The Whiteness Letters

Still Reckoning With My Internalized White Supremacy

—George Floyd’s six-year-old daughter Gianna Floyd with former NBA player and George Floyd’s close friend Stephen Jackson Sr.

I broke down last year when I heard that George Floyd played the airplane game with his daughter all the time. Was holding it all in until then. I broke down because that’s what his daughter, Gianna, loved the most about her Dad. She loved flying on his back. I broke down because I’ve flown my daughter on my back constantly, hearing her giggles, feeling her joy on my back. She loves the airplane game, too. A year ago a human being who loved was treated like a monster who hates—when racism is the real monster that hates humanity. But we will continue to fight the monster in his honor. Rest in our resistance, #GeorgeFloyd.

— Dr. Ibram X. Kendi

Dear Friends and Family,

A year ago, I started drafting my first whiteness letter. It took a month for me to work up the courage to send it. Since then a group of white people in our neighborhood have met on a regular basis—sometimes monthly, sometimes weekly—to interrogate, disrupt, and reckon with our internalized White Supremacy.

As predicted the journey has been messy and painful. And, sometimes, we needed to take a break. But, even then, we recognized the social, cultural, political, educational and financial system founded on White Supremacy is what allows us, and all white people, to look away from the death and destruction of racism.

So, this week we are recommitting to the Whiteness Dialogue Group1, where once again we will interrogate, disrupt and reckon with our internalized White Supremacy and work toward an Anti-Racist society. Starting June 3rd, still wearing masks and social distancing if need be, we will meet at our house on Thursdays at 7pm. The group is open for people to participate in on a regular or drop-in basis and will follow this format:

  1. Three Breaths2

  2. Reminders of Participation:

    • 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.

    • Be fully present and push each other 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).  

  3. Round Robin Check In: How are you showing up tonight?

  4. Anti-Racism Reading3

  5. Journal or Silent Reflection

  6. Round Robin Response to Reading

  7. Open Dialogue

  8. Round Robin Check Out: What action are you leaving with tonight?

  9. Three Breaths

If you are local in the Bay Area and would like to join us, please email me. If you are not local, I encourage you to start your own Whiteness Dialogue Group.

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

Love, Leslie

Share Letters from Leslie

1

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.

2

A breathing exercise, from our 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.

3

This week we will be listening to chapter 12 from Me and White Supremacy: Combat Racism, Change the World, and Become a Good Ancestor. Other books we will be listening to are Stamped and Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man