Addicted to White Privilege: A Program for Recovery

 

By Gregory Landua (August 3, 2015)

Hello, my name is Gregory.  I am a racist.  I don’t fly a confederate flag and I don’t hate black people or any people.  I am, however deeply addicted to the wealth and privilege that comes from the subjugation of other humans beings.  Furthermore I am addicted to the wealth and privilege that comes from the subjugation of mother nature.

 

greg

Alone and without help I am powerless to stop myself from exercising my privilege through consumption, assumption, and my own perpetuation of a system that is unhealthy for myself, my fellow humans and the planet.  I need help.

This is a 8 step process to more deeply understand my role and responsibility in racism, and beyond racism to understand my role as an a part of the dynamic and complex country of the USA that some might call an empire.  I believe that to make a better world we must first truly see the world we live in now.  As a student of the natural world, as a human being and as a man who cares, this is my own 8 steps to orienting myself in a confusing and complex world.

Step one:

Admit I am a part of the problem:

Hello, my name is Gregory.  I am a racist.  I don’t fly a confederate flag and I don’t hate black people or any people.  I am, however deeply addicted to the wealth and privilege that comes from the subjugation of other humans beings.  Furthermore I am addicted to the wealth and privilege that comes from the subjugation of mother nature.  On my own, without help, I am powerless to stop myself from exercising my privilege through consumption, assumption, and my own perpetuation of a system that is unhealthy for myself, my fellow humans and the planet. I need help

However I am not my patterns nor am I merely the product of a culture.  I have free will and I chose to notice the truth of what I am born into, and the responsibility that comes with this privilege.  Perhaps it is a disservice to call myself a racist because I am not an open bigot and I do not willfully and consciously oppress any other humans.  Perhaps that term is better reserved for members of the human race who consciously choose to support subjugation of other people because of skin color.  I did not chose to be born into the system that subjugates and oppresses so many people with such terror.  However far better to lean towards the oft overlooked and feared truth that I am complicit through my membership in a culture and society built on oppression, than to pretend that I am colorblind.  So, for now, although I acknowledge and commit to my own capacity to develop, grow and strive beyond it, I am racist because I am part of the system and culture that perpetuates racism.

 

Step Two:

I know this is going to lose some of the rational materialists out there…but…it’s true:

Admit to needing help from something greater.

I need help.  God, Mother Earth, community.  Wisdom greater than my own is the only way I can come through the other side of the waves of confusion, the ocean of grief, the fire of my anger and the strong denial of my complicity, responsibility and power to change the world.

Everyone of us needs help.  We cannot do it alone.  Whether you’re prayer goes to God, Allah, Johova, Yaweh, Ja, Krishna, Muhammad, Christ, Buddha, Gaia, Great Spirit, Creator, the Universe or the thousand of other holy faces and beings out there, be humble and ask for guidance.  Support comes is mysterious ways, and God(less) knows we need all the help we can get.  Asking for help may also mean simply leaning on friends, reaching out to community, engaging someone who is the “enemy”.  It seems especially important to quite the mind and listen to the heart where so much wisdom resides.

 

Step Three:

Admit my place in the world and ethical and moral responsibility without shame and with complete transparency to myself and others.

I am a “white” man.  My understanding of history points to the reality that my ancestors have been both slave and slaver.  Both victor and vanquished and both victim and perpetrator.  In this I am just like every other human being born into the “civilized world”.  It’s high time to admit that for thousands of years history has been a chronicle of subjugation, oppression and violence written by victors in the blood, sweet and tears of the vanquished.  This continues today.  American was built by slavery, on slavery.  The North and South are both complicit, and the progress made was hard fought, slow and is not over.  To support equality is to examine society, economy and how we relate to ourselves and the world.

I was able to attend college and be a member of the middle class because of the color of my skin and because my ancestors were slave holders and committed genocide or at the very least were complicit and benefited from these institutions of oppression.

I use an iPhone and a computer that were created by near slave labor from minerals extracted from places I don’t know.  I shop on Amazon.com and rely on industrial transport of food from a system that tortures animals and disregards my health, planetary health and conditions for workers.  What’s more, my addiction to rank and privilege and the comforts of consumerism are such that I regularly deny the truth of the world and act like I don’t know any of this.  I recognize that I can neither run away from this privilege through an escape to some perfect society in the jungle or some perfect hosted in the hills, nor ignore the responsibility that comes with my privilege.  I must sit with the grief, anger and overwhelming confusion that comes from my knowledge and learn slowly to ask with care to change myself and the system.

 

Step Four:

Commit to making amends and living a life that rights the wrongs that I have been complicit in.

I commit to doing my best to build a livelihood that does not rely on subjugation.  I commit to conducting my business without causing harm to any person, and in a way that asks permission to cross any boundary that I can see.  I commit to righting historical wrongs, participating in reparations and reconciliation for trauma, even if it was not my hand that caused the harm.  I commit to stand in solidarity with subjugated brothers and sisters and I commit to never ever let my own addiction to power, wealth, and comfort obscure my commitment to live in accordance to my understanding of the truth.

 

Step Five:

Build a Community of truth and reconciliation that includes subjugated and privilege people committed to living life in a different way.

This is a task that no single human can achieve.  Together we can change.  This is not about a rebellion in arms, this is about a communion of hearts.  We need each persons hands and mind and hearts to build a different way.  i commit to creating a hoe, many homes, where people who desire a different way of living with each other and the earth can unlearn the old distrustful and oppressive ways we relate, and rediscover even older, deeply courteous and beautiful possibilities of human relationship and potential.

I will invest in real places and real people with money that I make in clean and good ways.  I will encourage other people to do the same.  I will share my voice proudly and strongly as a leader, and always always always remember to listen to softer voices with wisdom that I may not carry on my own.

 

Step six:

Boldly, regularly imagine a world that is different and share this vision and possibility freely and widely. I will listen deeply to other people’s visions.

I will not be ashamed to believe in a utopia.  As Buckminster Fuller’s book proudly announces: “Utopia or Oblivion”  If no one listens, I will share my dream to the wind.  I will sing to the birds and the bess and the trees of a world worth living.  I will cry and laugh like a madman.  Or I will speak eloquently and fully of the possibility.  It all depends on who’s ears listen.  If it is only the holy wild or the forgotten gods that hear my calls, the language I will speak will seem a gibberish and surely I will be locked away.  If people perhaps find some glimmer of truth then I will sounds more and more coherent and more and more people listen, share what they think, argue, discuss and hone a mutual dream for a world worth living in to become, as Martín Prechtel so beautiful says “A people worth descending from”.  If people disagree with me.  If people think I am stupid or even careless with my whimsical imagining of a better world, I promise not to hide long in my shame, but to listen to why they cannot believe that a more beautiful world is possible, and I will try to explain it all again in a way they might be able to better hear.

 

Step seven:

Deepen connection with Earth and Ancestors.

Although it is my fear that this step will seem alien to many people, to me it feels as essential as the first step.  Humans are a part of nature, and without learning how to play that role with grace, I fear I will become even more lost.  Mother Nature is the greatest teacher of us all.

I will humble myself and learn to listen.  I will learn the names of the flowers and the animals, frothy show the way to live without subjugation and fear.  I will do my best to walk so that life springs up in my foot steps and I will deeply grieve that I must kill to live.  I will honor the lives of my plant and animal brethren that I take with respect, remembrance and care for their decedents.  I will respect older ways than my own, delve into the history and languages that have come before.  I will share what I learn.

 

Step eight : 

Continue to Honestly and openly explore the truth of our history, and the beauty of our possible role as humans.

This conversation is not over.  It has only begun.  I will listen to people who are forgotten and down trodden just as I will listen to people who are triumphant and wealthy.  I will listen to the earth and the wind and the languages I don’t remember and may never understand.  I will listen with my ears and my heart.  I will listen even with my hands as they try to remember things.

I will not disconnect from people who hate.  I will even listen to their broken hearted anger with the hopes that their iron armor might soften to reveal some strong heart that learned too long ago to remember to protect itself through hate.

 

 

This blog was inspired by Ta-Nehisi Coates, the #blacklivesmatter meme, co-counseling and the 12 step program of alcoholics anonymous.  It was also inspired by the endless and asinine reverse bigotary, blatent ignorance and arrogance of many “white” people who seem to be pointing at someone else who happens to be from another part of the country, while forgetting the history of oppression lurking in their own communities and lives.  Perhaps using the 12 steps exactly as they appear would be the best path forward, I have modified them to better fit my own current needs to acknowledge and move through the awareness of the impact of subjugation and oppression of people of color, mother nature, and my role in a society that is quickly becoming globalized.

Originally posted at Gaia Emerging:  Used by Permission.

2 Comments

  1. anne

    Thank you. I appreciate your acknowledgement of a lineage that is both “victim and perpetrator” – that is true of many. But let’s abolish the lie that it is possible to take life with respect; for this is the exact opposite of respect. Let’s just take the least amount of life possible, and push ourselves to go beyond that.

    Reply
  2. Faith

    I deeply appreciate this post, as I’m a lover of the Steps. Has anyone ever explored how the Traditions could guide grassroots organizing? That might be helpful.

    About the metaphor of addiction–an addict eventually notices negative consequences. A growing number of white people are waking up to the negative consequences of whiteness, but not enough, yet. Part of the problem is that “white privilege” gets interpreted as “privileged white people,” so that poor and working-class white people, arguably the ones with the most to gain from dismantling white supremacy, tune out.

    Reply

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