Living In White Open Spaces

A claustrophobic take on living with racializations

If you haven’t read this insightful piece you should by Kelley Jhung titled “I’m the Angry Brown Woman Who Called the Cops On My White Neighbor”

In my comments I applauded Jhung for her sensible call to the police in an effort or task seen appropriate in safeguarding the health, rights, and freedoms of herself and her community. But within it was an all too familiar angst and anxiety about living in white open spaces that is not talked about much.

Many of us Brown and Black folk do have anxieties about living in majorly white spaces. This is disappointing because it sort of self deprives us of our own freedom of expression and pursuit of happiness in these settings. It obliges us to being overly concerned about what white people think or feel when they see us in these spaces. We know by their own authoritative stances, actions, gazes that when they see us their sensibilities are informed and based on their racialized politics, behaviors and attitudes towards us.

These attitudes and behaviors inform callous institutions that reward whites with unearned privileges and benefits at the detriment and ascendancy over nonwhite people. This is immersed in statistical facts with a historical precedent that conntinues to manufacture such contemporaneous outcomes so I need not provide proof of the inequality here. But see what I did there in the preceding statement. I immediately assumed that white persons reading this would want me to provide proof of something so conspicuously genuine and verifiable that I felt compelled to defensively pronounce it. Just another affect of living in a white open space.

This piece is merely some acknowledgment and insight to how Brown and Black folk feel in white open spaces. It exposes as it examines how we may be contributing to the cycle of racializations in our knee-jerk responses to such negative stimuli. We end up inadvertently placating them in these settings and emboldening whiteness. In many instance we tendentiously induce the vanity and insanity of whiteness. By being self-conscious and or docile around them we appease them.

A few weeks ago I had an interesting yet disturbing conversation with a childhood friend of mine. Our conversation circled around the pandemic and the dichotomized feelings of wanting to return to normal pre-covid 19 socioeconomic activity. In this spirited debate he nonchalantly stated without hesitation nor forethought, “thank God for white people” because once they start voicing concerns about the affect the quarantine is having on their finances the government will be more apt or willing to do more to rectify the economic damage done by force majeure. (Details of this conversation edited for brevity here)

We don’t need to thank God for white people for that, or anything else. This subconscious error in thinking is absurd and feeds into the sense of primacy white people feel ingratiated with and wields in our society. The result of which produces a lack of social cohesion and trust. It also lends itself to this pseudo profound reliance on them to save us from ourselves. Also absurd. But more importantly it exposes our anxiety and fears around them as if our destiny actually lays in their particular hands. Ridiculous.

We hear, read and speak about white people fears but not much weight and concern is shown about the anxieties and fears of being surrounded by a majority of belief insensitive and motivatingly ignorant white people, which evidently is a real issue.

There is a psychosocial cost to it that lends itself to self-imposing the same double standard whites use on us. This contributes to the vicious cycle of racism and fortunately in these instances some of us Brown and Black folk will break out of it by relying solely on human interdependence and not socially constructed racialization that proffer some raical heirarchical order. We would be doing ourselves a solid by simply having a sense of community welfare that would erase those anxieties of being in open white spaces.

It appears the more that I write the better I perceive.

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