Part I defined White Mind as the unconscious patterns of thought and behavior resulting from socialization as a white American, and one of the causes for the low representation of people of color in all aspects of the children’s book field today.
Part II offers ways to make White Mind conscious and change resulting behaviors. (I directly address white readers here, though I hope it’s provocative for all.)
I remember an exercise from college drawing classes in which we first viewed a still life as volume, then line, and finally, as white space. For the first time, I saw, then drew, the shape of the space around the objects, which had been invisible to me until my attention was drawn to it. White Mind can be hidden in plain sight, too, and trying to catch a glimpse of its presence can be like tracking a ghost. \
Here are some ways to gather clues, learn its tricks, and get your own mind back:
- Learn about racial identity development: In Beverly Daniel Tatum’s book, Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?, she posits that identity is formed by what is “made salient,” the mirrors that are held up for us when we are young. Racial identity therefore develops differently for different groups. For instance, people of color tend to have racialized identities; white people, as the majority, don’t.
- Study the invisible “pass” that comes with white skin, as described in Peggy McIntosh’s seminal essay, “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack.”
- Tell your own story of growing up white. Investigating and expressing the truth of your experience around race is a significant beginning and can be a lifelong journey. What were your mirrors?
- Look for clues and identify patterns. What did adults around you say and how did they behave in relation to race when you were a child? What ideas did you internalize as a result? How do these unconscious ideas affect your behaviors?
Change the Script
- Connect across racial difference in ways that stretch you. Work to overcome the conditioning of white centrality. movies and other materials to expose yourself to non-white voices and viewpoints. Make friends across race and culture. Step outside of your comfort zone; discomfort can be growth pains. Ask questions, but do your own homework; don’t expect people of color to educate you.