The Whiteness Letters

Reckoning with My White Supremacy

Dear Friends and Family,

For almost a month, I have been composing this letter in my mind, dictating it into my phone and typing it on my computer. And, still, I am not ready to send it. I am scared. Scared I will say the wrong thing and hurt someone I love. Scared I will be on the receiving end of someone’s anger.

But over the past few weeks, I’ve learned this fear that keeps me quiet is White Supremacy. My internalized White Supremacy. Buried so deeply within me that it is invisible. To me. Not to my friends and family who are Black, Indigenous or People of Color.

So, before I go any further, BIPOC friends and family, please know this and any other Whiteness letter will be about my long overdue reckoning with my own White Supremacy. It will be messy and painful, and I will make hurtful mistakes. Not intentionally, but my (good) intentions won’t lessen the impact on you, and I am sorry. I know this is not your burden to carry. Nor is White Supremacy your problem to fix. Those belong to me and other White people and we (White people), are the intended audience for these Whiteness letters. 

White friends and family, I invite you to take this journey with me. It won’t be easy. Like you, I was born, bred and raised in a culture of White Supremacy. A culture that is so foundational, so omnipresent, it just feels normal, natural. Or, as Gloria Ladson-Billings wrote in The Dreamkeepers:

Culture is what other people have; what we [White people] have is just truth.

As a White person who benefits from a social, cultural, political, educational and financial system based on the idea that White is Right, White is Normal, White is Supreme, why would I go down this path? 

I think the answer lies in my values—what matters to me and how I want to be in this world. In April, I listed those things as: 

1.     Spending time with my husband and daughter.

2.     Connecting with friends and family.

3.     Taking in the beauty of oceans or lakes or mountains or deserts. 

4.     Creating something of truth or beauty or joy.

5.     Making amends.

6.     Helping others.

My list hasn’t changed, but my lens has. Today, I look at this list with the eyes of a White person, who once was blind, but now she sees, or, at least, she is beginning to see.

I did not choose to be socialized into a culture of White Supremacy. I did not choose to be a member of the dominant culture. I did not choose to benefit from my culture at someone else’s expense. But the truth is whether I want to or not, whether I see it or not, whether I believe it or not, I live in and benefit from a dominant culture that values White lives more than Black lives, Indigenous lives and the lives of People of Color. I did not choose it. But I have it. So, what will I do with it? And, how does it impact living out my values?

I don’t know the answer to those questions—yet. But starting on July 1, 2020, I will host Dialogue Wednesdays for White People at our house. Together—outside, six feet apart, and wearing masks—we will reckon with our Whiteness, White Culture and internalized White Supremacy. 

I don’t know how it will go or where it will lead, but I will share the journey with you in these Whiteness letters. I hope you’ll join me and stay with me.

As always, stay healthy, safe and loved, most important, loved.

Love, Leslie