Tuesday, October 09, 2007

swag

The following is a text version of the story I told for today's storytelling class. The assignment was "How I Got to Be This Way: A Story About my Origins."

Begin by reading Mark 5: 1-13.

where i grew up, everybody was white. there were maybe five asian kids in my high school, and one puerto rican kid. all of the asian kids had been adopted by white families.


somebody had to tell me that i was white. i didn’t really know there was any other option. i knew some people of color, i guess, and i saw them on tv. but to think of myself as having a race: this was a new idea. I wasn’t white so much as i was “normal.”


where i grew up, everybody was American. I didn’t even think of myself as being a US citizen. It was just something everybody was, in the same way that I don’t think of myself as someone who breathes. Somebody had to tell me I was a US citizen. I didn’t really know there was any other option. I met some people from outside the US, but to think of myself as having nationality: this was a new idea. I wasn’t American so much as I was “normal.”


where i grew up, everybody was straight. a few kids came out in my high school, and my dad came out to my family in middle school. that helped me realize a little, but i never much thought of myself as “straight.” I dated girls in high school; I’m dating a girl right now. I wasn’t “straight” so much as I was “normal.”


where i grew up, everybody was middle class. i once went to a friend’s house, and there were not that many nice things there; there were some kids in my school who got the free lunches. I knew about poverty, kind of. I saw it on tv, read about it in books. We talked about it in church. But I never thought of myself as poor or not, never thought of myself as being a member of a class. I wasn’t ‘middle class’ so much as I was ‘normal.’


where i grew up, everybody was male. There were women in my school, at my church, in my family. But I didn’t have to think of myself as having gender. I wasn’t male, so much as I was normal.


my friend calls us swags: straight white american guys. Nobody tried to teach me that all these things were normal, with the possible exception of the advertising industry. None of my teachers wrote out a lesson plan that said, “today, teach david that white people are better than other people.” Or, “today, teach David that he is better than Becca because of his genitals.”


But, friends, I grew up in a small town in the United States of America, where most everybody learns these things. Particularly the swags.


I catch myself, sometimes. Catch myself acting in a way that shows I think US citizens are better than others, that I am better than others for my whiteness, my maleness, my straightness, or for some other imaginary thing.


But most of the time I don’t catch myself; I just go on acting in racist and sexist ways.


Last week, I was talking with a friend and colleague about original sin. Original sin, see… not something that I would list as something i believe in. This sin that is inexorably passed down to us from our sinful parents. That we cannot escape without the grace of God.


But, I, my friends, am a straight white American guy, and this is the story of how i got to be this way. Trying to get better, but still racist, sexist, homophobic and nationalist at my core. Only able to escape from this mire with the help of traveling companions who will call me out. And with the grace of God, calling me out of my hatred into solidarity, into struggle, into wholeness.

...original sin.

End by reading Mark 5: 1-13.

2 comments:

AAGlenn said...

Dear David,

I just learned something new! I had NOT heard the SWAG term before! Does that come from the part of the country where you grew up or where you are living at the moment?
Alice Ann

David Reese said...

I got it from Steve Hammond.