kind of hurt than the one I inflict as a white person. How do y'all feel about using 'moral injury' for white people's racialized suffering? Have you encountered white people taking on spiritual terminology or practices in a way that showcased white privilege? And for white ppl: If you didn't call yourself 'white' - what would you prefer, and what would that achieve for you and the antiracist work you do?