"I'm sorry, but I will kick myself if I don't ask...is that really what you are reading?"
I do all of my school reading on public transit these days. I was on the light rail this morning and I was making a conscious choice to lift up my book so that others could read the title. I had been noticing that I was purposefully hiding the title on previous commutes. Today, I decided I needed to feel the emotions and work through what Thandeka would call white shame.
I smiled at the white man with a suitcase. "Yup. I highly recommend it."
I noticed that all of the other people on the train bent towards me as I shared the points that had stuck out to me thus far. The overweight white man that faced me moved his body closer, but distinctly turned his head. The black man that was waiting to exit the train just overtly faced me. I was on stage.
Figuring I only had about 5 minutes, I went for what I felt was the most important thing a white stranger on the light rail might need to hear. I jumped on my soap box.
Thandeka calls into question our white created illusion that white is the norm. Beyond this common sense statement, she posits that racism is constructed from the white community self policing its young. White adults subtly abuse our kids by cutting them off from their desires. Kids are shamed into attempting to fit into the unknown rules of white culture and horrified by the realization that love is conditional. I am still reading and chewing on it, so more to come.
But, she also calls us white folks to play a game...when in the company of other whites, call attention to race. Say "My white son is sitting up like a champ" or "My white husband is snoring these days." Pay attention to how you feel. Notice others reactions. See if shame bubbles forward.
I am still working on engaging in the game....indication of how much work I still have to do.
Perhaps too much was on the table. The conversation drifted to the weather.
"It's going to be raining cats and dogs. Be sure to bring an umbrella."