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gifts of whiteness

there are cloaks of shame we all live with—parts of ourselves that hard for us to accept, to love. whiteness is one of these cloaks for me, for our nation, for my Christian faith tradition. i now open-heartedly accept the gifts that it brings. i am grateful for my whiteness.

it’s been a journey. moving from shame to gratitude calls for big doses of forgiveness and compassion.

i’m not new to this rodeo of healing. i’ve journeyed this road before, from shame to gratitude and ultimately to love. and yet this cloak of shame that is whiteness is different. it is not only my personal cloak; it is a collective one. it’s been passed down through generations. it runs deep.

years ago, a friend and colleague rev. nelson pierce was training our organization in institutional racism. he posed the question to our predominantly white team, “how does white supremacy harm you, as white folks?”. he went on to say that until we could answer this question, we would not be ready to join the fight for justice. i had never thought of how i as a white-bodied woman had been harmed by whiteness. how could i dare? it felt…dangerous, threatening, subversive, unacceptable to even consider. me, with all my privilege? and his question carried with it a truth that would not leave me alone. it wormed itself into my being and has been alive in me ever since.

i believe this question promises a way into healing and wholeness that can transform us—not only personally (as it has for me) but collectively.

following this question into my own wounds of whiteness has led me to a reunion with my ancestors. i’ve welcomed them from exile to stand beside me. i’ve learned how they long for forgiveness, love, freedom. following this question has gifted me insight into all the ways i turn away from my suffering and turn my gaze to others’. i’ve learned and felt all the ways i separate myself—internally, from others, from God. how can i be present to others—love an other—when i do not fully love my whole self? following this question has led me back to my own Christian faith tradition. i’m finding myself reclaiming the teachings of Jesus and the scripture, my faith in Spirit strengthening everyday. following this question has revealed me to what it means to experience love without condition, and what it asks of us in the process: surrender, faith, trust.

following Nelson’s question into the wounds of whiteness has returned me to my whole self, to God, to love. i had been right: it is a dangerous, threatening, subversive, unacceptable question. it is all these things because it is radical. it is liberating. it frees us from the bounds of this human world and opens us to the spiritual one. it’s turns the cloak of shame that is whiteness into a gift that evolves us.

i believe the medicine is in the poison. the healing is in the wound.

and i am grateful for the gifts of whiteness, and the healing those wounds offer.

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