White People’s Collective Spiritual Mess, Pt. 2: Starved for Meaning
There’s really no kind way to say this, so I’m just going to have out with it.
As white people, we are starved for meaning.
As white people, we are desperate for connection and desperate for belonging.
There is this gaping black hole, right in the middle of us as a collective, into which we shove material possessions, reputations, religion, patriotism, and — most relevantly to my point here — pieces of every other culture we touch.
Dreamcatchers, kachina dolls, decapitated Buddha heads, tiny sand gardens, papelpicado, tribal tattoos, dreadlocks, “ethnic” food trucks, yoga, the fucking word “namaste” — the list goes on and on. We collect tiny pieces of other cultures, other places, hoping and perhaps unconsciously believing that these collections will expand us, fill the holes in our souls.
But still the hole, the wound, is hungry for more, because it’s never enough. Even love isn’t enough.
This started long before we landed on the shores of North America. In fact, it’s my personal belief that it “started” over a period of time where Christianity, capitalism (or greed, if that’s easier), and politics became so deeply enmeshed that all traces of our own individual European cultures were scraped away to make space for more, and more, and more. More what? I don’t know — money, power, property, acclaim — the things that politicians, churches, and the wealthy 1% still want. Things that couldn’t matter less if we could turn them into bread and fucking eat them.
And as the wave of this murderous tide receded into poverty, starvation, and colonization, Europeans came to America (voluntarily or involuntarily) to “seek a better life” or pay our dues. We abandoned our homelands, our ancestors’ bones, our Little People, our mythologies, our heroes, our love songs, our languages, the sounds of our rivers and birds, for this. We tore African families from their homes, generation after generation, erasing not only their futures, but what ties they had to their own ancestral pasts.
We let the politicians and the churches and the wealthy lead us to believe that genocide was not only acceptable, it was moral and kind. We let them speak to our collective shadows and we’ve never been able to go back. We let them convince us that as long as someone was below us, we were doing okay.
There’s been so much loss.
Because where can we go? As white people, we’re not Europeans anywhere in the world except in America. We did the same to African-Americans, erasing their names from our historical documents so they could never find their ways back home. Only indigenous peoples on this continent have the songs for this land, and many of them were forcibly removed from the landscapes of their grandparents, too, in the white quest for more. Their surviving descendents must pick up the shards of their cultures like the broken pottery we whites hoard in our little curio collections.
Where is the grief? I ask because I believe it’s there, somewhere beneath that gaping black hole of a wound. I believe that if we were to become aware of how little we whites have, culturally, spiritually, emotionally, we would fall to our knees with enormous grief. This is especially true for those of us who grew up in families so broken that we don’t even know the names of our grandparents or great-grandparents, much less where they come from or what dances they danced and songs they sang.
I believe that if we were to recognize how deceived we have been by these interlocking pegs of god, greed, and government, we would rise up to burn it to the ground. We would participate in liberation because we would realize what white supremacy has taken, even from us, even as we reenact colonization and genocide.
We don’t know how to sit in silence for so long that we learn the habits of a robin, or study with an elder so long that we come to carry generations of collected wisdom in our hearts. We can’t even stand in a line for five minutes without getting impatient. We don’t know how to make offerings of respect and humility; if we can’t buy it with money, it’s worthless to us. We are hypocrites: we claim that our children are our reason for being and then spend 60 years working instead of being with them because we believe the lie.
Making meaning takes time. Making meaning takes connection. And we’ve created a culture where those two things are at a perpetual deficit.
We believe the illusion. We run, run, run, and take, take, take.
We’ve gotta stop. We’ve gotta notice. And we’ve gotta stop blaming everyone else for the utter lack of fulfillment we experience as a collective. White culture does exist and there’s no reasonable person on earth who would have “pride” in it; it’s a culture of emptiness and of taking. It’s a culture of denial.
And the sooner we realize that, the better off literally everyone will be, including us.