The short answer in the bloggers I read who identify with this culture would be this: is it your culture? Go for it. Is it not your culture? Do something else.
Well, yeah, but the whole point I’m making is that I don’t KNOW what is and is not my own culture - and I don’t think I’m the only one in that situation. This is America, where everybody is 1/16th this and 3/4 something else and the rest who knows what, but grew up on MTV and McDonalds, you know? Grant is half Mohawk and his father has some kind of traditional beads hung on the wall that meant a lot to his mother and a tribal certificate from when he was born on a reservation, and Grant still feels uncomfortable and silly calling himself Native for a plethora of reasons, including that he looks white and grew up immersed in white culture. His Dad works for the DEA now, he’s a freakin’ white-presenting government worker with a Scottish last name. It seems like taking advantage of the system for Grant to “use” the “Native American” label to get, say, money for college or something.
I know I get weird looks when I’m in all white areas to the north, because I appear very hispanic, and I’ve had online readers act really surprised by “how Cuban” I look, when they see pictures for the first time. I know there are a ton of cliche’d stereotypes about Cuban people that I identify with and laugh with my sister about, who feels the same way. I know I have childhood memories of religious practices tied to this holiday, though I didn’t understand them at the time, and a handful of “Ethnic” recipes passed down, and that even though I don’t speak it fluently, spanish will always be deeply familiar to me and something I grew up hearing around my not-understanding ears from infancy. I know I’ve had a long history of drifting in and out of the major religion it’s tied to, and that that religion is the religion my distant, if not close, relatives practiced.
But this is America, and I’m a child of divorce, and I learned about it on tv, like I said, you know? I identify way more with Catholic and Santeria Cuban people than I do with agnostic or Protestant white folks, but…is that just my personal choice? How the fuck do I know? I don’t know “how” immersed in something one has to be before they can claim it without “appropriating” it. And I think my dissociative tendencies amplify my confusion.
When is a person thirsting to know more about where they come from, and when are they creating something they have no right to?
I really see this as a gray area. But it can’t be right for everyone to just give up their cultural roots to be on the safe side until nobody has any culture anymore…can it? It makes me sad sometimes that I left my Cuban last name behind when I got married, and sad that I didn’t pick up enough to really pass on to my own kids - who appear far more white than I do. They blend in with the white kids in our social circles, while I stand out bigtime around the white moms.