My Writing Focuses on My Ongoing Journey of Detaching from Whiteness

Erin Monahan
Feb 19 · 3 min read

As I began to look at the construction of race in our society with guidance from anti-racist educators like Kenya Budd, Rachel Cargle, Layla Saad, Kalissa Scopes, and L. Glenise Pike, as well as the help from the podcast Seeing White by Jon Biewan and Chenjarai Kumenyika, I came to understand how race has informed every facet of my life: How I have come to understand who I am, how I have come to make sense of my position in the world, how I relate to others, even how I process information, are all impacted by my white skin because of what white skin has come to mean in our society. The societal construct of race and how I have constructed my sense of identity are inseparable.

Yet, for the majority of my life (29 years), I have paid very little conscious attention to the identities that I hold — upper middle class, cis, white woman — and how they impact my beliefs, choices, and actions. So, my writing focuses on this constructed phenomenon and my relationship to it. I write to describe my effort in detaching from whiteness as an exercise to hold myself accountable, to be transparent, as well as to record the complexities of this unfolding. I have also found it helpful to read white people’s accounts of how they are doing this, so this is my contribution. Though every person’s journey is different, I have found it helpful and encouraging to find that I have never been the only one struggling with this process. Believing in the construct of whiteness is not only ridiculous, it has tangible, violent, harmful impacts for ourselves, as well as communities all over the world.

As I learned more, I came to understand how race is an invention created out of upper class imaginations in order to control lower class uprisings and rebellions. Race is not biological. It is an invention like the wheel. It is a construct like marriage or money. Race means nothing, and impacts everything. So this made think, how have I become so attached to an identity (my whiteness) that is in all truth and actuality, a complete lie? How have I come to shape my ideas about myself and the world through this social construction?

I have been raised in a white supremacist society that believes my white skin to mean something about my inherent worth as a human. So what does that mean about how I view myself, and what does that mean about how I view those who are not white-skinned? How do I grapple with, and shake myself from the belief that white skin bears some kind of meaning about the nature of my humanity?

It was horrifying to wake up to the realization that something that makes no sense seeps into my ideas about who I am, but I am on a dedicated path to examining, deconstructing, and working to dismantle my attachment to the construct of whiteness.

Erin Monahan

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Writer/Facilitator Focused on Dismantling White Supremacy/Founder of Terra Incognita Media