The Whiteness Letters

Dialogue Wednesdays for White People

Dear Friends and Family,

We had our first Dialogue Wednesday for White People last week. Eleven people ranging in age 20 to 70 showed up in our backyard, with masks, journals, pens, and sat six feet apart in a circle, more or less.

We structured our group using the suggestions from Me and White Supremacy: Combat Racism, Change the World, and Become a Good Ancestor by Layla F. Saad, the strategies from The Circle Way, A Leader in Every Chair by Christina Baldwin and Ann Linnea, and my own experience participating in and leading circles.

We began with a breathing exercise, from my Ananda Martial Arts teacher, Master Ellis. Breathe in through your nose while bringing your palms up to shoulder height. Breathe out through your mouth while pushing your palms down to hip height. Repeat three times.

I told everyone why I started Dialogue Wednesdays:

I have invited White people to join my family and me every Wednesday from 7:30p to 8:30/9:00p to support each other in reckoning with our internalized, and often invisible to us, White Supremacy. I see this as a time to read, reflect, discuss and interrupt White Supremacy both in our group and in our communities.

And, then, I asked the group:

Why are you here? No one is holding a gun to your head. No one is making you do this. You won’t be rewarded for it, and, in fact, might be ostracized by other White people for it. So, why are you here?

Each of us reflected in silence, some of us, in writing, and, afterwards, we each shared out loud, Round Robin style. This is my reflection (and only mine, as we agreed all personal stories would remain confidential):

I am here to face my own White privilege. To build my stamina in having uncomfortable conversations. I am here to practice hearing how I am racist, how I benefit from the color of my skin, and how I have what I have because of, and, more importantly, at the expense of someone else, particularly Black, Indigenous and People of Color. I am here because this aligns with my values and how I want to be in this world. I am here because my Black Friends and Friends of Color need me to do this work. I need me to do this work.

We spent the rest of our time discussing the principles, practices and agreements of group participation. And this is what we came up with--group members will:

  • Rotate leadership.

  • Select a Guardian to watch over the well-being of the group, not the individual.

  • Share responsibility for the quality of the experience, including requesting and accepting a pause from the Guardian.

  • Hold personal stories in confidentiality.

  • Speak honestly from the heart with authenticity and with intention, remaining aware of the impact of our words.

  • Listen with attention, assuming positive intent and being respectful of the learning process for all members of the group.

  • Respond to one another with respect, compassion, and curiosity (calling in, not calling out).

  • Expect disagreement and discomfort. 

  • Express emotions (crying, guilt, or shame), without stopping the dialogue or expecting comfort in the moment.

  • Make this work a priority, pushing each other to be present, to go deeper, to learn and grow.

  • Share what we learn about White Supremacy outside the group with other White People (while keeping all personal stories confidential).  

At the end, we each shared one thing we learned and/or one action we planned to take. This letter is my action.

Tomorrow, we have our second Dialogue Wednesday. I don’t know how it will go or where it will lead, but I hope you stay with me as I continue to interrogate my internalized White Supremacy.

Until next time, stay healthy, safe, and loved, most important, loved.

Love, Leslie