The title of this blog was created unknowingly by Christie Nold. This was her summary of Dr. Robin DiAngelo’s thoughts on how in order to deconstruct whiteness we must analyze and understand it first; which further centers it, creating this paradox where we have make it the central focus in order to move away from it in the future.
Using this same paradoxical thinking I am going to center myself in order to illustrate how I deconstructing whiteness works for me and how I try not to always center myself. Hopefully at some point this will make sense to you soon.
The idea for this blog came when Julia Torres asked me why I don’t display white fragility and why I am the hype man for people who don’t have my cis-gender white male privilege. Here goes nothing.
I started on social media ready to learn with and from everyone. I read blogs and listened to podcasts but was unaware of my white cisgendered male privilege and had no clue about power dynamics. I got called out for my actions being problematic. I didn’t care until I was told my actions were white supremacist. Online. On Twitter. Where the whole world could see! All I was doing was reading people’s work and commenting. I was trying to learn. Couldn’t people see that? I wanted to grow to help my students and in the process the term “white supremacy” was being thrown out there with my name attached to it.
Here are the two major takeaways from that catastrophe. The first part is what happened after I got called a white supremacist. Guess what happened. Nothing. Not a damn thing. The police didn’t arrest me. My school didn’t bring me in for a chat. The people of color in my life didn’t shun me. Absolutely nothing happened. This fear I had was false. It wasn’t real. Having my actions labeled “white supremacist” wasn’t the end of the world for me.
Secondly after this happened Val Brown reached out to me. She showed me kindness when others did not. I don’t blame them. They go through this every day with white people not understanding race and power. What Val did was to simply see my humanity. She is someone who builds bridges. She helped me understand what was happening. More importantly, since then she has helped me and thousands of others learn about the three levels of oppression (individual, institutional, and structural) and how they have impacted people in America.
During my process of becoming racial consciousess on social media which is such a public form to explore such private issues, I have angered numerous people because of my mistakes and brash style. I have been blocked on social media and people have written me nasty emails.What I have come to realize, unfortunately, during the growth process, some People of Color are going to get hurt and question your motives. This is the natural consequence of so much hurt being caused by so many white people. Why would people see me as any different than those white people that had come before me? I understand their anger.
Through this trial by fire, I have gone through multiple stages in my awaresness of the interconnectedness of race and power. Jal Mehta wrote an article for EdWeek stating that there are five stages to racial awareness and People of Color’s reaction to them:
I believe that I am in between Stage 4 and 5 currently. I have lead multiple professional development sessions for colleagues on racial consciousness. I am comfortable saying I love my white skin and also saying I love your brown skin or black skin. I have learned the language of oppression and also the language of liberation. I can speak about race and oppression without offending people. Learning to do that has has been the hardest part of this process. We have to learn the language and history before we can be credible when speaking about race and power.
MOST IMPORTANTLY I HAVE LISTENED! I have listened to black women, gay men, white women, Asian women, and every other group of people that exists outside of white men. I understand that I don’t know everything about everything. I listen to podcasts like CodeSwitch, The Stoop, Pushing the Edge and Empowerment Starts Here. I make sure that I interviewing People of Color for my own podcast called the Voxcast. On Twitter I retweet and amplify fantastic content. I look for nonwhite males and read their blogs. I comment and RT them. I actively look to amplify people who don’t look and act like me. I specifically say amplify because they already have a voice. My job is to make sure that the white people I interact with hear these voices.
Here is where things get confusing. Just because I understand the need for others to shine doesn’t mean that you or I shouldn’t shine as well. I work hard as hell to be a better person. I go to conferences, read books, listen to podcasts, interview people run book clubs and do a million more things to better myself and my profession. I don’t need to dim my light in order for others to shine. The content I create can help people grow and help me push myself to grow. There is room for everyone at the table. The point is I’m not more important than anyone else. There a tons of people doing what I am plus more. The key is to make sure that everyone is getting a chance to have their voice heard. This means that it is imperative we look at race, gender, sexuality, ability, and class.
For me, everything boils down to love. I love people. We are all connected.It is imperative to me that folks understand that if one group of people are hurting we are all hurting. My job is to make my life have meaning. I teach because I feel I can help students grow in a positive environment. I am on social media so I can learn from people and help others who want to grow. Right now white people have the most followers, are writing the most books, and are asked to keynote the most conferences. We must start to realize that there are people who are not white that are doing extraordinary things as well. The only reason we are not seeing them and hearing them is that we (white people) do not see how our race and power are playing out.
Look at your feed. Who are you following? Look at your last 10 retweets what is the gender and race of the content creator? Who’s blogs are you reading? Who’s books are you listening to? If the answers keep coming up as white people and specifically white people that is problematic.
Here is my charge to you. Actively look for black women and men, Asian men and women, Indigenous men and women, non hetero and cis gender people, and every other group I am missing that is viewed as being historically and presently marginalized and disenfranchised. Then LISTEN to what they have to say. Interact with what they create. Learn from and with them. Pay them if you can. Then amplify their voice and their work. In addition, when you get feedback from them that what you are doing is an issue LISTEN! Change your behavior. Figure out what is problematic and why. Ask questions. It will suck. It never gets easier. What does happen is you become a better human.
So now we have arrived at the paradox. You are reading a blog from a white cisgendered male. He is telling you to learn and speak about race and power as well as to amplify nonwhite people. That is the irony of this blog. In order to help decenter me here is a list of some people that you should follow. they are linked so it is as easy clicking on their name and then hit follow. Not one of them is a cis-gender white male. I write this with hope that the future can be better than our past and present.
Dr. Rosa Perez-Isiah Xian Barrett Ben Doxtador Sheri Spelic
Nate Bowling Dr. Debbie Reese Dene Gainey
Ebony Elizabeth Minjung Pai Paul Suk-Hyun Yoon
Vivett Dukes Gyasi Ross Christina Torres Phoenix Calida
What an awesome post, Justin – thank you for sharing so honestly, and thanks for the links.