What does it mean to be White in the United States? A personal account.

How often do you think about the color of your skin? How often do you notice the ways it affects how people treat you? I am White, and I try to think about this every day.

I surely do not have to think about my Whiteness. I didn’t realize it until about a year and a half ago, but now I choose to recognize it. I choose to examine the privilege I receive because of that as well. I also consider basic interactions with people of other colors and other white people.

Because I’m White, achieving status in the United States is much easier for me than my darker-skinned counter parts. (The hurtles and ceilings I encounter would have to do with my gender rather than my race, but I won’t get into that here.)

Because I’m White, I could ignore the traumatic news around me about black and brown people dying, black churches being burned, black and brown people being kicked out of their neighborhoods because they’re being gentrified. I wouldn’t be personally affected.

Because I’m White, other white people assume I can read and speak English well without making me take special tests before I enter a specific setting. (This happened to one of my half-White, half-Latina friends even though she speaks and reads English perfectly, and I’m sure she’s not the only one.)

Because I’m White, I’m not the butt of insensitive jokes about blending in with the night, and people don’t ask if I’m wearing a wig or a weave.

Despite this, I choose to recognize my own Whiteness yet engage with people of color and the issues pertaining to them.

Though I am White, I intentionally befriend people of color and other nationalities at my workplaces. I want to learn about the world and operate outside of the sphere that’s filled with a lot of people who look like me.

Though I am White, I engage with the traumatic news around me about black and brown people dying, black churches being burned, black and brown people being kicked out of their neighborhoods because they’re being gentrified. While my person is not affected, the body of Christ is, and thus I am. My friends are affected, thus I am. My neighbors are affected, thus I am.

Though I am White, I recognize the value of knowing multiple languages and consider the complexity that language and culture provoke. I also know that even in the United States, not all white people speak English and not all non-white people speak their language of descent. We must get to know people before we judge them.

Since I am White and was socialized in the suburbs where most other people were White as well, I need to be especially careful to think before I speak. I need to recognize the differences between culture and avoid insensitive comments or questions but not be afraid to ask good ones. This is easiest and most effective in the safety of good friends of color who know my heart.

I do not write this to emphasize my (limited) awareness of race relations but because I believe my old church’s motto that “people are significant and Jesus is more valuable than anything else.” No matter how racially homogenous our homes may seem, we all impact each other (at a structural level if nothing else, but I really doubt it’s nothing else).

As an aspect of my humanity, being White is complex. Hey, I’m beautifully and intricately made by God! And hey, sin messed up stuff too, like the ways we relate to each other based on outward appearances. Thus, today I challenge you to begin recognizing your Whiteness in all it means.

I’m calling us to a greater awareness of how God made our bodies, where he placed us in this world and how that impacts others. (For me sociologically, I’m a White, lower-middle class, American female. That’s a lot to process!)

When we understand who we are and our standing in this world in comparison to others, we can love others well, considering them better than ourselves, treating them as we’d like to be treated. Whatever our race, we all have privilege and some form of power. How will we use that to serve our neighbors, as Jesus commanded? If you’re White, how does that affect your daily life?

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