“You don’t yet realize that you’ve lived up until now in racialized space.” It was a line I heard several times this past weekend in a film, Mirrors of Privilege: Making Whiteness Visible, that we viewed as a part of our congregation’s work on racism. The context? White individuals who were unaware of how much of their own experience was entirely defined by whiteness and the expectations that the whole world operated like their white space did. This is, itself, racialized space, a space from which, often, white people say: why do “they” cause so much trouble? Oh, isn’t that a “bad neighborhood?” Why don’t “they” just work harder and earn their way in the world? I never had anything handed to me. I worked for everything I have.
Each of these is a statement made unaware of the racialized space that most of us who are white have grown up in, lived in, earned in, worked hard in, succeeded in. We assume that this is how the world works, and from within this racialized space, we find it easy to criticize others who don’t live–cannot ever live–in white racialized space.
“Why would white people ever want to give up the privileged space that they have?” It’s a very good question. If loans are easier for me to get, houses and cars easier to buy, jobs and college entrance easier to obtain, safety greater, access to medical care easier and stress in life generally lower just because I walk around in a racialized white space–one that I did not create but one which I always enjoy even when I don’t realize it–why would I change that?
Perhaps the answer is another question: why would I not want what I enjoy to be what all people enjoy?
As a white person, I think we fear that around this issue of race things are going to change so much that we will be hurt and become the object of centuries of rage against us for the things that white people have done. When I listen deeply to the conversations among people of all kinds and colors, I don’t hear burgeoning rage. I hear the call to community.
What if our white “loss” becomes everyone’s gain? We can craft that kind of future, together.