Thursday, July 1, 2010

The White Mind

My little boy loves to read. I'm happy about that. I have TONS of books from the biggies - our bookshelves are packed with oldies but goodies. But this go-round is different. I've allways believed it is important for my children (and all children) to read books with characters from all places and of all colors. But I gotta say, I "see" books differently with Blueberry - I "see" the images of the characters with such a keen eye. My "white eye" just won't tolerate the reality that my son is going to struggle to see himself in our literate lives.

Tonight I read this fabulous piece by Anne Sibley O'Brien. Anne is a children's book writer and illustrator. She writes a blog, too. She introduces her notion of the White Mind as  "the patterns formed by white American socialization...I do not mean conscious prejudice or racist attitudes. It is not what you believe, what you intend, the values you are committed to or how you choose to behave. I’m speaking instead of the unconscious patterns that result from social conditioning as the dominant and majority race in the U.S."

Bingo! You MUST read this piece - she really gets the ideas of white privilege, of the normativeness of white culture, and the struggles that children of color have in locating themselves in literature. I feel so lucky to be amidst people who get it - who see it - who strive to do the work to reflect ALL of our children to the world.

For real, I needed this tonight. I had a helluva day the other day chasing down a seriously ill-informed person and rallying my allies to help me respond in an instructive and gentle way - district stuff - again. So head shaking frustration welcomes Anne Sibley O'Brien into my white mind.

When you are done reading about The White Mind, follow up with this post on her blog. If I hear, "there is only one race, the human race" one more time, I might scream. Screaming doesn't work. Yeah. Not good. I'm working hard to really understand, "I don't know what I don't know." Someone shared that thought with me and it has helped me be a more patient and a more generous anti-racist advocate.

Now I'm going to buy some books, because I want Anne Sibley O'Brien to publish more and more!


Karin said...

Her framing of the "White mind" is incredibly insightful and perspective-changing. Thank you for sharing!

For me, what helps me be more patient with racist attitudes is thinking of racial identity development models. None of us is born into the final stages of immersion and autonomy, when we confront our own biases and develop a non-racist identity (for White people, that is); rather, it's a growth process that can be supported or hindered depending on the person's experiences and commitment to growth.

Liz said...

I look at a lot of things differently now than I did before you say, I didn't know what I didn't know.

deborah said...

unconscıous patterns..ı saıd EXACTLY! at that part...thanks for posting this.