I saw an interesting headline at Weasel Zippers today. It dealt with a writer at Huffpo who has been on an interesting journey. Ali Michael went through a traumatic period in her youth where, as a white woman, she wanted to avoid the possibility of giving birth to white children who might biologically spread the contagion of white privilege. Her inspiration, of course, was Rachel Dolezal.
I definitely experienced this. There was a time in my 20s when everything I learned about the history of racism made me hate myself, my Whiteness, my ancestors… and my descendants. I remember deciding that I couldn’t have biological children because I didn’t want to propagate my privilege biologically.
If I was going to pass on my privilege, I wanted to pass it on to someone who doesn’t have racial privilege; so I planned to adopt. I disliked my Whiteness, but I disliked the Whiteness of other White people more. I felt like the way to really end racism was to feel guilty for it, and to make other White people feel guilty for it too. And then, like Dolezal, I wanted to take on Africanness. Living in South Africa during my junior year abroad, I lived with a Black family, wore my hair in head wraps, shaved my head. I didn’t want to be White, but if I had to be, I wanted to be White in a way that was different from other White people I knew. I wanted to be a special, different White person.
When you read deeper into the article, the author relates how she obtained a deeper understanding of the situation and decided that it was actually okay to be white… as long as you were the right kind of white. I’ve never been entirely sure what the “right sort of white” is in modern society, particularly when it comes to social media discussions. I do take some consolation from the fact that there doesn’t seem to be a clear cut definition of what the “right sort of black” is either, now that Rachel Dolezal has taken the stage.
But all of that ignores the fundamental and very important issue which Ms. Michale raises in the introduction to her article. If you think that you have some sort of impure genetic legacy to pass on – to the point where it might be poisoning the rest of society – you clearly have the right to choose to not breed. Lord only knows there are all sorts of people who might make such a decision and render a possible benefit to society. If you happen to have an inclination to jump into a cage with live lions just to relate to them, but are then rescued by first responders, you’ve clearly made a statement. But perhaps your statement was enough and you don’t need to pass on those genes. (I’m not saying you “can’t” here, mind you. Just that it’s worth considering.)
Similarly, if you feel that being white is essentially an original sin (which is what this sounds like for all the world) and that such sin will be carried from you to your offspring, then who knows? Maybe you’re right. And just to hedge your bets, you might want to avoid reproducing. If nothing else, there’s roughly seven billion people on the planet already. I’m sure we’ll do fine without you adding to the pool.