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Steeped in Whiteness

When I was young, I was steeped in whiteness. I grew up in white neighborhoods and went to white schools and white churches. At home I read white books and watched white TV shows. When I turned eighteen I moved away to study at an historically white university, then got a job in an historically white field.

It wasn’t intentional, steeping me in whiteness. But it wasn’t accidental either.

Whiteness was more respectable. We were treated better when we wore white clothes the way white people wore them. Bill Cosby said to pull your pants up and make something of yourselves, so we did. After all, he was a doctor and seemed to know what he was talking about.

Whiteness was also the default. It was normal. I didn’t want to be abnormal or strange like those people wearing dashkis or kente with their big afros or thick locs. So I wore T-shirts and jeans and cut my hair short to hide the curls.

On top of all that, whiteness was safe. Crime was lower in the white neighborhoods. So were violence, pollution, and automobile collisions. There were even fewer police and if you did run into them, the whiter you looked, the safer you were.

Whiteness was an advantage in a thousand different ways and, if I played my cards right, acquiesced to the dominant culture, I could get some of that advantage for myself. And I did. I was steeped in whiteness, soaked through and through and I’ll never know what it would have been like to grow up any other way.