the business of being what is white?

what is white?

Moved by events in the USA, there seems to be an awakening going on across the world and certainly in Europe. There are protests where people join together on the streets under the banner of ‘Black lives matter’. And absolutely. Black lives matter. And please note, the phrase used is ‘Black lives MATTER’. Just that. Not ‘Black lives matter MORE.’* No! Just ‘matter.’ Black lives matter. My white lungs are taking their time and breathing that in as fully as they can. Black – lives – matter.

So, I am surprised and a little sad when I hear some indignation around me in my circle of (white) friends and (white) colleagues as they protest: “But surely, all lives matter!”. Yes! Sure they do! And sadly for the last 400 years at least, it seems that some lives matter more, and some lives matter less than others. And again, I need to take some time to breathe that in. To really let it land.

Is that the world I want to live in? A world where some lives matter more than others? And if that is not the world I want to live in, what can I do to contribute to change? What can I do that gives shape and form to the hope that all lives will matter some time in the future? One thing is for sure. I need to start right here. With myself and a painful, mind-blowing, and liberating exploration of what it is to be white and the ease that that brings me, day in and day out, without me even noticing it most of the time. An ease that people of colour simply do not have.

I want to do the hard work of picking up and examining this whiteness of mine. I want to hold myself up to the lenses that black people are offering to me.

I don’t need to feel guilty. And just saying ‘Oh! I’m sorry’ doesn’t cut it for me. I want to do the hard work of picking up and examining this whiteness of mine. I want to hold myself up to the lenses that black people are offering to me. I want to engage with terms like white supremacy, white privilege, white innocence, white saviourism, and move beyond my own initial shock or indignation to walk through my fear and uncertainty into a deep examination of how the patterns that these terms refer to, live deeply in me.

So my question to myself, and the question I would love to explore together with other white people, is: What is White? I may have ‘good intentions’ – but, when, why, and how am I living aspects of my whiteness that unconsciously support and sustain the racist system that I both deplore and benefit from?

With many thanks to Michael Che: please see YouTube: Michael Che Black Lives Matter
Informed also by the books: So you wanna talk about race by Ijeoma Oluo; White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo; Me and White Supremacy by Layla F Saad; and White Innocence by Gloria Wekker