shedding whiteness practice: the trauma of whiteness

[Note: This is a series of posts related to topics I’ve shared with other white people. Some are lessons I’ve learned (almost always from Black, Indigenous, or Latinx people) and some are just about the journey of doing my best to shed whiteness to the best of ability at the present moment.]

I’ve learned recently that because I live with PTSD, that is, I have experienced trauma in my life (unrelated to racism), I need to learn skills to sort out which fears are related to old traumas (unrelated to racism), and which fears (dissociating, “leaving my body”) are related to the trauma that whiteness requires of me.

Last week, I experienced deep and nearly dissociative terror throughout my body in just imagining breaking the rules of whiteness. This was in a guided process facilitated by one of the instructors in the “Embodied Social Justice” program. The terror was so deep, it was almost exactly like symptoms of PTSD. It has become clear to me that to shed whiteness, I need also to strengthen my skills related to those other traumas. I want to know what is old, part of my story, and what is because of whiteness (something I share with other white people.

To be a white person who won’t harm Black, Indigenous, and other people of color and who can effectively play a part in our collective liberation, I must break through those terrifying barriers that prevent me from staying present with myself. Whiteness is so powerful. But, together, we can be more powerful.

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