One of the benefits of working in a library is the random exposure to many different books that I would never be aware of otherwise. One example that crossed my desk a while ago is a delightful little thing called Basic Skills Caucasian Americans Workbook by Beverly Slapin. The "Note from the Publisher" gives you a good idea of how the book follows:
Our purpose for publishing The Basic Skills Caucasian Americans Workbook is to provide young readers with accurate accounts of the lives of the Caucasian American people, who, long ago, roamed our land. Caucasians are as much a part of American life as they were one hundred years ago. Even in times past, Caucasians were not all the same. Not all of them lived in condos or drove Volvos. They were not all Yuppies. Some were hostile, but many were friendly.
A similar-but-different book came across my desk yesterday called A Race is a Nice Thing to Have: a guide to being a White Person by Janet E. Helms. Her dedication reads:
Dedicated to my father
who continues to believe in White People
enough to try to re-educate them.
The first book comes from a Native American perspective; the second book from an African American view. Here is the second book's description from Amazon:
Written for a general audience, this book examines White racial identity and how its recognition may help to end racism. White people generally fail to understand that they have a racial identity — whether they are willing to recognize it or not — and that having it doesn't have to be a negative. Designed specifically for Whites, but useful for others, this easy-to-read paperback includes examples and activities that enhance the reader's understanding of the part race plays in the lives of each of us. This book is being used in various programs and classes at universities, school districts and businesses across the country, as well as by individuals across the world.
I am a bit embarrassed that I never had to read this book during college. Once it comes back from the request I just sent it on, I will make up for that. It reminds me of something I *did* read, which was the article White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack by Peggy McIntosh. She lists several invisible advantages that people take for granted on a daily basis. Here are just a couple for example:
20. I can do well in a challenging situation without being called a credit to my race.
21. I am never asked to speak for all the people of my racial group.
The notion of having an "invisible" knapsack and the Amazon.com blurb that "White people generally fail to understand that they have a racial identity" really strike a chord with me. For a long, long time I've felt like the generic American white person is missing more than just identity, we're missing the entire sense of community, we're missing an overall culture. Baseball and apple pie does not satisfy. When I think of cultures, I think of the historical dress that other countries use in their ceremonies, I think of their traditional foods, I think of the looooong histories they can reference, I think of their mythologies. The US still feels far too young for anything like that and, thus, it feels culture-less… to me, at any rate. I think this lack of cultural identity plays into our lack of racial identity. Perhaps this is why (a lot of, but not all) Generic White Americans find other identities in their religious, political, or national communities. Perhaps this is why I was jealous of Sturgis bikers.