Where does Whiteness Live Within Me?
Continuing on our journey to heal from the wounds of whiteness, we must actually face ourselves in the mirror and look for the ways whiteness lives within us. The key is to acknowledge it, but not spend time in shame around it, because the reality is -- YOU probably did not have much control over your assimilation into white culture.
If you’re not familiar with White Supremacy Cultural Characteristics, by Tema Okun (a White woman) - begin by reading through the website and getting familiar with the characteristics. I recommend you read all of it, especially her intentions for the use of the work and her request to not weaponize it.
*Side note - If you’re interested in a learning seminar around these characteristics, please contact me!
When you’re familiar with these characteristics or even as you’re reviewing them, write down which ones you participate in, which ones you witness within your organizations/work, and which ones you are impacted by the most.
Let’s dig even deeper! With each of the characteristics you wrote down, write down examples of how they show up AND the way they make you FEEL. Remember that feelings are not thoughts, but emotions and sensations. Many sources name joy, fear, anger, disgust, and sadness as our core feelings. Which of these feelings do these characteristics evoke in you as you reflect on them?
I’ll share one of the characteristics that live within me, FEAR. “White supremacy culture cultivates our fear of not belonging, of not being enough.” (From FEAR from Tema Okun’s White Supremacy Culture). This is an example of internalized racial oppression/internalized racism. If you’ve read my Mixed-Up Series, I’ve shared my past stories of being excluded and being made to feel inferior or wrong, due to my mixed racial identity. There have been so many ways that I’ve been and continue to be told that I don’t belong and that I’m not enough. This is incredibly amplified in White dominant spaces. Because I have spent time knowing the origin stories that cultivated this fear of not belonging and of not being enough, I actively work against it. It hasn’t always been that way. Some of the ways that I would show up would be to overcompensate to prove that I do belong and that I was enough, colluding with the White cultural characteristic. I made a habit of being the perfect student, getting the perfect grades, and overachieving in order to be received as credible, smart, and capable.
When I am fearful of not belonging and not being enough, I am saddened and angry. It is immobilizing. I literally will not be able to act from this place and can run away and hide. This can lead to bouts of depression and completely stalling me from taking action toward my life goals.
There are some that would minimize the importance of knowing these cultural characteristics and their antidotes. They would have you believe its personality, circumstances, or unique lived experiences. They would have you believe it is only meant to make White people “bad”. It’s a refusal to see its strategic way of upholding White supremacy and keeping people of color oppressed. It may be hard to understand or see because it has become a part of our culture, but instead of denying it, can you simply look for ways it is accurate?
I’m keeping this one short because it’s really an invitation to jump into reflection and participate in the process of finding out where whiteness lives within you. If you have questions or want to share your reflections, please feel free to comment. I’ll be waiting to learn what has come up for you.