Every Day, Chip Away At De-Centering Whiteness

8 Aug

I really want to say, take big chunks; take a sledge hammer and demo away at that center.  But, I know de-centering whiteness will take time. As I vision in my head another dimension of existence that we have not yet lived here in the United States, as I imagine our world without “white culture” as the norm, or center, two aspects of centered whiteness come to mind:

First is the unconscious existence of white people to not notice that we are at the center of everything in this country. Yet, we engineered it to be so. Because of that we have the luxury to not notice that we can move through this world so fluidly. We can take for granted, and we do, how easily we can live where we want to live, work where we want to work, go to school where we want to go to school, and spend our leisure time where we want to. And, for the most part, we can do all of this surrounded by mostly other white people. We can live, work, and play in mostly white spaces where we feel comfortable surrounded by people who look like us. And our museums, and movies, and our news channels, will reflect all of this back to us, and tell us that our existence this way is real, and it is good. It is our normal.

The second is the centering of whiteness in order to keep whiteness at the top, which, over the centuries caused white people to internalize the idea that black and brown people are lesser than, and are dangerous. It is a centering of whiteness that says who goes to what schools, who lives in which neighborhood, whose neighborhood has a liquor store on every corner, whose neighborhood has a Whole Foods, who gets the business loan, who gets the mortgage, who gets the job, who gets good healthcare, who we get to see on television, in movies, in plays, who works in the film and television industry, whose art we see in our art galleries and museums, whose art is considered quaint or folk, who owns the art, who is sitting around the corporate board room table, who is called intelligent, who is called cocky, who is called passionate, who is called angry, who can kneel, who can stand their ground, who gets told to “shut up and dribble,” who gets clean water, who can sell water, who can easily vote, who makes bail, who goes to jail, who can grow weed, who can deal weed, who can profit from weed, who can swim in what swimming pool with or without socks on, who can study in their Ivy League residence, who can wait for a business meeting in Starbucks, who can cookout in a public park, who can get pulled over and leave with a warning or speeding ticket, who can protect their wife and child in a parking lot, who can play with a toy gun, who can carry a BB gun in a Wal-Mart, who can ask a stranger for help after their car breaks down, who can run back to their grandmother’s house, who can sell loose cigarettes, and who can walk home from a convenience store. And our museums, and our movies, and our news channels will reflect all this back to us, and tell us that we have much to be afraid of.

You can say that’s not centered whiteness, that’s racism. But it is whiteness’s perception in looking at black and brown bodies, without facial recognition. We look right past the person. Instead, our racialized thoughts which stem from seeing ourselves as the center and representative of goodness, have us perceive those black and brown bodies as  inferior, as dangerous. What we see is not white, is not ourselves and that frightens us. We must protect ourselves. From what? We must keep ourselves, and all that we have for ourselves, or else, we will lose our footing. Lose what?  This reminds me of a line my brother-in-law who works in city planning would say as he imagined the philosophy of a white-bubble gated community resident: “it’s not that we’re trying to keep the bad out, it’s that we’re trying to keep the good in.”

There is much more I need to educate myself on, and many discussions I need to engage in, to learn how we can replace the norm of “white culture” with a multi-racial center, and to do away with the natural inclination to see as other, members of racial, ethnic, sexual orientation, abled, gender expression groups considered to be outside of that center. But each one of us white people can do our own part every day to begin chipping away at de-centering whiteness.

We can:

Notice it. Become conscious. Realize that you are at the center by the virtue of being born with white skin privilege. Realize that your point-of-view is considered the mainstream point-of-view encompassing cultural, moral, business, educational,  and social etiquette norms.

Speak on it. For example, the next time you are at that staff meeting and everyone around the table looks like you, and you are making decisions to impact people who don’t look like you, speak up. What will you say?  How about something like, “hmmm, we are talking about cultural competence and inclusion, yet we are a homogenous group without individuals representative of the community we are discussing. What can we do about that?”

Change it. Change yourself. Be vigilant every moment of every day, and notice yourself casting yourself as the center in all of your business and personal interactions. Now, close your eyes for a moment and envision yourself on a continuum with black and brown people and other white people, and you are not at the center, and you all keep moving along at an even, equal pace, and you are all seen, and all heard, and the voices and the movements and the way of doing things may be different from one another, but you are all listening and collaborating and connecting and appreciating and accepting and no one voice is louder than the other, and the way each person sees the world is valued, and each person has something to contribute and each person does contribute, and because you realize you had so much more, you share all that you had to make up for the centuries of taking and having it all. And you de-center your neighborhoods, your schools, your businesses, your art institutions, your banks, and you say hello to the person on your left, and you say how do you do to the person on your right. And you are not afraid anymore because you see the person, not the body, and you realize you had nothing to lose, and everything to gain, and I know I sound like a dreamy idealist, but I also know this must happen, so that our history books will include all the missing chapters, and so that our art can truly sing and transform, and the young man can get home safely to his grandmother, and young women who get into car accidents can count on the stranger to help them, and teenage boys can wear hoodies and go to the convenience store and walk home and enjoy time with their fathers. And our museums and our movies and our news channels will reflect all of this back to us, and you will know you have done the work that was your job to do.

 

 

 

 

 

 

2 Responses to “Every Day, Chip Away At De-Centering Whiteness”

  1. Sherry Gordon August 18, 2018 at 5:45 pm #

    Dear Wendy Jane,

    Hi, there, Wendy Jane, and greetings and salutations to you and to you AND FOR VERY ESPECIALLY FOR YOU FOR ALWAYS, my awesomely precious and dearly special FOR ALWAYS soul sistahfriend white and Jewish woman who you’re FOR ALWAYS so, so very much!!!!!! WOW, Wendy Jane!!!!! WOW here!!!!!!! AWWWWWWW, my so, so very sweet white sister, oh, how YOU’VE gone straight to this black woman’s very heart and spirit with this beautiful, brilliant beautiful blog post article from your so, so very darling, dearest, beautiful, special, and precious heart and spirit, sistah!!!!!!! 🙂 <3 AWWWWWW, oh, how I just so, so very much love and cherish YOU FOR ALWAYS, my so, so very sweet Jewish sistah, Wendy Jane, straight from this black woman's very heart and spirit!!!!! AWWWWWW, oh, how I so love, cherish, and appreciate your darling and great words above like how you said that you really want to say that you'd like to take big chunks with a sledgehammer and demolish the very center in decentering whiteness!!!!!! AWWWWW, what deep and dearest words here from darling YOU, sister, which act as such a healing balm for this black woman, my and our dear, dearest, darling, precious Wendy Jane!!!!!!! 🙂 <3 This is such a spectacular and masterful composition in the written word with this fantastic, heartfelt, heartwarming, and deeply sincere blog post article by absolutely AWESOME YOU, Wendy Jane, my and our so, so very special and wonderful friend!!!!! 🙂 <3 I can tell just how so, so very hard you worked on this in such a diligently conscientious manner and I so, so much appreciate YOU and I'm just moved and touched immensely and blessedly with such sheer joy in my very heart, mind, soul, and spirit by your very empowering words here, dearest Wendy Jane!!!!!!! 🙂 <3 YOU have used here such empowering and superb examples here of "who" and "whose" as you very aptly describe and explain very many of the numerous examples of centering whiteness!!!!!! WOW, sistahfriend, YOU HAVE just with such excellence, eloquence, brilliance, and radiance composed these very compelling words to the very heights of perfection, sisterfriend!!!!!!! I just relist with such delight al lof your powerful examples here and elsewhere, sister!!!!!!!! WOW, YOU'VE just hit the very stroke of genius here with your very effective, productive proactive, and efficient ideas as to what so, so very right on, wondrously wonderful soul sistahfriend white woman YOU Wendy Jane and other darling white persons can do in decentering whiteness as YOU, dear Wendy Jane, and the other marvelous white people are striving so hard with such earnestness as each and every one of you as you very wisely say are trying so, so much and wanting to make a positive change and to make a difference!!!!!! Sisterfriend, YOU'Re trying so much and so hard in such an ever-expanding, consciously aware, diligently conscientious manner and YOU'VE gone straight to this black woman's very heart and spirit with all of your strenuous and deeply sincere efforts, sistah!!!!!!! 🙂 <3 YOU ALL as such splendid white persons don't have to be perfect in this very process of learning, healing, and growing toward more anti-racist racial awareness and in decentering whiteness because this is a very understandably gradual and imperfect, lifetime's path, journey, and process, and it is perfectly understandable and perfectly alright, okay, normal, and natural that this life's journey, process, and path is gradual and imperfect over an entire lifetime!!!!!! 🙂 <3 I, too, am a dreamy idealist and it is so, so very right on, wondrously wonderful white women LIKE YOU, Wendy Jane, who keep this black woman keep on keeping on with my sweetly abiding and enduring positive optimism in keeping my very faith and hope alive!!!!!!!! 🙂 <3 YOU help me so, so very much to stay upbeat, positive and optimistic with the ongoing problems I've been facing with my very bad, permanent, and chronic physical disabilities acting and flaring up with the accompanying very bad, permanent, and chronic pain and fatigue and with the other stuff that I've been experiencing with my physical medical health!!!!!!!! YOU ARE my very life's and eternal joy and blessing FOR ALWAYS, Wendy Jane!!!!!!!! 🙂 <3 I listen to your so, so very sweet and loving words of love and concern as I continue to rest up and to practice loving self-care in trying to feel and get better, my dear, dearest, precious Wendy Jane!!!!!!! I'll for certain follow your kind and sagacious words and won't worry about getting all caught up just yet in responding with all of my very heartfelt, detailed, and thorough thoughts, ideas, and comments the way I so love to do like with not yet responding to your all-star job on your great tribute and memorial for Anthony Bourdain-I just cannot wait and am bursting with such delightfully eager anticipation until I can do so but I'll rest as you so wisely say, my dearest friend!!!!!! YOU ARE just so chock full of such wisdom, sister, and I know that your very wise words of concern are so right on and I am going to listen to your deep words of such sagacity and work on some deeply great self-care for sure, sistahfriend!!!!!!! 🙂 <3 WOW!!!!!! YAY for YOU, Wendy Jane!!!! WOW!!!!! YAY!!!!!!! YAY YAY YAY YAY!!!!!!! YAY for our very sistahhood and friendship, Wendy Jane!!!!!! WOW!!!!!! YAY!!!!!!! YAY YAY YAY YAY!!!!!!!! I thank-YOU and God continually FOR YOU AND FOR YOUR VERY PRESENCE IN MY VERY LIFE, Wendy Jane!!!!!!! I just so, so very much love and cherish YOU, Wendy Jane!!!!!!!!! 🙂 <3 God so, so very much loves and cherishes YOU A WHOLE LOT AND A WHOLE BUNCH FOR ALWAYS AND SO DO I LOVE AND CHERISH YOU SO, SO VERY MUCH A WHOLE LOT AND A WHOLE BUNCH, TOO, FOR ALWAYS!!!!!!! 🙂 <3 Please have such a superbly super Saturday, such a wondrously wonderful rest of your weekend and week ahead, and may all of your very days be so, so very especially blessed!!!!!!! AWWWWWWWW, oh, how I so, so very much think that you're the absolutely very best and the greatest, Wendy Jane!!!!!!!! YOU ARE FOR ALWAYS such a very joy and blessing, my dear friend and sister!!!!!!!! 🙂 <3

    Very Warmly and Sincerely FOR ALWAYS, my so, so very FOR ALWAYS awesomely special and dearly precious soul sistahfriend Jewish and white woman who YOU'RE FOR ALWAYS so, so very much, sisterfriend of mine, with My and God's VERY PEACE AND LOVE FOR YOU FOR ALWAYS, sister of mine, AND with SUCH BLESSINGS AND SUCH VERY EVEN MORE BLESSINGS FOR YOU FOR ALWAYS, friend of mine, 🙂 <3

    YOURS FOR ALWAYS soul sistahfrined black woman AND FOR ALWAYS in the very great spirit of unity and solidarity, Sherry Gordon in Iowa City, Iowa 🙂 <3

    • Wendy Jane August 18, 2018 at 10:34 pm #

      Hi Sherry,

      Thank you so, so much from the bottom of my heart for taking the time to visit the blog, read, and spend all the time you do composing such a beautiful comment here for this post, and all the other posts of mine that you visit. And you do this with all that you are going through with your chronic physical pain, physical disabilities and other physical health issues. You are so special, and so special to me. As I always say, I could not keep keeping on without you cheering me on. I also always appreciate your wise reminder that I can not expect to be perfect in my journey exploring the construct of race, cross-racial connections, anti-racism work, racialized thoughts, de-centering whiteness, that I am not perfect, I will not always do things perfectly, and there is no completion point–it is okay to not be perfect as long as I keep on trying, and it is a life-long journey–gradual and imperfect. You said all of this perfectly:)

      Thank you again for being such a support to me and the work of this blog. It means the world to me. Sending love and healing vibes your way, Sherry.

      Thank you my sisterfriend,
      xoxo
      Wendy Jane

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