Friday, March 9, 2012

Souls of White Folks

Participants & Teachers
Several months ago I received an email advertising the class, "Souls of White Folks" sponsored by Mecklenburg Ministries. Since my sister had challenged me to understand how white privilege might impact my work-in-progess Half-Truths, I enrolled. 

Along with my classmates and teachers, we have explored the following topics:

  • choice and access to services
  • divisions caused by race and economics
  • awareness of who we live, work, and socialize with
  • white shame 
  • the difference between patronage and partnership
  • safety in private and public places
  • the cost of racism
  • differences and similarities
  • fears and assumptions
  • cross-cultural connections
Last week we were encouraged to write a prayer, a personal response to the class, or to record what we hoped to remember. One of my classmates, Tom E. Bowers, wrote this:

I am a racist. When we meet, I always notice color.

I am not a racist. When we connect, I don't notice color because I care about you and what's happening in our world.

A young thin white male store clerk handling a return asked unanswerable questions required by the store. The nearby middle-aged, heavyset black employee keyed in what the store system  required and instructed the clerk how to proceed. I was surprised. Shame on me.

I am a racist until we connect at a level of sharing thoughts and feelings with interest and caring for each other. 

I wrote this poem:

who you are,
and where you have come from.
You have gifts
that you have not even recognized as gifts.
You have taken for granted your skin
your privilege
your heritage
your safety in coming and going
your lack of fear.
You have not had to fight
or work,
for these gifts.

those who have
lived without a battle
because they were born
shades darker than yourself.
Brown, at times,
was not beautiful.
But was mocked
discriminated against.

Is that history in each
black person you meet?
Maybe yes,
Maybe no.
But know that
somewhere in their family
a mother, father
aunt, or grandfather--
did not have the
same gifts as you.

For a thought-provoking article on white privilege, read Peggy McIntosh's article, "White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Backpack."


Linda Phillips said...


Another great poem. Keep it up!

Jean said...

Thought provoking to say the least, Carol.


Jean said...

Thought provoking to say the least, Carol.


Linda A. said...

Congratulations on opening yourself to experience this.

Linda A.

Edupreneur said...

Piercing poem. Have I already recommended "The Warmth of Other Suns" by Isabel Wilkerson? It is the story of The Great Migration of African Americans from 1917 to 1970, and provides a knowledge base for your historic novel.

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks, friends, for your comments. I hadn't heard of "The Warmth of Other Suns." Will have to look it up.

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