One of the things we white folks often do is claim a racial identity that we've never experienced based solely on some distant ancestry. In the United States, it's very horrifyingly common to claim a Native ancestor as a means to deflect criticism of how the nation treats its native peoples, as if someone like myself (so incredibly white by appearance that no one could ever possibly suspect I was anything else) could know what it is like to grow up in a nation built on the dispossession and displacement of my people. I don't know what that's like - I never can, and never will.
There are of course family legends that are told about this ancestor or that ancestor, and I've heard them. It doesn't change the fact that I grew up white, the child of a primarily Irish family and a primarily Italian family in Rhode Island in the 1970's and 80's. All that these family legends really do is make me wonder about my genetic inheritance from time to time - why do I alone have green eyes when none of my cousins, uncles, aunts or parents did? Why does my hair look the way it does? Why do I grow black hair on top of my head, but a red beard? I have no answers to these questions, but they don't change my primary identity.
At times I feel rudderless, cultureless - my body dysmorphia is fairly intense and I've never really known or understood what 'American' meant as a cultural identifier. I'm not pretending that my life has been particularly easy, nor successful - I'm generally a middling writer at best, and that's the only real skillset I possess of any value. Certain things happened in my life that I certainly wish had not happened. But they didn't happen because of my race or gender or because I was born in a body that was not the one I could live in, an identity that didn't fit who I was. And it's taken me a very long time to see how these things interact.
Whiteness itself is an illusion created in order to maintain cultural hegemony. But as long as our culture buys into that illusion, it's pernicious to pretend it isn't hurting people.