What is Whiteness? A Provisional Articulation

Council on the WayBy Jim Perkinson

Note: this is a long working definition of Whiteness. Dr. Perkinson laid this down for a committee reflecting in the wake of The Council on the Way (right), an October 2019 gathering of white men envisioning and embodying a redemptive white male theology. The conversation over two days in Washington D.C. was conceived and coached by Ruby Sales, theologian and veteran of the Black Freedom Struggle.

What is whiteness? I would understand the paler shades of skin color that are typically referenced, when the term “whiteness” is used, as a kind of shorthand for a whole social system of infrastructure and expectation, as well as conscious/unconscious identification. It is a system that is rooted in European Christian colonialism taking land on this continent by force (either violent conquest or coercive legal imposition) from indigenous peoples and making much of that land yield “resources” by means of enslaved African peoples (as well as other coerced peoples of color, and to some degree even coerced lower and working class European heritage peoples). Continue reading

Where Does It Hurt?

Council on the WayBy Nathan Holst, a sermon 

O Spirit guide us now, O Spirit guide us now, O Spirit guide us now, in your way, guide us; Spirit guide all of us today as we listen for where you are moving. Amen.

That song by Sara Thomsen is one I used quite a bit at a gathering in Washington DC just last month where 20 white Christian men came together with Ruby Sales, a Black civil rights and freedom movement leader, to talk about a theology of redemption for white men in this time. My friend and colleague, Tommy Airey, invited me to come and be a part of the group that he and Ruby Sales had put together, and partly because Mother Ruby is one of my heroes and because I was drawn to the work, I said yes. When I shared about it with Pastor Kathy, she asked me to preach and share about my experience, so that’s what I intend to do this morning. And as I share, I want to put up a picture of Mother Ruby to honor her and bring her into this space because she was our spiritual guide in this work. Continue reading