At our second White Noise monthly dialogue, we delved into the topic of ancestry with the intention of looking at how the histories/legacies of our (white/female) ancestors connect to the larger discussion we’ve begun. We began by checking in with affirmations about ourselves and about white women – something we committed previously to doing because we recognize how easy it can be to go instantly into denigrating ourselves and feeling over-responsible for all the problems of the world (something we, as women, have been very effectively trained to do — see the previous blog post for more on this subject).
After this round, we read an excerpt from an article (Indians’R'Us) by Ward Churchill that spoke about the need for white folks to reclaim and learn our own heritages (he states “we are all indigenous somewhere”) in order to more effectively combat larger waves of colonization. It spoke to the fact that the white-washing of our personal and cultural histories leaves us more prone to steal traditions from the indigenous folks that remain on the lands we occupy and continue to perpetrate cultural genocide. In rediscovering and reclaiming our stories, we can become more effective in anti-colonial, anti-oppressive efforts.
This began a discussion of our individual connection/lack of connection to our ancestries and the larger meanings/context of these relationships. Though we had a popcorn discussion throughout the rest of the night, our thread throughout the evening was the creation of the following list of questions:
Why is it (what about it) is important to understand our ancestry?
What do we gain in drawing from our ancestors/traditions?
How does mixed (or unknown/white-washed) cultural ancestry affect our ability to engage in this work?
Who do I claim as my my ancestors beyond blood relation?
Who/where are the different legacies of resistance?
The history of “doula” (female slave vs servant of women, etc)
What is the relationship between economic realities/demands/sacrifices required for people to gain/maintain “class” privilege vs. maintaining ancestry?
(and in what way are these gendered and related to social class)
What have white women had to give up for status/success?
How often whiteness is associated with middle class..
Who were our ancestors upon arrival in the U.S. vs who they were when they were in other lands? What effects did that transition/in-between have?
How do we do the deep ancestry work of decolonizing ourselves while also being a part of and accountable to our current communities?
What kind of ancestors are we being? Do we want to be?
What aspects of our ancestral legacies do we want to honor/preserve vs heal/transform?
How do we have compassion for OR forgive OR accept OR reconcile the choices our ancestors made (esp given context in which systems made may have made things feel less like choices)?
Why do we think they made these choices?
What were the larger contexts of these “choices” (which sometimes probably didn’t feel like choices)? How do we compare this to the “choices” we are making today (the clothes we wear, the food we each and other actions that still perpetuate slavery/oppression around the world)?