Random #RozeReflections: Inhabiting Spaces with White People

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My professional life in ministry began when I was 21 years old. I worked for and in the church for 15 years. It was a primarily white institution and lasting that long meant creating boundaries and behaviors that protected my heart, body, mind, and soul. 

I don’t think many white folks recognize the resilience it takes for people of color to inhabit white spaces constantly. We navigate the double consciousness and twoness (or multi consciousness) that DuBois articulated decades ago at all times. We have to constantly validate our existence - our education, our way of being, our culture, our identity - at every turn. At best it’s exhausting and at worst it’s dehumanizing. 

Three years ago I made the decision to leave ministry as I knew it because my soul was in desperate need of restoration and healing. I was seeking wholeness that had inadvertently been lost to whiteness and the spaces I inhabited. 

Over the last three years I’ve made conscious decisions about where I put my body and the people I engage. I have chosen to not play small or be in places where I have to explain any part of my being. And I recognize that I’ve been privileged to do so. 

Every now and then I say yes to a space that brings together people from all backgrounds. I’ve realized how jarring and triggering it is to be in these spaces now. I recently had an experience that shook me and I couldn’t quite put my finger on what bothered me as I have been around and intimately engaged with white people my entire life. However, now that I’m not always “on alert” I get caught off guard by the same behaviors I learned to combat in previous chapters in my life. 

I’m trying to figure out what to do about this conundrum. I have to be around white people and whiteness. I don’t want to always be guarded but I refuse to lose my soul again. And I want to be fully who I am without apology. I’m working on figuring all of this out.