Spiritual Work: Holding These Stories' Framework

At the beginning of the Holding These Stories workshops, I share this framework.

 

This is spiritual work.

 

We’re here to explore our personal stories rather than get into the nuances of terms and theories, but I’ll offer an understanding of whiteness that I’ve been working with in my work. I’m understanding whiteness, within the US context, as:

          A false, homogenizing racial distinction through which very real, very oppressive systems and structures have been built

          and maintained that enhance the social/material lives and freedoms of people of European heritage while harming, restricting,

          and cutting short the social/material lives and freedoms of indigenous people and people of color. [1]

 

And even as the structures of whiteness are homogenizing, the way it shows up in our individual lives and families will be particular and distinct, even while much is shared.

 

Whiteness necessarily operates in concert with, as bell hooks calls it, the white supremacist capitalist heteropatriarchy. To which we could add ableist, nationalist, transphobic, and more. So we’re looking at whiteness specifically today, knowing that whiteness is intersectional, always connecting to all other forms of oppression.

 

We hold space for all this fullness: our differing and similar experiences with whiteness, as whiteness connects to our full intersecting identities within the realms of gender, sexuality, class, culture, ability, citizenship.

 

It’s also important to say that while whiteness has been set up to enhance the material and social lives of people called white, it does so at great harm to our spiritual and emotional lives. In my work around whiteness I have the twin intentions of healing my own self of that spiritual harm so that I am able to fully and effectively participate in social justice work on the community level. So the space of this workshop is directed at self knowing and self healing, with the understanding that this is vital to our ability to show up for equity and justice in our world.

 

And all of this, for me, is spiritual work.

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[1] This definition of whiteness has been inspired by many, many critical race and whiteness studies scholars, most clearly Ruth Wilson Gilmore who writes in Golden Gulag: Prisons, Surplus, Crisis, and Opposition in Globalizing California: “Racism, specifically, is the state-sanctioned or extralegal production and exploitation of group-differentiated vulnerability to premature death.”