Coffee: Americano, Caribou Coffee; I bought a slice of lemon bread with it; sunny as the last day of summer; the coffee was good, but it gave me a stomach ache
I went to a smoothie shop selling dark chocolate blended with blueberries, dates and bananas. Decadent. That’s not a word you can use without sounding like an asshole, but in this case it’s the best fit for the experience. The shop looked like an Apple store. Everyone else was wearing earbuds and athleisure.
I’ve been thinking about ‘whiteness.’ I come from a culture that cut itself from sea water, salt blocks, tart and fragile. It has no bones. It’s not English, not Italian, not even ‘American.’ Four hundred years ago, my ancestors saw themselves in the pages of ancient empires. They walked the bleached marble columns of Rome. They bought ships and blasted themselves on open waters. They brought swords and axes to carve and conquer different land.
That’s the thing: the history of ‘whiteness’ is in an admiration for imperialism. It’s not based in an organic community, not a long-term culture that binds itself to land, to rituals, to shared songs. It’s too reclusive for that, sustained on separation. It’s alchemy. It’s fool’s gold. And like all good alchemy, it’s bound by blood.
The ancient Greeks understood Achilles to be a part of themselves. They saw the might and beauty of a man unbound by culture and law. But they also saw how fearful was that life, and so they celebrated instead their customs, language, ritual sacrifices, a pantheon of Gods. But 400 years ago on a re-reading, my ancestors took Achilles to mean the will to power. They salivated at the lines where he declares himself free to feast on the flesh of his opponents. Power is everything. So ‘White’ men defined a kind of capitalism, a system of goods and demands, something to run the ships back and forth across the oceans, a raison d’etre, no celebration, not good enough just to survive, but the bloody sustenance of seeing themselves as ‘more than,’ ‘better,’ as living gods.
How do you destroy yourself? You rip the heart out of someone else’s humanity. You light fires to everything that stands against you. You enslave black families in Africa, brown-skinned Native Americans, anything that doesn’t look like you. Because you know you’re fragile, that you lost your culture, your community, cut out your own bones. When you look in the mirror, you can’t stand to see yourself as a sand castle. You must be white marble, flawless, a writhing God.
It does no good not to acknowledge it, my inherited, persistent sin. It does no good to pretend I’m somehow better because I’m aware of it. All that’s left is effort, and the ability to give it to a better future.
Life is made up of marble and mud.Nathaniel Hawthorne