A Conscious Choice

I wanted to share an exchange I had on a racial dialog group I am active in. I referred to the societal programming of white people to believe they’re white and that it makes them better than others. An astute moderator called me out and said basically that I shouldn’t give a pass to people by using language that removes the conscious choices people make. Saying people are “programmed” absolves them of complicity by making their decision not to resist the status quo a passive one as opposed to something they’re actively doing. I love this group because of the direct way moderators call people out on things like this. We need more of that, or we need more white people willing to hear call outs and not get defensive.

My framework for the “awakening” process for white people has been rooted in the Man Box concept, as I learned it from Tony Porter via his anti-sexism work. To apply it here… all white people are born in the White Box. For generations, nobody even knew there was a box there. Over time, some folks started being aware of the box, then opening the lid, poking their heads out, now some folks are finally starting to try to climb out (I don’t think anybody is out, and I’m not sure it’s even possible right now given the way our society is structured).

So I guess this means to me that there are some (most?) white people who are still oblivious that the box is even there. And then various stages of denial, guilt, shame, ignorance, awareness, acceptance, resistance, etc. So ignorance isn’t an excuse but it is a real condition and, like in AA you have to admit there’s a problem. I’ve always called it programming because that assumes that one can be reprogrammed. You admit that society has taught you a way of being and start working to unlearn and relearn a better way.

What does this bring up for you? What has your racial awakening process looked like? Where are you now versus how you were taught as a kid? Did the things you were taught perpetuate racism? Were you taught that everyone is equal and now feel like that did as much damage as being taught to be actively racist?

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