Giving Up Whiteness – Day 1/40: What is whiteness?

Welcome back, my friend.

Each day, I will begin our conversation about the theme of the day, regarding whiteness, with an effort to establish and expand a common language, as best we can, so that you and I will be able to actually be in the same conversation. Then, the main content of each day’s post will be using different resources every day. We will use art, blogs, news articles, videos, sermons, songs, etc., to expand on the theme of the day. Finally, I will end each post with a reflection for you to meditate on for the day.

I’m glad you’re on this journey with me.

Shall we begin?

Theme of Day 1/40: “What is whiteness?”

Creating a Common Language

A quick Google search brings up this definition:
white·ness
ˈwītnəs/
noun
noun: whiteness

  • the property or quality of being white in color.
    • “a landscape dominated by the whiteness of snow”
  • the quality of being very pale.
    • “the whiteness of her skin, like fine porcelain”
  • the fact or state of belonging to a human group having light-colored skin.
    • “whiteness was defined as both a racial and a regional characteristic”

This is NOT be the definition we will be using.

We are NOT talking about people who are referred to or who identify as caucasian or white. AND people who are referred to as caucasian or white may be part of what we will be distinguishing as whiteness.

Today’s Focus: “What is whiteness?”

Whiteness is a context, a perspective, that contains these characteristics:

  • Whiteness’ primary interest is gaining and keeping power.
  • Whiteness requires the condition of oppression, in other words, it can not exist without someone to oppress.
  • Whiteness strictly controls access to who is able to adopt and use it.
  • Whiteness is a collective, communal response to fear of loss of power, of influence, of resources, etc.
  • Whiteness is ruthless to those it oppresses.
  • Whiteness encourages betrayal and stratification among those it oppresses with the lure of being granted access to whiteness.
  • Whiteness operates at the level of system, of government, of society, of culture, of family, of group, and at the level of the individual.
  • Whiteness is pervasive, resilient, contagious, and is a worldwide epidemic.

To provide some clarity, let’s look at what whiteness is not:

  • In most cases, whiteness is not a conscious choice. Rather, it is a conversation for reality that human beings are born into. We are all wearing “whiteness” colored sunglasses and we don’t know it. Think of it as something like the idea of “original sin.” Sin is something that all of us are capable of. If another person sins, we can be harmed. We can only be free of the effects of sin when repentance and transformation have happened.
  • Whiteness, again, is not about your skin color.

Here is a resource for further study: http://www.ucalgary.ca/cared/whiteness

We will continue to deepen this distinction and unpack the term whiteness throughout this journey through Lent. Tomorrow, I will look at whiteness through the lens of scripture and theology.

Today’s Reflection

Consider Jesus’ words in Luke 8:
“Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. The ones on the path are those who have heard; then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. The ones on the rock are those who, when they hear the word, receive it with joy. But these have no root; they believe only for a while and in a time of testing fall away. As for what fell among the thorns, these are the ones who hear; but as they go on their way, they are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not mature. But as for that in the good soil, these are the ones who, when they hear the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patient endurance.”

When you think about the term”whiteness,” where do you immediately find yourself? Dismissive, casual, angry, or open? How are your body sensations? Your blood pressure? What are the thoughts that are just right there when you hear the word “whiteness?”

Prayer:

Holy One, may we have the courage to look through Your eyes and listen through Your ears. We are peaceful and secure because we know Your love will be with us on this journey. Amen

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