I just finished reading the play “The White Card” by Claudia Rankine. In her introduction, she states that the play took shape after a white man asked her, a black woman, a question at her poetry reading. He asked, “What can I do for you? How can I help you?”
To which she answered, “I think the question you should be asking is what you can do for you.”
The play explores theme of white saviorism and the many ways liberal white people may read all the “right books” and know all the “right terms” and yet what prevails is this dominant need for white people to “be right” and to imagine black people as always having needs that white people can heal.
We often don’t ask, “What is my need as a white person?” Not as a way to center in a conversation, but as an internal excavation. We often don’t ask this question in racial terms.
As I’ve seen the abortion vote occur in Alabama & Georgia–the focus is mainly on the cis white men who voted for the bill, but not on the white woman who sponsored the bill and the white female governor who signed it into law.
White women in particular want gender to be visible, but not whiteness. White women would like to present the fact that the women’s movement is united across race, when it isn’t.
May we follow the lead of black women who have been organizing around reproductive justice-and donate to their work! (Alicia Garza suggests Arc-Southeast, SPARK, Women’s Feminist Health Care Center.)
What is my need as a white person? I keep sitting with this question. It’s to know that if an immediate “What can I do?” question surfaces out of urgency, I need to ground and remember that black, indigenous & people of color have been doing this work forever. My urgency & lack of education does not help. It’s to know that I often lack historical grounding, and I need to educate myself. I can donate to local, grassroots organizations. I can follow the lead of people of color leading this work and discern my gifting and my limits. I can ask myself, “Is this work mine to do?” I can speak openly, I can direct others to these BIPOC orgs doing the work, I can speak with those in my spheres. I can stay in my lane. I can admit that I don’t know.
This work is both political & spiritual. Justice cannot be extracted from the spiritual realm.
So what can I do for me?
I can speak to the necessity for a spirituality that is grounded in justice as a spiritual director. I can read books, watch films, listen to music created by BIPOC. I can re-learn history from BIPOC historians. I can give my white students books to read that do not center their racial imagination & we can talk about it together. I can talk to other white people. I can accept that my own growth and unfolding is mysterious; it’s in giving up control. It’s about always changing and evolving. I can know that healing happens when my needs are not centered.
I can linger in this question when I don’t have any “answers” at all. I can regulate in my nervous system, be in my body, rest & experience pleasure.
And for all those who have been triggered deeply this past week, so much love. May pleasure and healing be yours.