Being Curious About White Supremacy: Mary Anderson talks to Mary Anderson

by Mary Anderson

When I first heard the term White Supremacy, I reacted quite strongly!

Me too. What did you do?

My first reaction was “What am I being called?”  How dare them!

Me too! I thought I was being accused of being a White Supremacist.

I hear you. Then I thought – wait a minute, these are Unitarians using that term! Given our first principle about the inherent worth and dignity of every person, there’s got to be more to this.

YOU GOT CURIOUS!!

I did! I calmed down and listened harder. I wasn’t being accused of being anything.
What I heard is the term used to describe our culture – we live and operate in a world that is defined by being white – White Supremacy.

So?

I hadn’t heard that description before. I was fascinated and became more curious. So I listened harder.

Who were you listening to anyway?

Not sure, It may have come from something UU, or it may have been Robin DiAngelo who conducted a workshop at East Shore on being white. Robin has spent her career studying what it is to be white in America. In fact, it was she that said “White Supremacy” is an academic term used to describe the dominant culture in America.

Was this an ‘aha’ moment for you?

It was. I realized that I had reacted to being accused of being a White Supremacist – you know like the ultra-nationalists or David Duke or something. In fact, the two terms don’t mean the same thing at all.

Fascinating isn’t it?

It really is. Living within a White Supremacy culture has been pretty easy for me …

Duh!

Just listen.  Easy in that I am white and life has been fairly comfortable for me. I have benefited immeasurably by being white as have my parents and their parents before them. This whole issue, which really isn’t difficult to comprehend if you think about it – and which I never really had to do because I’m white – has piqued my curiosity and caused me to look at my society differently. I continue to be curious about the life lessons that this hits me with. People of color don’t live in such a comfortable America.

What do you think about that?

It’s incredibly humbling. I also have had the opportunity to be curious about my interactions and actions with a new eye – sometimes I cringe at myself.

So what about White Supremacists?

I don’t personally know any. There certainly aren’t any at East Shore.

  1. So what about racists?

I am in no position to judge anyone else on that one, but I do call myself racist. I realize that I’ve been socialized to treat white people differently. And that’s what white supremacy is all about – white people in power making the decisions as if they’re superior and know best.

Now I’m REALLY curious. What is that all about? Why do you consider yourself a racist?

Thanks for being curious about that. When I meet someone for the first time, I gauge my response by that person’s color. But that’s me, I’m not calling anyone else racist. I treat people differently based on their skin color, that’s why I call myself racist. I also admit to gauging my reaction by my own perception of socio-economic class, education, etc. But by admitting my own prejudices, I hope that I am growing and changing.

You’re never too old …

Hey, are you judging me by my age!?

Sorry.

Thanks. Keep up the curiosity.