My fellow white people, let's please talk about the "white" lie we've been fed since birth. Because if we don't, we will all have blood on our hands. And before you get upset with me, know that the "change" we need to commit to really isn't that hard.
The lie of "whiteness" is ancient, which is why we can't even see it in ourselves. It's like the nose on our face, we rarely contemplate or take a step back to look critically at the world we've built. Look carefully and you will find evidence of this lie in every corner of your life.
For me the lie first became apparent when I lived in the southern states as a kid. In my American kindergarten class, the lie was fed to me quite openly when my Baptist school teacher talked about how whites are more worthy, but only if we followed the word of God. Being from Canada I wasn't used to so much blatant racism. Canadians have a reputation for being polite and passive, but no one talks about how our racism is just underground compared to the US.
When we moved back to Canada, the "white" lie was fed to me by my Grandfather when he said there were too many immigrants and that he was disgusted by their presence. Yet, in his early years, he fought against the Nazi’s in Germany.
I said to him, “but Grandpa, didn’t the Nazi’s say the same words? And didn’t you help to stop him?”
“Ack, that was different,” he’d say.
The lie was there when I got older and made new black and brown friends, and I was told by white people within and outside of my family, that they weren’t “like us.”
The lie was still there when I began my career as a young adult, and I was told not to include multi-racial families in a health education strategy. They said it was because they didn’t represent your “average home-grown family.”
How have we allowed this lie to continue?
Simple — because we believe it; because it works, and because it’s woven into the structure of every mundane aspect of our white lives. Also, because we opt for the easy road rather than the challenge of self-awareness, tough conversations, and owning our part. We’d prefer to retreat into our fragility, guilt, and self-pity over the responsibility of becoming better people.
We also opt to call “blame” whenever someone utters the word responsibility — because to speak of responsibility is like kryptonite for the lie, which feels like a “disturbing of the peace.”
Sometimes we hate how we feel about the lie, so we try to be an “ally.” But we do so without doing the work of going inwards to find the cellular threads where the lie has attached itself and corroded our thoughts and beliefs. Also, instead of doing the work of cleaning and repairing the damage of whiteness, we flip it back to others who shouldn’t have to clean up our crap. Whiteness places itself at the top of the food chain, like a mutated predator, who’s lost what it means to live in balance and equality with its surroundings.
The lie is fed to us by a grotesque sense of “tradition” that we think is cute or family-like. We talk about the good old days when things were more “simple.” Yet, we look past the hatred of anything other than whiteness, that underpins that “simplicity.” We don’t educate our children about the facts, we change the story to cover the truth, we refuse to learn something new, and we burn down history in favor of the all-consuming big fat “white” lie. We refuse to change or grow out of this lie because after all, it’s just so easy to stay at the top and enjoy our, so-called, peace.
We love the lie so much that we eat it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner every day. In fact, some of us love it so much that we’re willing to kill others for it. Some of us believe that anything not white is unpalatable, will take our jobs, and is waiting for us behind every dark corner. So we believe the lie is like an inoculation that wards off the “bogey-man.”
We believe this lie so much that we can’t even see that it’s actually us, white people, hiding in those dark corners.
I will not eat this lie anymore. I will keep digging within to extract its poison from my cells, even if it takes a lifetime. It is an ancestral and generational lie, and it will keep going until we do the hard work of divorcing ourselves from it.
How do we do this? Simple - just look deeper. Just stop for a minute and step outside of yourself and your life. Use the skills we were all born with as humans - the ability to see life from a different perspective, the ability to look critically at what information has been fed to us. Go out and meet people that are not like you, but more so, do it without judgement. No one is perfect and those who've been hurt by the "white" lie are struggling to make sense of a world that has never treated them fairly. They are angry and coping with generational PTSD. Is it our personal fault? No. However, if we perpetuate this lie and harm others because of it, then yes, we are responsible for hurting other people.
Doing the work is challenging yes, but not hard. It only requires sitting with ourselves for a while and looking at the ways that we were taught to perpetuate this lie. The challenge is in letting go of the false fear that something bad will happen to us if we stop centering whiteness in our lives. We may believe this fear to be true, but we have to work harder to unpack this. It's no one elses responsibility except for ours.
The world is shifting, we can all feel it. Change is coming whether we like it or not. We've had many moments in history where we've been shown how important it is to do this work, yet we keep running from it. But this time, we must do this work. We do the work, not because of guilt, or to appear “good,” but for goodness’ sake.
Because it is the only right thing to do.