the power: post-whiteness.
august 11, 2017
we all have the power to love in response to hatred. to be powerful and choose love over hate is a decision we can make frequently throughout each day. how unshakable is your love? do you withdraw it at the first discomfort? do you stop giving your love the moment you feel it isn't being reciprocated? the power speaks to the decision to be love regardless of what is going on around you.
many of us have been lead to believe that we don’t have a choice. that we are indeed powerless. we've been taught this by well meaning, but frequently-powerless, others, that we are at the effect of our circumstances; that our ability to give and receive love is determined by how much love is already in place around us. belief in this destructive falsehood keeps people in perpetual bondage to powerless decisions.
many of us have learned that we owe it to others to be petty and miserable alongside them. they've taught us that our worth is only measured by how low we're willing to go with them, how powerless we are willing to remain with them. people often fear true power. “what will it be like?" we wonder. ”what will my life become when i begin to make powerful choices consistently? will i lose the ones i love? will they still recognize me? accept me? love me?” wonderings like these can scare people while toeing the line of wholeness and true power.
when a person makes the fear-based decision to remain powerless out of a fear of what will become of their life, that person has not allowed love. if this person makes this decision over and over again, the environment they have created around them will offer them an abundance of things to point to as reasons to feel powerless, thereby perpetuating a cycle. it then becomes easier and easier to make powerless decisions. the more you do something the better you become at it. of course the same applies for making powerful decisions.
what does it mean to respond with love? to be clear the love which is being referred to is not a love where one person is subordinate and the other dominates and is allowed to treat that other person however destructively they desire. one is not participating in love when they walk all over someone, or when they allow someone to walk all over them. neither is love assuming that a person who is walking all over you understands how they are doing just that.
love in this circumstance could be revealing honestly to a person how they are operating in terms of the dynamic they are expecting in relating with you. if they are expecting they dominate and you allow it, this dynamic could be so routine, and ingrained as truth in their mind, that they don’t recognize it and might feel forever indebted to you for illuminating a different reality for them. many will also respond with rage toward you for bringing the truth to them, but do not let that deter you. the love being discussed here must be unconditional if it is to have any positive and meaningful effect. people respond differently, and you can expect the deeper ingrained their belief, the sharper and more difficult their response is going to be, but you must love them. it is game over when your consistency is dependent on a person’s response to you.
if you are able to think and do for yourself, yet you attempt to be neutral going along with their version of reality, you are also responsible for the harmful effects. indeed when they were indoctrinated into that ideology, at first their participation was silence as well. none of us were born with our beliefs, we picked them up along our path.
can we choose to love one another as if we both are a blank slate? what stops us from being able to do this?
in feeling white, matias (2016) wrote “conformity to the oppressor group means that one must … mask over the original self that did not at the start of life see itself apart from the rest of humanity” (p. 51). this enforced allegiance to whiteness is treason to humanity (ignatiev). being complicit in this oppressor/oppressed dynamic is being separate from humanity whether you are the oppressed or the oppressor.
when an oppressed person fosters the perception in the oppressor that they are ok with this arrangement, the oppressor and the oppressed create an environment in which children come to witness this dynamic as normal, which then causes them to create truth around it. these pseudo-truths are hard to un-wire as adults. this reality has likely pierced the heart of any person of color who has tried to discuss race with a person claiming whiteness. (i do not affirm the colloquial terms white person or white people here because it would strengthen the false belief that it is natural for one to put their racial allegiance before their humanity and the humanity of others. i can't encourage the perpetuation of this harmful belief, while simultaneously trying to de-construct and dis-allow the effects of it. also phrasing it as such acknowledges the truth that so-called "white people" are not the only ones who claim whiteness and therefore perpetrate oppressive acts onto people from non-dominant groups). a person claiming whiteness, even the most progressively minded, will cling to a narrative of white racial dominance and seek to establish such a dynamic through said conversation which robs the humanity of the person of color, and from all people in the interaction, though to varying degrees.
only when the person claiming whiteness sheds their whiteness can they truly be a part of fostering a new and more healthy social landscape from which our children form truth. in discussing breaking one’s allegiance to whiteness, Matias (2016) writes, “…the more that members of the oppressor group take this action, less powerful is the coalition that gives the oppressor group its power” (p. 51). the collective power we can realize is only in post-whiteness. whiteness, as discussed here, is not one's color of skin but the way they show up in the world. so long as people claiming whiteness cling to white pseudo-power we remain powerless as a broader community as our collective power is greatly diminished. so then we are left with the basic truth that to claim whiteness is to be powerless. to shed whiteness fully is to claim power.