Just finished reading the Hua Hsu article The End of White America?
in this, and it basically nailed my experience of culture and identity.
"... To be white is to be culturally broke. The classic thing white students say when you ask them to talk about who they are is, ‘I don’t have a culture.’ They might be privileged, they might be loaded socioeconomically, but they feel bankrupt when it comes to culture … They feel disadvantaged, and they feel marginalized. They don’t have a culture that’s cool or oppositional.”
My own identity feels pretty bankrupt -- as a potential Mayflower Society member, I've got some tenuous roots in the Northeastern colonial scene, but my extended family hasn't been very good at connecting itself for a couple generations at least, so it's not like I have a family history out there. In fact, my parents, my grandparents and myself have all moved to new communities pretty consistently, which destroys what the article calls "the privilege of time, of heritage, of being in a place longer than anybody else." At least in California most people are relatively newly arrived anyways. Still, I feel... lost. Like I don't know where I belong, like I'm not a part of any community.
I think this is what's behind my fascination with Russia and Eastern Europe. Appropriating their languages and cultures distinguishes me a tiny bit from suburban America. The alternative is my extended family's buy-in to NASCAR "racial pride that dare not speak its name", so why not? And when I lived in Hungary, I was automatically identified as an "American" with this whole set of roles and historical identities. It's a huge draw to move abroad again, where I'm defined just by the virtue of my passport. I could deal with that.