the whiteness within me

Like you, I watched with horror as a violent mob stormed the Capitol building last Wednesday. Inflamed by white supremacy, misogyny, antisemitism, and homophobia, the rioters erupted like pus oozing from the infection that has been raging on this continent since Europeans arrived. 

Looking at the disturbing images of the hate-filled insurrectionists, who were almost all white, I forced myself to acknowledge that they are, figuratively and likely literally, my distant cousins.

It was an urgent reminder that my commitment to collective liberation hinges on addressing the whiteness within me, the anti-Blackness in my blood.

We anti-racist white folks can take note that, as Crystal Good (@cgoodwoman) put it, “This is a DANGEROUS moment because the illusion of a sliding scale of white supremacy — allows so many to point to whiteness over there not in the mirror.” 

Recently, I have been digging into the history of my ancestors, which reflects the ugly history of this country when it comes to race. Of course I have mostly only been able to find narratives about the men in my family, the patriarchs. And while I haven’t discovered details about the actions of my ancestors in Europe (England, Scotland, Ireland, Germany), there are many stories to be found about things they did after they emigrated.  

One of my ancestors was a Texas Ranger Captain in the 1860s.

While it hurts to do so, I’ve been reading about my forefathers who stole from and killed Native Americans and Mexicans in Texas, those who were enslavers in Tennessee and confederate soldiers across the South fighting to defend slavery, who were business owners/lawyers playing active roles in the establishment of the racialized capitalism that is currently killing us. 

The stories that aren’t documented are about the more subtle crimes of complicity in all of the myriad of ways white privilege allows and encourages. So I examine and challenge my own complicity, the ways I follow patterns established over generations.

I know that my lineage also includes abundant love and kindness and generosity, as I feel those gifts within me as well. My hope is to heal a legacy of harm to allow those gifts to more fully flourish. The trauma I have inherited is deep and ancient, so I am reasonable in my expectations, yet staunch in my dedication to the process. 

Collective liberation requires an honest reckoning of what whiteness is and does – not only the ways it manifests in extremists, but how it shows up in each and every white person as well as the systems we have created and participate in and benefit from. 

As we reckon, I am grateful for leaders like Bree Newsome (@BreeNewsome), who reminds us:

“Y’all the issue is whiteness.

You can try to cut it all these different ways.

But the common denominator, through-line, consistent factor & persistent conflict is whiteness. 

Until folks are ready to confront what whiteness is, its construct & function, we are stuck here.”

Heard. 

These are frightening times, and still, I am inspired by the transformations that are happening, and the ways we are witnessing the unraveling of whiteness. There are many victories and signs of change to celebrate (go, Georgia!). Many reasons to keep the faith and keep building. 

A just transition is possible. 

Love.

6 thoughts on “the whiteness within me

  1. Thank you Ami. This resonates with me and I’m glad to hear you’re looking into you’re ancestry. It’s hard work, but to me it helps me understand more and more how “those white people” are “my white people” and me as well.

    I wrote my first peice about researching the history of racism in and around my family. I picked this story, learning that the county where my family is from was a sundown town, because frankly it was the easiest place to start, easier than writing about other branches who were enslavers, etc. Working to keep putting this out in some format..writing, podcast, etc.

    Here it is if you want to read: https://www.reckoningwithwhiteness.org/blog/2020/6/21/sundown-in-west-virginia

    Thanks fo all you do.

    Tara

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you, Ami, for offering your honest perspective. I look forward to your blogs because I not only learn but feel a sense of hope that there are solutions if we only open our eyes.

    Liked by 1 person

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