Do White People Have Cousins?


Of course, the literal answer to this question is yes. White people do have cousins. Because white people have families and parents and (sometimes) parents with siblings and (occasionally) those parents with siblings have children. Also, if said parents had cousins, those cousins—and the children of said cousins—are their cousins, too. This is a fact.


I’m not concerned about facts, though. Because facts don’t always tell the truth. Like, if you “marinate” a chicken breast by sitting it on top of a single blade of grass for three minutes before you cook it, you’ve technically seasoned it. That is a fact. But the truth is that the chicken will exist and be served sans seasoning. That will be an aggressively and disrespectfully unseasoned bird. So what I am asking for in regard to white people and cousins is not literal. It’s spiritual and metaphysical. I am, ultimately, asking about cousin culture. 

What is cousin culture, you ask? It’s existing in a family where:

  1. Cousins matter;
  2. There’s no real distinction between first, second and third cousins; and
  3. There are a few people who don’t share any blood with you but are your cousins, too, just because their asses are around all the time and you didn’t even know they weren’t technically related to you until you were, like, 25.

I exist in a family that celebrates cousin culture, and it seems like most black people do as well. For instance, 2017 The Root 100 awardee Sarah Huny Young’s dad and my dad were first cousins. My dad’s dad and her dad’s mom were siblings. Which (I think) makes Huny and me either second or third cousins. And I have no idea how those distinctions even work because in my family, she’s not “my cousin Huny.” She’s just my nigga.

Also, Baron Flenory’s (the founder of Pylon Elite Camp) mom and my mom were best friends. And we spent so much time together at each other’s house as kids that we just refer to each other as cousins now. That’s just how that works.

White people, however, generally don’t seem to have the same reverence for cousin culture. I live in Pittsburgh, so I practically have a Ph.D. in “shit white people do.” And I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve heard a white person here make any reference whatsoever to their cousins. They seem to live in a cousinless universe.

Now, to be fair, I’ve heard that Southern white people are generally more into cousin culture. But why hasn’t that affinity for cousins stretched up North or out West?


I have my theories. My favorite one? America is a generally unwelcoming place for us, so we need all the family we can get, whereas white people can go anywhere and be met with smiles, so they just don’t need that extra layer of family cushion. But I’m more interested in hearing yours. Why don’t white people acknowledge their cousins? (Or do they and it’s just me who happens to be around a bunch of cousin-hating white people?)

Damon Young is the editor-in-chief of VSB, a contributing opinion writer for The New York Times, and the author of What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Blacker (Ecco/HarperCollins)



Shout out to my white uncle and my white cousin who refused to be considered white (RIP Matt).

True story: my afore mentioned Matt was white both parents white. He was adopted by my aunt. A majority of us are high yellow, like high enough to pass, so we never knew he was white. So when it was time for him to fill out his own paperwork for school. He refused to put white 😂😂😂 the teachers was so upset. They called everybody in to try to convince him that he was white. You know he personally never changed the forms. All he knew was that he was what his family that loved him was. He died young and heroically by saving a little girls life. 😇