Inviting Discomfort

I am asking myself important questions and editing myself today.

Am I that White liberal so dangerous to the social justice movement required for equity?

I am digging deep to think about this and working on my willingness to take criticism from all corners. Just believing in equity while not standing for it, while not taking criticism for one’s representation is not enough. So, I am inviting discomfort in the process of learning.

Today, I was challenged by another White educator whom I respect and admire. And, going through the process of examining my representation, of recognizing her concerns and the intent of her advocacy, helped me acknowledge my need to edit, reflect, and keep what is core to my identity.

I should back up and explain what happened. I invited her through Instagram to a book club happening in my school district on Me and White Supremacy. I emailed her the plan for study and sharing, but she declined and then emailed me later in the week with concerns about my avatar, (she felt it was deceptive because she couldn’t tell that I am White) the name of this blog (she felt it offensive to a Black person reading it) and her concerns that White people should not be giving workshops on Black educator’s books. I knew she didn’t have the background about our district book study, which was not a workshop in any sense, but the emails continued back and forth between us as we struggled to understand one another, as we struggled to process our place in this work.

I thought about what she was reading in the representation of my social media and quickly changed my avatar to reflect my Whiteness. She was right and I need to fully disclose my White identity.

I then thought about the title of this blog which has gone from “reflecting on recreation” (re-creation as in creating my life over) to “thinking in a White room” and the reason that I changed it was specifically to acknowledge my White privilege. She contacted me again by email pointing out that my tagline was not evident. I had just recently changed the style of my blog and the tagline had disappeared so I changed it back to what it once was, thankful that she pointed this out, but I still felt discomfort.

I went for a run feeling a sense of uneasiness and resumed my current audiobook, Me and White Supremacy written and narrated by Layla F. Saad. I listened to “day 4: YOU AND WHITE SILENCE”.

“What is White silence? White silence is exactly what it sounds like. It is when people with white privilege stay complicitly silent when it comes to issues of race and white supremacy…White silence is also a defending of the status quo of white supremacy – a manifestation of holding on to white privilege…on the surface, white silence seems benign.”

Saad goes on to point out that “white silence is violence. It actively protects the system.”

I have spent the past four weeks listening intently to the words of Kike Ojo-Thompson and working to internalize her ideas – “disrupt, dismantle, and shift” in favour of racialized students and away from the privileged. Just as I needed to claim my identity in my avatar, my representation to the world, I am claiming my identity on my blog. I can never escape thinking from a White body and this blog is an acknowledgement of this – I am a work in progress and I make mistakes. But silence is worse.

I am also thankful that this educator who has nearly 48 thousand followers emailed me privately with her concerns rather than publically taking me to task on social media. I am working on “holding myself in healthy distrust” realizing my learning is never done and inviting the discomfort.

 

Published by Melanie White

I am an English and Media Studies teacher, and Department Head of Fine Arts at Nepean High School in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. I am concerned with equity and antiracist practices while recognizing that I am speaking from a position of privilege and continuing to learn.

13 thoughts on “Inviting Discomfort

  1. I admire your vulnerability in publishing your slice about your soul searching and being called out. This is messy work. While I have no critique on what is right/wrong in this situation, your battle did make me think of this Instagram post: https://www.instagram.com/p/CBIruCWFUHI/ . Thank you for setting an example for others to continue to look inward!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Meg and I did see that post! That is also kind to say that I am setting an example – the journey is both in and out and back again, over and over as we unlearn the racist ideologies of history.

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  2. I believe you are further along on this journey of finding out how whiteness is part of our identities than I am. There is so much work to do and it’s hard to know where to start. That must be my entry into the discomfort-not knowing. I was relieved this morning when I had some insight into a recent experience with my black students and was lead to a way that I might be able to take postitive action. I feel like I’m in the middle of a terrible emergency and I’m standing there not knowing what to do while everyone else is flying in all these different directions. Thank you for sharing your experience and pointing out that having a growth mindset is probably the first and most important step to take.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I love this imagery- “I feel like I’m in the middle of a terrible emergency and I’m standing there not knowing what to do while everyone else is flying in all these different directions.” There is so much to develop from this image. I’m glad you found insight for the Black students.

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  3. It’s a uncomfortable place that we find ourselves in now. We are on the journey and trying to learn and adapt as quickly as we can. Though I love media, it makes dialogue so difficult at times. Your vulnerability will lead you forward. We are all learning together.

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  4. You are so right about the narrowness of media platforms which paradoxically present as mass communication tools but confine meaning. Media literacy is so important now and necessary for systemic change.

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  5. Hi Melanie, thank you very much for your grace. I think many of us are struggling with “getting it right” and while my journey of self-discovery has just begun, from what I have read and understood so far, white people will likely never get there: it is an ongoing effort and life-long journey to be an anti racist. Full disclosure: I was recently called out for performative allyship by a black friend of mine (very publicly on SM) which was humiliating but I am grateful for it now because it launched me into serious self-discovery mode, trying to understand how I could have got it so wrong. Prior to this event, I honestly believed that I was not racist. I understand now that by being white, it is impossible to avoid being inherently racist and that we have to work really hard to unlearn what we have experienced from the day we were born. I have been reading, listening, watching and absorbing as much as I can and I’m lucky to have the time to to do that as I am a retired. I love your idea of a book club for “Me and White Supremacy”. I’m sure it will be beneficial for everyone who gets involved. However, I want to learn from and surround myself with BIPOC at this point in my journey. Their voices are who I want to hear from now and I hope that your book club members will make an effort to do so as well. Thank you for all that you do!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Your reflection, your ability to accept questioning & respond, is important here. You are able to share what you are doing right & where you need to improve. I know this weighed on you; I’m glad to see that you are growing with it.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I appreciate this post, Melanie. There’s so much to chew on here. It’s important to see examples of how we can respond when we are questioned or called in. Making mistakes is inevitable. We have to become comfortable with that whole process of being questioned, called in/out, sitting with the discomfort, and then reading, reflecting, learning, so we can do a little better.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I’m visiting this post from my reader & will now need to look at the blog header on my computer! What an interesting exchange. Interesting that you both engaged in a difficult conversation. That’s what this whole thing is about!

    Liked by 1 person

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