Like a Goldfish

There are perhaps a double handful of podcasts that I listen to on a regular basis. This week, I caught wind of John Biewen’s Scene on Radio’s series “Seeing White,” from the  Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University. I binge-listened (is that a thing?) to the first several episodes over the weekend.

You can find the podcast here: http://podcast.cdsporch.org/

Typically, when white people start talking about race in the U.S., we emphasize the racperspective of racial minorities. This strategy is useful, because the experiences of the African-American, Latino, and Asian communities in the U.S. have been vastly downplayed, even outright overlooked, in our teaching of history.

What’s much harder for us to do, as the controversy over Confederate monuments has shown us, is to look directly at the racial history of whiteness. Why do we think of ourselves as “white?” When did we start using that term? (Hint: it wasn’t that long ago). What are the implications of this way of thinking about ourselves? And what does it mean for the people of color who are fellow citizens, neighbors, co-workers, and congregants along with us? The answers to these questions will equip us to love our neighbor.

This isn’t attempt to cause divisions, or to pick at scabs. Rather, it’s an acknowledgment that, for the most part, we give no more thought to the culture of whiteness in America than the goldfish swimming in his bowl, unaware of the water he breathes. Culture is like that for those living inside it. Invisible. Transparent.

What I’m suggesting is that we squint a bit together. Really focus and see what we can learn about the culture that surrounds us. If you want to know more about the history and implications of whiteness in America, I’d recommend this podcast. I warn you: it’s hard. Unflinching. Unwhitewashed, if you will. Some of it may make you angry. Some of it may cause you to weep. Listen anyway. It will be worth it.

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