It is said that observing one’s own culture is like a fish living in water who can’t notice the water around them. Irving makes this same accusation about those who are “white” not noticing the “white dominant culture” and the way it shapes and affects our country. In fact, maybe this is exactly the cause of the political clash that our country is struggling to face between Republicans and Democrats—and it is not really racism—it’s about one cultural viewpoint dominating or even oppressing others without even realizing it. And yet, this dominance is threatened since in a couple of decades “whites” will no longer be the majority of the USA; therefore, we are seeing a sometimes unconscious backlash.
So, maybe the most important the most important thing that those of us who are white can do, is to seek a journey similar to Ms. Irving that helps expose our naiveté. What can you do for yourself to help you see outside your own fishbowl?
How can you and I become more consciously aware of the way the “white dominant values” shape our thinking, actions and even our church? Irving writes:
The more conscious I become of my cultural adaptations, the more I’m able to choose when they are and are not appropriate. It helped me to know that no one was saying all white people act this way all the time. Nor was anyone saying that only white people act this way. In fact, I learned that many of the qualities characterized as ‘white’ have been internalized by people of all colors living in America’s white-dominated society. Adjusting to cultural norms is a part of being human.” (p. 196)
And she made a short list of white dominant behaviors and beliefs:
- Conflict avoidance
- Valuing formal education over life experience
- Right to comfort/entitlement
- Sense of urgency
- Emotional restraint
- Either/or thinking
- Belief in one right way
- Being status oriented
Is this not a good checklist to post in front of us every day? Not that they are negative—but when do they distort our judgment?