What can a white girl say about race?

Holly Sonneland

The T-shirts at Urban Outfitters say it all: in the ‘Everybody loves’ category of T-shirts, ethnicities such as Asian and Latino get shirts, as do Irish and Italians — there is even one for Catholic girls and another for Jewish ones.

Luckily for me, I was not excluded from the Cool Screened T-Shirts Club as my home state got a shirt; however I am promptly excluded from these other categories as I am Norwegian, English, Scottish, Croatian, German — and Protestant. I can’t foresee Urban Outfitters coming out with an ‘Everybody loves a WASP’ shirt anytime soon.

It feels strange to put things like “my skin color” and “my ethnicity” on paper; they seem like phrases that don’t belong to me, despite the fact that my skin definitely has a color (there’s just not much pigmentation), and I have an ethnicity (it’s just not very well defined). It’s odd: you can be pro-any minority and it’s a good thing (as it should be), but pro-white implies Aryanism and/or Nazism.

I am not endorsing anything that resembles the base ideology of ethnic supremacy, but I am trying to figure out if other ethnicities can be proud of their heritage, if one can have “white pride” as well, or if our societal norms and historical memories would never entertain the idea.

On one hand, I have spent over a year living abroad, including significant time in France, and have dealt with a fair amount of discrimination for my nationality. I’ve been told some remarkably offensive things because I’m an American by people who assume that due to my nationality I should be rich, fat, pompous, ignorant and not know how to drive a stick shift (which I can). At times I felt exasperated, other times mad and other times I just cried.

Having experienced this type of prejudice is the closest I can come to understanding racial discrimination, and there’s a lot about race I will never be able to fully understand, never be subjected to, as a privileged white girl.

I know these fleeting feelings of being jilted because of my skin color and heritage pale in comparison to the manifest oppression and subjugation endured by so many others throughout our nation’s history — discrimination that persists today.

Nevertheless, I struggle to understand for what I am supposed to stand with regards to race. I’m not supposed to be proud of being white, and I can’t speak for any minority. It seems the only thing anyone expects me to do is sit and be told how race in America is today and how my ancestors contributed to it all.

And yes, there’s a lot my ancestors did that was devastating to other ethnicities. Yet, as I sit here, 384 years after my ancestors landed on Plymouth Rock, I don’t understand why I still must feel that being white is something I can’t appreciate.

Sure, I can take a jab at my inability to tan, but no one wants to hear what the white girl has to say about race.

What would she know about it?

Holly Sonneland is a Weinberg senior. She can be reached [email protected]