Claiming the legacy of oppression through art

I Am My White Ancestors: Claiming the Legacy of Oppression is a touring installation and public engagement project. It contains thirteen life-size photographic self-portraits that explore European-American heritage, family history, and its legacy of oppression in the history of race, class, colonization, and genocide. The personas, real and imagined, span over 2000 years from the […]

Immigration and White People’s History

Today in response to immigration issues, we often hear white people say something like, “My ancestors came here legally, why can’t ‘they’?” This kind of wondering leads many to support deportations of anyone who is undocumented.  It can be very eye-opening, however, for white people to look critically at immigration within our own family histories. […]

Genealogy and Anti-Racism: A Resource for White People 

I want to connect my love of genealogy with the work of anti-racism. As a child and teenager, I loved genealogy. With handwritten charts and typed biographies, I had no question about the goodness of what I was doing. I was honoring and preserving the past. What could be better? Eventually, I went off to […]

Preventing Home-Grown White Terrorism

A few days ago, white supremacist Jeremy Joseph Christian stabbed three men — Ricky Best, Taliesin Namkai-Meche and Micah Fletcher — on a train in Portland, Oregon because they were defending two young women, one of whom wore a hijab, from Christian’s racist rant. Two of the men died immediately, victims of home-grown white terror. Christian, who […]

Good Liberal White People?

“Our philosophy of life is that a man must teach his child to increase the goodness in the world more than his father before him… [My wife] is an English teacher. I hope some day to become a teacher of social studies and a high school counselor and advisor. We believe we can, through our […]

British, maybe? Irish, I think?

In 2009, I took a series of anti-racism workshops for white people through The UNtraining. In the first meeting, they asked us to share our ethnicity. I kind of scrunched up my nose and squinted my eyes and said, “British, maybe? Irish, I think? What does it really matter? I’m white, isn’t that why we’re […]

But Aren’t We Good White People?

My white family history is, perhaps, somewhat unique—I never heard my parents use a racial epithet, and I was taught that being good white people meant we (including I) should never use one either. My white family history is also very usual—I still learned racism, to be racist, and to protect my white privilege. Reconciling […]

Legacy of Slavery in the Family

What would you do if you were white and discovered a legacy of slavery, which many of us did whether we know it or not? That is exactly the question Katrina Browne, Thomas DeWolf, and several of their relatives confronted. In the preface to the book Inheriting the Trade: A Northern Family Confronts its Legacy […]

Becoming White: Putting Race Back into a Family Story

I grew up hearing stories about a great-great-grandmother who immigrated from Switzerland to the U.S. by way of New Orleans. According to stories, she was a linguist who spoke four or five languages fluently, an accomplished seamstress, and a medium. (My siblings and I loved the idea of a New Orleans fortune-teller in the family […]

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