The Culture of Whiteness

RubyA Ruby Sales Ted Talk? Hell yes. This is just an excerpt. Watch and listen to the entire talk here.

Now that we’ve touched the hurt, we must ask ourselves, “Where does it hurt and what is the source of the hurt?” I propose that we must look deeply into the culture of whiteness. That is a river that drowns out all of our identities and drowns us in false uniformity to protect the status quo.

Notice, everybody, I said “culture of whiteness,” and not “white people.” Because in my estimation, the problem is not white people. Instead, it is the culture of whiteness. And by culture of whiteness, I mean a systemic and organized set of beliefs, values, canonized knowledge and even religion, to maintain a hierarchical, over-and-against power structure based on skin color, against people of color. It is a culture where white people are seen as necessary and friendly insiders, while people of color, especially black people, are seen as dangerous and threatening outsiders, who pose a clear and present danger to the safety and the efficacy of the culture of whiteness.

Listen to me and see if you can imagine the culture of whiteness as a dehumanizing process that melts away all of our multiple and interlocking identities, such as race, class, gender and sexualities, so that … so that unity is maintained for power.

I believe, because I know and believe that the culture of whiteness is a social construct. Each of us, from birth to death, are socialized in this culture. And it marks people of color also. And it makes people of color, like white people, vote against our interests. Some of you might ask — and my students always tell me I give hard assignments — some of you might ask, and rightfully so, “How do we fix this? It seems so all-powerful and overwhelming.” I believe that we must fix it, because we cannot humanize our future if we continue to be complicit with the culture of whiteness. Each of us must connect with our authentic selves, with our authentic ethnic selves. And we must connect with the other aspects of our identities. And we must move out of the constructs of whiteness, brownness and blackness to become who we are at our fullest.

How do we do this? I believe that we do this through our collective narratives. And our collective narratives must contain our individual stories, the arts, spiritual reflections, literature, and yes, even drumming.

It must be a collective telling, because individual stories just create a paradigm where we are pitting one story against another story. These different models that I have talked about tonight I think are essential to providing us a pathway out of the quagmire of racism.

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