Thursday, July 28, 2016

Waking Up White: Thursday's Reflection

Yes, at times reading Waking Up White And Finding Myself in
the Story of Race by Debby Irving felt like an assignment. More than once when I slotted time for reading, I first turned to a novel selected for pleasure and when I did pick up my "assignment," I could only read two or three chapters in one sitting. The problem wasn't long chapters nor was the problem that the book isn't well-written. It is not only well-written, but it is profoundly thought-provoking, and that was the problem. 

Did I really want to uncover all the ways I have lived so unconsciously in my bubble of privilege? (It's a BIG bubble, by the way.) Do I really want to work hard to change the way I think and interact? Do I really want to engage in such massive and long-lived problems and run the risk of offending others and more than likely embarrass myself? Truth be told, not so much. 

Reading this book became a "should" in my life. A "should" just at the chapter in my life when I am letting go of any number of "shoulds" I have imposed on myself. 

Our congregation selected this book as its "Summer Read," and a number of groups are meeting throughout the summer to discuss it, as they continue reading it. I opted not to do that, not wanting another obligation, I told myself. But really I didn't want to work so hard and the kind of learning and conversations about this kind of learning is work. And takes courage. Opportunities to discuss the book will continue into the fall, so it's not too late, and I intend to participate. 

Now that I have finally finished reading it, I feel as if I need to turn to page one and begin reading it all over again. My first reading awakened me to my white privilege--something I have previously only understood as a vague concept out there, but I am beginning to understand how I have been wrapped in that privilege all my life. I am beginning to listen differently, to see differently, but trust me, this is a process, and I have a long way to go to change how I have always understood the way of the world. 

I could quote many lines and share many stories from this book, but instead I implore you to read this book yourself--to discover yourself in this book. (Interestingly, I just realize my assumption that my audience is white. Now what do I do about that?) And when you have finished it, encourage someone else to read it and then have a conversation about it. 

This morning I read an article, "Waking Up to Whiteness" by a Zen Buddhist priest Gary Snyder and he gave me a way to begin to integrate what I am uncovering in myself and my white world.
                   When we notice our minds assuming anything
                    about anyone based on race, we can stop doing
                    whatever we are doing, note that the thought has
                    occurred, and allow the realization that our mind
                    is conditioned racially to fully sink in before 
                    moving on. It is important to keep in mind that
                    taking responsibility here looks like upright
                    resolve, not self condemnation.

Slowing down, waking up, noticing and being aware is a good place to start. 

An Invitation
Read this book. I would love to know what rises within you. 

Waking Up White by Debby Irving
Gloria Dei Summer Read
Waking Up to Whiteness by Gary Snyder 


  1. It's on my list, Mom, although I'm not really looking forward to it. Which probably says something about my white privilege. But I know it's important. I'm wondering if the youth group is reading this at all - it would be neat to be part of a discussion group with young people in it . . .


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