Whiteness as an evacuation of Being

This post is meant to be read slowly, and more than once. You may notice that I am moving between and across genres and disciplines. You may notice that I am moving in and out of linearity. These moves are intentional and intentionally unsettling. I invite you to notice what you find rising in your body-mind as you read.

Biologically, all humans are members of the same race

Physiologically, there is no such thing as different human races. The differences in our skin colour, or melanin content, relates to where on the globe our ancestors lived and how close it was to the equator.

Whiteness is created through violent segregation

Race is a construct – alongside others such as caste, gender, and sexual orientation – that has been made use of to violently segregate and exert power over people and shape our material reality. These constructs are founded in the creation of binaries which allow othering and superiority. Whiteness was created in the USA in the 1600s; other constructions such as caste, gender, and sanity have evolved over centuries.

Whiteness is defined by what it disowns

Being white means we are not Black; we are white because we are not Black. We are white not only in the way our skin pigmentation dictates, but also to the extent that we participate in a collective delusion of whiteness and white supremacy that shapes the world we inhabit and warps our perceptions.

Where I live, having less melanin in our skin buys us many unearned privileges, safety, and a lot of comfort. Not all white people participate in whiteness to the same degree, and not everyone who participates in whiteness is physiologically white. Whiteness relies on Blackness – just as civilization relies on savagery – to define itself.

The basis of whiteness is lack; the MO of whiteness is consuming

Our whiteness is also the trace of our people, who lost their indigeneity centuries ago in Europe and have been made sick by that loss ever since. Because of this sickness, we accept the violent sleep of superiority. Because of our lack, we are driven to consume other beings and “things.”

This consumption is an attempt to ameliorate the lack built into us – the losses and violence whiteness is created out of – without having to face them first. We can see the impulse to bypass our lack and violence in premature calls for reconciliation with First Nations peoples or the descendants of slaves without first addressing the truths of white supremacy that our nations are founded on. We try to bypass these difficult truths because white people are so terrified of what is (not) inside us, we are destroying the world rather than facing ourselves.

Our violent reactivity in the face of being told these facts has been called “white fragility”

In order to undo our fragility, we must face

that our privilege is the evacuation of our humanity;

that individualism robs us of all our relations;

that the more special and elevated we seek to be, the more sick we become;

that every “inanimate thing” we own is another god we cannot see;

that every chosen step down the ladder of status brings us closer to wholeness.

There is no short-cut, no bypass, no feel-good way to reckon with our embodied histories. They must be encountered and the pain of them endured in order to be transformed. There is no reconciliation without truth, and no healing without pain.

Only if we truly and repeatedly humble ourselves to our nonhuman kin, the trees, waters, and rocks, will we approach what it means to be “Indigenous,” worthy of the land and gods and cured of our superiority which is killing us, rendering us mere separate humans instead of pieces of infinity, the stars.

The problem is that anything that invites us to truly face these realities with our bodies and not merely as ideas will register as a threat. It will land as abstract (a “nice idea”), funny/odd, or frightening, maybe downright insane, depending on what binaries we are attached to – logic vs illogic; human vs nature; science vs religion; self vs world.

This is because our very (white) “sanity” is predicated on these segregations remaining in place, and the collapse of the binaries is an existential threat to all the constructs that they give shape to, including whiteness.

Towards a liberated psychotherapy

As most of us have been trained to practice, therapy comes out of whiteness and its binaries. For example, for me to help you in the traditional sense, I have to other you – see you as fundamentally separate from myself – which is in its essence is a harmful distortion of the truth. If we are separate, I become an expert and help you as part of my superiority; I split off the shadows inside me and place them “out there” in you, to save and fix.

In a liberated therapy, one that transcends whiteness, the therapist will not be the agent of change, and the self will not be the recipient or beneficiary, since both are violent delusions of individualism.

If we work collectively for our healing and that of our ancestors and descendants, we are not engaging individual skills but the non-binary multiplicity of Being itself, in this way invoking the ancient wisdom of shamans, and drawing on the Buddhist understanding of how ego distorts what is real. But this cannot be learned or taught intellectually – that would be appropriation (idolatry). There are no shortcuts to experiencing liberation.

Ontologically, all matter is energy; all that exists is Spirit

Quantum physics tells us that particles are entangled with each other in ways that defy our ordinary sense perceptions as well as Newtonian physics; energy and matter are not distinct. In this way western science is bending back on itself to catch up with the ancient indigenous knowing and animist cultures that recognize there are no “objects”; everything is Spirit, or matter that has forgotten it is Spirit.

Ego is created through a delusional split

Our society and the very foundations of how we view reality are based on a delusional split from the truth of what Thich Nhat Hanh calls “Interbeing.” The matter-energy binary is the basis of so many others, each one another layer of violence. Individualism is the sickness of believing in the ultimate fiction – a separate and special self – the fiction, like all mind states, remakes our world in its image.

Ego is defined by its shadows: “I am separate from (the rest of) Being”

To the extent that we can perceive “others” we remain trapped by ego, and those of us ringed by the most terrifying number of others are usually the most superior and the most fragile. We have never seen any other accurately because the very existence of otherness is a flaw in our perception – we can know, then, that our perception is itself violent. The more separate I believe myself to be, the more my societally assigned identity rests in superiority, the more diseased my perception. This can only shift when perception is an active surrender to my own undoing.

The basis of ego is loss; the MO of ego is accumulation

Ego cannot perceive how we touch our ancestors, or that trees are our lungs outside our bodies. Our superiority is our greatest diminishment. In believing ourselves separate, we have imposed our destruction on Being and blinded and deafened ourselves to the voice of the land. 

All is animate.

Anything that tells us otherwise is a relic of ego, afraid of all the shadows its existence creates. The more superior and separate we are, the most devoid we are of Being and therefore the more dangerous, appetitive, and afraid. 

If these words scare or confuse us, it is because they are rending some of the binaries we rely on to exist and understand our selves – for example, between sense and nonsense, self and earth, body and mind – and so our ego is fighting back by othering, labelling, getting angry or discomfited or amused or sleepy. (As you may recall, I suggested at the outset that this piece requires a change in pace and multiple readings.)

If we can slow down and push through this edge of our attention,

the urge to disconnect or dismiss,

the dizziness,

we get closer to the fringes of conventional reality and to everything that we denigrate because it scares us and spells the end of us: the end of whiteness, the end of ego. 

And as ego dies there is not just the kaleidoscopic unfolding of the multiverse but the unimagined knowing that we are loved, meaning we are not separate and are part of Being. We exist. The land loves us. We have so many nonhuman relatives.

We can only get here by braving what we experience as annihilation; walking into it instead of pathologizing it out of collective fear. 

This is the horizon where paradox and Zen koans take us: right here at the knife’s edge of where the logical left brain shuts down and the right brain delivers us into block time where there is no longer even a difference between Spirit and me

not because I am special but the opposite –

there is no “me” at all