I did not believe White Culture existed. I was wrong.
I recently listened to a talk given by Ruth King, and a Krista Tippet interview with Eula Biss.
They spoke about whiteness.
I would not have otherwise thought about whiteness. There was no need. Why would I?
What does it mean to be white in America?
I think we are missing the mark by not discussing the experience of the dominant class.
Whiteness is a thorny uncomfortable topic.
Discomfort is a sign we are avoiding something important, or we feel threatened.
We have had conversations about the minority experience and ignored the majority experience.
That was a necessary starting point.
If you asked me a year ago if there was white culture, I would have said no.
“We all come from different countries. There’s no common experience,” I would have said.
If you are black in America, regardless of whether you are from London, Australia, Nairobi, or New York, you are treated as black.
The reverse is also true.
If you are white in America, regardless of whether you are from London, Australia, Nairobi, or New York you are treated as white.
By not examining whiteness, whites do not experience any personal loss
That is the very point. It is easy and comfortable not to talk about whiteness.
Those conversations are optional.
Those conversations are not optional for the dominated class.
Nondominant is a comfortable word for me, but it isn’t precisely the antonym of dominant is it? Dominated is more direct.
Culture is shared lived experience, which includes how others treat us.
How we are treated by others is an integral part of our life experience.
White culture impacts all our interactions whether we are aware or unaware.
Do we know what white culture is?
- I do not.
- I know it exists.
- I know it makes my life easier.
The topic of whiteness has been left to extremists, while most of the dominant group have been absent from the conversation.
We have not needed to examine and discuss. Waiting until a discussion is necessary is not a productive practice.
We have been conditioned to avoid the topic of whiteness. It is taboo.
We might have experienced hostility when bringing up issues of race.
We might have felt accused of being an oppressor when we individually lead good and kind lives.
Ok. That was then. This is now.
If a conversation about being white in America is not a priority for us, isn’t that a red flag?
If we cannot even be open to the conversation, doesn’t that indicate we have an opinionated answer to a conversation that never happened?
I am glad I listened throughout both talks. There were times of discomfort when I did want to withdraw.
If we cannot listen, can we at least ask ourselves why?
I did not believe there was a white culture. I was wrong.
Links to both speakers are below.
Krista Tippett, host: If this American political moment is in part, as the civil rights elder Ruby Sales said to me, a…onbeing.org