I am white, and I know I’m not racist. Why does your blog have anything to do with me?
That’s a question with a hard answer. Hard because the first thing we are going to do is challenge your statement “I know I’m not racist.” Or rather, to ask you to examine it more closely. We trust that in your heart you don’t want to be racist, but there are so many ways racism is ingrained in our perspectives, understandings, and responses to the world and people around us (see “microaggressions” below for an example). So even when we actively try to not be racist, it takes work, and self-awareness, and the willingness to listen and learn. Even then, we won’t always succeed.
And even if a white person did succeed in purging all individualized racism from their heart/mind, that person is still positioned in a place of power in our society. Solely by virtue of being white, we white people have tremendous power--and therefore tremendous responsibility--to change the status quo.
Every one of us involved in this blog is learning. We hope you will join us, and we hope this blog can be a safe but also challenging space for you to start or continue thinking about what it means to be white--as a librarian or teacher, a reader, a reviewer, and as someone living in an ever-more-wonderfully diverse country and world.
Why are you focusing on race instead of gender identity/expression, sexual orientation, disabilities, or class?
Every aspect of a person’s identity is essential, and we do not wish to ignore or erase any of them. Nor do we wish to create a binary schema, with “white” on one side and “diverse” on the other. If you check our blogroll, you will see links to other colleagues who devote themselves to exploring these subjects. We recognize that the identity of any individual is more than their race alone, and issues of visibility and representation extend beyond race in children’s and young adult literature. As we examine race and racism, we will not ignore other issues in places where they intersect with race.
But race is society’s biggest structural organizer, and it is essential to recognize it as such. If it were not, we would see neighborhoods and schools comprised of LGBTQIA+ people, or people with disabilities, of all different races, living together. But this is not the case; instead, neighborhoods and schools are starkly racially segregated. And if we attempt to undo sexism, ableism, homophobia, transphobia, or classism without first undoing racism, we will inevitably undo those -isms and -ias for white people only.
It is therefore essential to devote a space to examining whiteness, lest we white people try to “escape” acknowledging our privilege by shifting into discussions about the identities along which we are marginalized.
Why all the talk about white privilege? Not all white people are privileged.
It’s true not all white people are privileged, but society and its power structures advance, value, and give great advantage to whiteness, which is assumed to be the norm. It may be hard to see this if you are white, but it is visible, palpable, bruising, damaging, and sometimes deadly for those who are not. Communities of Black, Indigenous and People of Color face oppression and challenges in every facet of life because white privilege is systemic. And white privilege affects everything, from visibility and representation in children’s and young adult literature, to economic and educational outcomes and opportunities, to (as we have seen all too clearly) the attitudes of some law enforcement officers and agencies, to the structure of the entire justice system.
“White privilege” does not mean that every white person has a trouble-free or easy life, and the term does not necessarily reference the specific events and circumstances of one’s life as an individual. On the other hand, being white is an identifier that does not work against one in our society. The same cannot be said for Black individuals when it comes to assumptions and attitudes based on the color of skin.
Finally, while it’s true that the personal is political--it’s why we all are here on this blog--it’s important to understand that the term “white privilege” does not equate “white” with “bad” on a personal level. None of us are bad people because we are white. But we believe that part of the responsibility we have, not just as white people, but as people, is to address and challenge the injustices that are inherent in white privilege. In essence, we work to eliminate white privilege within and beyond the world of children’s and young adult literature, and to create a society that is equitable and just. We all want to live in that world, and we hope you do, too.
How is this blog not segregation?
It’s true that the primary creators and posters of this blog are white. So in the strictest sense of the word, you can call that segregation. But segregationists seek to exclude, and in the case of white segregationists, their intent to exclude is based on a belief of superiority (and that’s putting it mildly). We do not want to exclude, and indeed are actively seeking the perspectives and voices of Black, Indigenous and People of Color both in an advisory capacity and to learn from and share, including as commenters, and sometimes guest-posters, on this blog.
I am not white. Am I welcome at this blog?
Absolutely. Please share your thoughts and experiences. We are not seeking to exclude voices, or claim authority; our intent is to acknowledge and act on the responsibility we believe we have as white people to share in the work necessary to challenge racism.
What is a “microaggression”?
A microaggression is a tiny act of bigotry. Viewed individually, these acts are almost negligible; taken as a whole, they constitute an evolution of the very nature of bigotry, from overt, conscious and public bigotry to a more nebulous form that is hard to identify and even harder to acknowledge. Examples include being surprised that a Black person is articulate, comments such as “what type of Asian are you?” or “No, but where are you REALLY from?”, or escaping from discussions about race and racism by turning them into discussions about other -isms or -ias.
Why don’t you capitalize "white"?
When we began this blog, we determined to capitalize “White” along with “Black.” In July 2020 we decided to change this, as explained in this post.
Where can I learn more about whiteness, white culture, and racism?
Start by checking out our Resources page, and feel free to comment or email us with more questions.
How can I find other people to talk to about whiteness, white culture, and racism?
Look around you. Surely you have white family members, friends, and co-workers. Start with the people you know.
Also, check out the following:
What can white people who sincerely want to work for anti-racism do?
Be open to listening, reading, being challenged, learning. Be open to being uncomfortable. Be open to knowing that you, personally, may sometimes say or do things that are part of the problem. Know that you can be part of real change, too. Be willing to raise your voice and take action against racism. Understand that allyship is not something you are, it’s something you do, on an ongoing basis: taking action and listening and learning and supporting change is work that’s never done.
Why do I have to log in to comment on a RWW blog post?
We know this is unwieldy for some, and we know it feels as if Google is taking over the world, but we intentionally have the comments set to require a log-in via one of several Google-related options (the only ones Blogger provides) because it lessens the chance of anonymous commenters.
We consider this an important point because Black, Indigenous and People of Color, unlike white people, rarely have the option of being anonymous as they move through the world, and certainly don’t when they are battling racism. This was among the things we considered when when creating the blog and one of the decisions we made was that we ourselves could never be anonymous—every post is attached to one of our names or, occasionally, is posted from the RWW login if it represents a shared statement from all of us.
We want dialogue in the comments, and we realize the need to log in may be a barrier to some. Additionally, we know that someone can log in under a false profile or provide limited information about themselves. We are also aware that an online community may provide a rare opportunity of anonymity for some.
We’ve considered all of this and ultimately still come down on the side of requiring that commenters log in. We think people interested in engaging, questioning, and exploring issues of diversity in children’s and young adult literature will understand our point about anonymity and our desire to create a space that we hope encourages a meaningful exchange.
You can login in under one of several options (Google, LiveJournal, WordPress, TypePad, AIM, OpenID) to comment on RWW.
You can also refer to frequently asked questions about setting up a Google profile, one of the options above.
Can I send you my book to be reviewed on RWW?
While we do occasionally review titles on Reading While White, we do not accept submissions of books for review.
Have a question you don't see answered?
Email us at email@example.com
This is a living document that we expect (and hope) will change as we all learn more and as we hear more from our colleagues.