Saturday, October 9, 2010

The Root of Racial Tension, The False Notion of Whiteness

Do I look white to you? As white as my bedroom wall? As white as snow? As white as potato flesh? As white as an egg?

No? Then how about orangish-pink, like a mamey, a peach, or a cantaloupe? Maybe.

I don't remember the first moment it dawned on me that "white" and "black" are non-descriptive terms for the appearance of humans. But in the decades since that long-forgotten moment, I have gradually come to understand that the label "white" is complicit in a glob of problems that can be called racism.

Years ago I was a regular talk radio listener, always searching for a more positive and uplifting show. I remember the day a host had on his show a man who had authored a book titled "The Abolition of the White Race". The position of the host was in opposition to the book. Basically, it appeared the host understood the book to be divisive and hateful (anti-people) in its intent. The guest author was soft spoken. But the host shut the guest down without a chance to defend any uniting and loving intent of the book. Without hearing much at all from the author, I could tell that his book was calling for the end of people's using a term like "white" to preserve their separateness and privilege. I could respect that position, I thought. Sadly, the host never did undertake to listen sincerely to understand the guest. It wasn't long before I had moved on in my search for a positive and uplifting show.

I have at this time come to the opinion that every time I say I am white, or every time I check "white" on a survey, I am perpetuating a systematic, unconscious, embedded cultural oppression of people who are not privileged to call themselves "white". I am perpetuating division. Are we not all some odd shade of creamish brown just dark enough to save our distant ancestors from early skin cancer?

The reality is that we are all brothers and sisters. In my language, we are all sons and daughters of God. I am not different than you. I am walking in the same life as you. Far be it from me to claim otherwise.

So I will not hope to call myself white as long as I hear that "non-whites" are oppressed. In solidarity with you, flesh of my flesh, I hope to call myself "white" only in that day when white implies no more and separates no more than does "curly-haired".

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