I have been thinking a lot about self love. About loving all of who I am in order to love another. There’s a song that’s been in my head for the last two days that I first heard being sung at the spiritual center/church I go to. It’s simple, 4 lines:
I love myself so much,
So I can love you so much,
So you can love you so much,
So you can start loving me.
I had the song stuck in my head last night and then woke up this morning singing it too. While singing it on repeat for a while, it struck me how challenging over the years it has been to love my whiteness. It has been the missing link for me in my work towards loving every part of who I am.
When I was younger I felt like loving my whiteness would make me racist because loving my culture meant to love white privilege. I didn’t understand the difference because nobody talked to me about it. And to love the recognition that my life is treated as more important than another’s due to the color of my skin was and is disturbing to say the least. I also didn’t have any context to what white culture really was outside of the historical legacy that I was deeply ashamed to be connected to. My mom was from England and didn’t hold the same historical context in her ancestry than my dad did, but England has it’s own colonial and white supremacist history. But it was with my mom that I felt much more connected to a cultural identity outside of the bland and confusing white culture that I had been born into. In my confusion, I decided to just focus on loving myself as the person I am inside my skin like my compassion, my humor, my intelligence, my wit, my depth, my joy, my emotions etc. And this has worked for a while…. but it doesn’t cover my fullness. There are aspects of myself that are missing. And there are parts of who I am that are very culturally connected and I am grateful for. Loving these parts of myself does not mean I love white supremacy, and this is the love I am working on expanding.
I have said in my writings before that I am often in spaces with a very strong Black presence. Many of my closest friends, comrades, co-workers, students, etc are Black. Many of them have a strong love for their culture, their people and their Blackness. It is inspiring and beautiful. I am often in awe of what that would feel like. I don’t just see this cultural love with friends of African descent, but of all racial and cultural backgrounds, except my white friends. I have thought many times that this lack of pride I had for my people was just one of the consequences of a history of white supremacy. That in exchange for white privilege, we unconsciously gave up this possibility, this ability to have deep pride for our people.
Some of the reasons for this comes from my understanding of how “Black” and “white” culture has been formed. A lot of “Black” culture comes from the ways people have survived and developed a culture of resilience in the face of severe abuse and oppression, control and attempted genocide. The depth of connection and valuing community and family in the face of so much societal hate and fear. “Black” culture is the beauty of the rose that has been forced to grow between the cracks of the concrete. Before “Black” culture, African people’s culture was connected to location, land, village/ tribe, family, etc. Before “white” culture, European people’s culture was connected to location, land, village/ tribe, family, etc. From the unfolding of this country, there has emerged cultures based on skin color, and specifically with people of African and European ancestry, neither group has any connection to ancestral land. One group having had choice, with the other group having been forced. From this history, Black and white culture emerges. White culture begins to emerge from an identity with irrational and false superiority, domination and violence.
But my yearning for a feeling of deep and full self love, I am brought to question whether the lack of love white people have for our culture is a major obstacle to transforming and healing the racial wounds we experience (this concept of white people having wounds from racism may be a new idea for some. It’s the idea that there is a cost to racism that white people experience. Whenever there is a harm, it is not just the person or people being harmed who get hurt. But the person or people causing the harm are also hurt by it). If white people could find more love for ourselves, for our whiteness (the parts that are not about oppression, privilege and supremacy), would we be more available to love others in their fullness and not take aspects of other people’s culture in order to feel connected to something? White culture is infamous (among POC communities) for being cultural appropriators. Although this is frustrating and problematic, I understand where it comes from. I have written previous blogs about this phenomena so I’m not going to go into detail about it now but I believe this is a result of not knowing how to love a culture that is so rooted in superiority, dominance and violence.
When two people meet from different cultures and both people have love for themselves, they are able to share in each other’s greatness without any jealousy, any need to diminish the other person’s fullness. In these connections, there is true cultural appreciation and sharing and space for both people to express themselves in their full cultural selves without shame or hiding. I am in a high school and I am constantly aware of how students of color get shut down and even penalized for being in their full cultural selves. Our educational structures, and many of the people who work in them, are based in white culture and this culture becomes seen and held as the norm and people who don’t fit into it are pushed out or shut down. This topic is broken down in more depth and fullness in my upcoming training, “Dissecting Whiteness in Urban Education,”
So what is white culture outside of white supremacy? And what can I love about it? What parts of myself that clearly come from my cultural upbringing can I whole heartedly love? I thought about doing another facebook series of 100 days of loving my whiteness…. which not only felt weird due to the language of it, but I’m worried I wouldn’t be able to find 100 things….
Will the deepening of my self love, which includes love for my whiteness, allow me to have deeper relationships with people of color in my life. I think it will. I think it will for all of us. I think, as the song says, if “I love myself so much so that I can love you so much so that you can love you so much so that you can start loving me.”
So, I start here. And just to be clear, saying these cultural aspects are rooted in white culture, does not mean other cultures don’t also hold these values.
- I love my culture for teaching me to love nature and the natural environment.
- I love my culture for teaching me to love salads and raw fruits and vegetables.
- I love my culture for teaching me to value traveling.
I’m still working on it…. I would love to hear from anyone reading this about what you love and appreciate about white culture…..