Dagdha's Blog

Displaced and Dispossessed

Posted in Uncategorized by dagdha on April 9, 2012

I was born in Provo, Utah – possibly the whitest city in America. Racism still thrives there, at least unconsciously, masquerading as antiquated religious doctrine. I’m glad I wasn’t raised there.

My father’s parents lived less than a couple hours north on I-15 in Bountiful, a quiet suburb that marks its presence with a giant white ‘B’ on the mountainside facing west. My grandparents were saints, and their home was the source of my fondest childhood memories, but racism lived there too. It was subtle, like a single off-key note in a  symphony, but it was there, dismissed as a symptom of age.

My mother’s family is from Washington state. We didn’t visit often, once every few years, but I have fond memories there too: feeding ducks on the lake, building forts in the forest around my uncle’s farm, or trying to break a world record for the biggest bonfire. For some reason though, we never quite fit in with the rest of our maternal relatives. I wouldn’t call it racism because we share the same genes, but it felt similar, an innate prejudice because of where we were from.

I grew up in southern California, second only to New York as a melting pot (or salad bowl, whatever culinary metaphor you prefer) for racial and ethnic diversity in the United States. Whether it’s because I grew up in a more liberal area or because I was a blonde kid with blue eyes, race didn’t really exist for me growing up. The concept didn’t even cross my mind until I was old enough to read, and it was church that first exposed me to the notion that melanin (or lack thereof) made a person better.  Again racism was excused as an outdated belief, and yet again it remained.

As I grew I became more aware of my ethnicity- not because of prejudice, but because of cultural awareness. In school we celebrated Chinese New Year, Cinco de Mayo, or St. Patrick’s Day, and we would learn about the cultures surrounding these holidays.  In high school I met my best friend Bryan, whose house often smelled like kimchi and who introduced me to Japanese anime. For a while I became obsessed with Japanese history and culture, studying Buddhism, the Bakumatsu, and their different alphabets.

In college I discovered the punk band Flogging Molly, and I fell in love with the Irish spirit for music, machismo, and, of course, whiskey. There’s not an ounce of Irish blood in my veins, but that didn’t keep me from drinking Guinness while reading Celtic mythology and even exploring Druidism.

That was just another phase, the druid thing, but I think it was fueled by a desire to belong somewhere culturally, especially at a time when I was suddenly in the minority and surrounded by ethnic student groups. With only 3% Cherokee blood and genealogy tracing back to America’s founding fathers, I’m about as white as they come.  I’m American, but we don’t really have a cultural heritage, or at least not one to be proud of. In its place we have 31 flavors of Christianity (give or take a few hundred), and cultural pride is more a matter of piety than respect.

So what happens when you no longer believe in your cultural heritage? Unlike race, religion is not an inherent part of you.  Perhaps that is why I feel like a bastard child, displaced and dispossessed from a culture that will have me for who I am. Or perhaps my alienation is part of a larger revolution, one that rejects racist tenets of the past to pave way for a tolerant culture I can be proud of and pass on to my children.

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