50 Shades of White
Behold this diverse assembly of white, ghost white, baby powder, smoke, snow, ivory, floral white, seashell, cream and beige. They have gathered here today to navel gaze and commandeer the concept of diversity, to ascribe to their wide array of whiteness a vast variety of virtues which serve to separate white sheep from the goats of many colors oblivious to the fact that they can only be distinguished by the kind of melanin they have in their skin. They are a most heterogeneous throng of parchment, antique white, bone, eggshell, vanilla, alabaster, chiffon, merino wool, rose white, and half and half. Listen as whitesplainers whitesplain their whitecentric theology of a white God created in their white image who miraculously sires a white antisemitic Jesus from a Jewish peasant woman to call white people to spread a white gospel of white makes right to a white world washed white as snow. Take a sober look at this mutual admiration society of coconut, frost, linen, rice, powder, pearl, titan white, white dove, white diamond and dazzling winter white. Listen to the white whispers of a white-skewed world view of white supremacy reining supreme, white politics and white socioeconomic policies as the way to make America great again, “replacement theory” as the replacement theory for critical race theory, and nothing at all about black history long ago whitewashed from the American history textbooks they read as school children. What we have here is a rainbow coalition of simply white, oyster white, milk, natural white, vivid white, cascading white, cotton ball, whitewash, bright white, and brilliant white. There must be 50 shades of white – swan white, polar bear, paper white, delicate white, cake batter, white sand, stone white, retro white, white chocolate and white on white. They vow to own the libs, this diverse assembly of white alt-right, white radical right, white far-right, white ultra-right, and white extreme right, now mainstreamed alongside the silent and complicit white conservative right. Watch as their blizzard of whiteness ushers them into a whiteout and they go snow-blind, unaware that a new ice age has begun in their frozen hearts now entombed by the glaciers within. Listen as they sing “Jesus Loves the Little Children” with not a red, yellow, black or brown child to be found among them. Span the rainbow. Behold the children. All of their colors are white.
Change the Subject to Race
Change the subject to race in a room of white faces in a deep red state and watch blank faces with glassy eyes take over a tension-filled room. Listen as the quiet speaks and grows louder and louder until the silence itself is deafening. False equivalencies begin to drop like rain. No dog whistle interpreter necessary. The surreal is the new real for anyone wearing blinders. “The white cop may have been trigger happy, but look at the checkered past of the unarmed black man.” “Maybe if the unarmed black man wouldn’t have been struggling to breathe, the white cop wouldn’t have believed he was resisting arrest or kept his knee on his neck for 9 minutes and 29 seconds.” “We wouldn’t need more restrictive voting laws which we call election integrity, and others call voter suppression, if black voters weren’t committing so damn much voter fraud.” So it goes. Blue Lives Matter eclipses Black Lives Matter as if a job is equivalent to a human life. As if a job equals a human life. White Lives Matter steals the stage as if white folks have ever doubted that white lives matter. Not to be outdone, All Lives Matter grabs the mic, glosses over black lives with all lives even though black lives have never really mattered to so many who have never lived black lives. Read the room. The tension can be cut with a knife. Discomfort reaches critical mass. Artful redirection is on deck. Comic relief is waiting in the wings. So it goes. And so it goes. I don’t want to say this. I naively believed we were becoming a post-racial society. I was wrong. We are becoming an Orwellian post-truth society. Where is the courage to love those who don’t look like us? Let the vulnerability hangover come. I am white. Take my heart. Break it. Paint it black.
Ghost Me Again
A poker face will not hide you forever, and you can’t just co-opt a moment of silence as an alibi for donning an invisibility cloak every time you feel uncomfortable. We are no longer toddlers playing hide-and-seek, believing we can hide in plain sight by placing our hands over eyes, as if you can’t see me if I can’t see you. There you are. I see you. The truth about how we come to know and be known is self-evident and eternal. We cannot NOT communicate. We are all responsible for our own communication. Everything we say, everything we don’t say, everything we do, everything we don’t do communicates something. When our neighbor is profiled, stereotyped, slandered because of how he looks, or who she loves, and you say nothing, your reticence outs you, gives you away. Your silence is deafening. When decency calls for something to be done, nobody gets to say, “Why are you looking at me? I didn’t do anything!” As if not doing anything when something needs to be done serves as a not guilty plea. Inactions, like actions, speak louder than words. Do you honestly believe that your sins of omission will not find you out? Didn’t you get the memo? It’s not just the bad things we do. It’s the good things we don’t. Complicity masquerading as innocence is cowardice placing personal privilege above the needs of those who are marginalized, disenfranchised, oppressed, dehumanized, ostracized as “other,” brutalized, erased. You may say with sincerity, “I went into fight-flight-freeze,” and I froze. There is no shame in fear. We just can’t establish permanent residence there. It comes down to this: Define or be defined. The power of self-definition is our first and last power. Our very lives can be taken from us. The power to define ourselves must be given away to be lost. Who will define you? Who will define your legacy? Ghost me again, the next time I am counting hearts, and I might get the impression that you don’t have one.
©2022 Todd Matson
All rights reserved
…is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in North Carolina. He has written poetry for The Journal of Pastoral Care & Counseling, Soul-Lit: A Journal of Spiritual Poetry, and his short stories have been published in Ariel Chart International Literary Journal and Faith, Hope and Fiction. He has also written lyrics for songs recorded by a number of contemporary Christian music artists, including Brent Lamb, Connie Scott and The Gaither Vocal Band.