Maybe my recent reading list will add color to the post below.
I’m looking at my white skin, and I am confused.
In the midst of thought-provoking, necessarily loaded, and well-spoken conversations about race, specifically racism as it prevails amidst white people and black people, and all of the differences that secure the chasm remains irreconcilable, jammed, and full of pithy, raging anger, I attempt to listen.
As a writer who strives to distinguish body image truth vs. body image perception, which roots itself in the objectification of the body, especially as it concerns women – our historical willingness to be subservient as a means to carry on the human race, our present pursuit to secure a place that allows our intelligence to balance our humanity, and our future dream, our daughters, who we hold high that they might see beyond what present feminism limits them to believe about their potential — I find that I am bemused.
My mind unravels and simultaneously ties itself in knots as I pray to decipher the imprisoned voices from the finally-free voices.
The deeper I delve into Ta-Nehisi Coates and James Baldwin, and as I return to my bookshelf to reread Langston Hughes and James Weldon Johnson, the greater my awareness becomes. My self feels assaulted. My body is the enemy. I face the temptation to live in shame for my whiteness. And yet…
These white hands are struggling to craft leftovers into salvageable dinner and fold never-ending piles of clothes and oversee Pre-Algebra while leaning hallway-wise, offering potty training incentives. These white hands press my dear one’s head close to mine as he goes out to fight worldly gestures of gravitas in his workplace.
Scowling at shame, I want to scream, “But this is all I’ve got! This body, this precious, imperfect, walking closer to meet Confidence and let her lead me in to face the fight of sin vs. holy ground, love vs. evil-intentioned hate, peace vs. pessimism that lacks Scripture-laden hope — I am striving to be proud of it. At the close of each day, I flail forward, as graciously as any one woman can, across the finish line, grasping for the boon of rest and quiet and renewal. What more can I do with what He’s given me?”
And on the other hand, I see that my whiteness it not even that at all. I question, “How white am I, really?”
My father, half-Korean and likely half-Caucasian (as is often the case with adoption, we will never know the whole and true story of his genetics and parentage) was rescued from becoming slave labor in South Korea. Mixed race children in the 1950s, even in the kind and compassionate culture of his home country, did not have a place to exist, outside of their mixed-race bodies. The promise of adoption was his only way out of a caste system that would have relegated him to, at best, a “less Korean” citizen, pushed out of social, economic, and educational opportunity. And, that caste system would relegate him the same today (See Markus Bell’s article).
So because my father, who was never white but was adopted by white people, married a white woman whose lineage is likely some combination of intermarriage between Native American and Dutch settlers, I sit here today, ostracized — overdressed in Whiteness and Hunger for Power and Unable to Live Outside of Naivete′. Is being ostracized part of what is enraging me to speak out for change? Is being “white-skinned” the very bodily condition that impels me to speak for reparations, whether those who enslaved black men were my direct ancestors or not?
Clearly, this book, We Were Eight Years in Power, by Ta-Nehisi Coates, is drawing me into conversations about race and history anew.
But, for me, the most important conversation swirls tightly in circles, like a whirlpool, around this vortex: How do we strip away the objectification of the body? While Color stretches its wings, securing a dominant place in the current national discourse, might we also look closer at the body itself and what it means for women, in this current flood of conversations?
For too long, a woman’s willingness to objectify her own body has limited her. It has spilled into female consciousness and deceived her into believing “I can not” about the very thing she is capable of knocking out with her left hook. While not even looking right.
I wonder, if in this conversation of race, we might choose to hear what is at the root of the argument — that the way we assess a person’s value, by what one chooses to produce, is perhaps the most heartless crime of the history of man. That this is not an American problem solely, but an unwillingness to submit ourselves to the broken body problem.
The body that was broken
This space will always be a safe place to invite conversations, especially about body image as it pertains to women and the next generation. I think how we see color, shape, size, functionality, purpose, and beauty all spill into the conversation about body image.
What questions have you had pertaining to how we invite friends and family into conversations about body image?