Lately I’ve been very interested in decentering whiteness, wanting nothing of our liberation movement to have anything to do with white oppression — no more conversations, webinars, town halls, strategy sessions, recommended book lists, podcasts, et al, about what to do with/about white (as a construct) people and the issues they create for Black, Indigenous, Latinx, Asian, and other people of color. I only want to focus on us, as a people.
Even the name of this piece centers what I want to be done with; I am aware of that. So, let’s make the primary audience for this piece ourselves. We do live on this planet with white people; so, we do have a role to play — it’s just not the leading role. (I am also aware of strategies that will help make this blog more visible, increasing the likelihood of someone taking the time to read and engage with it.) 😉
Even with a drafted list below for us to consider, I continued to struggle with what needs to happen exactly, being clear though, that the heavy lifting of the work is exclusively white people’s to do. Then comes along, of course, the beautifully written and produced series, “Queen Sugar,” with the best answer ever! In its Season 5 finale, Calvin surrenders to Internal Affairs for his crime of participating in the beating of a young Black man in order to fit in as a rookie cop, actually delivering the paralyzing blow. He surrenders his freedom to be able to show up authentically in Nova’s life, his Black woman. Exquisite.
And in that moment, it dawned on me. White people keep trying to show up in our lives (the world overall) without doing their work. They need to turn themselves in — surrender their freedom(s). Anything less is inauthentic — trash. That’s the crucial beginning of decentering whiteness and a definitive step of accountability towards justice and our healing.
This is what Calvin is accounting for:
So — here’s my drafted list — how we can decenter whiteness:
- Understand, acknowledge, and embrace that decentering whiteness is white (as a construct) people’s work, not for Black, Indigenous, Latinx, Asian, or other people of color.
- Commit to stay out of white (as a construct) people’s work.
- Redirect white (as a construct) people to their work when they try to bring us into it.
- Redirect ourselves to our own work when we’re tempted to help out white (as a construct) people.
- Realize that white as a construct reminds us all that we operate in at least one (1) area of privilege, and the work of decentering whiteness is simultaneously the work of decentering privilege. Wherever we find ourselves privileged, it’s also our work to decenter ourselves there. That’s the work of the privileged, and it can only be done by the ones in that space.
- Trust the universe to rise and meet us all in our work, and that all will balance out as we do it.
- While we engage in justice work, the majority of our energy must be directed toward building for ourselves. This is a process and includes other work, like healing from generational trauma. But the ultimate goal is as Spirit asked me while visiting my parents’ alma mater, For Valley State University, “What are you building?”
© 2021, candi dugas, llc