On Whiteness… | Todd Matson

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.

Nathan Dumlao
via Unsplash

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

Todd Matson…

…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.


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