taking the words of Jesus seriously

Decoding Whiteness

The best way to decode whiteness is to decode what white people say to other white people. If you suffer from white fragility, it’s about to get real.

Identifying as a liberal, progressive, or Democrat doesn’t mean you’re not part of the problem. We have to walk the walk and remember that it’s not about us. When we center ourselves over the cause, we’re building an ego project. When we’re using the cause as a way to feel superior, we are engaging in the same dark energies that are inherent in racism itself.

Color blindness means one is “blinded by the white.” When a white person tells you they don’t see color, ask them what else they choose not to see. Being “colorblind” is a self-serving attempt to wear a psychological prophylactic. If you don’t see color, you don’t have to see the particular pains and sufferings of people of color. If we are going to take a sober look at the reality of racism and our role in it, we must be dedicated to seeing, honoring, and believing the full spectrum of human experience.

We have all been exposed to racist ideologies, structures, and dynamics since birth. We white people have also heard the spoken messages and felt the unspoken implications related to our supposed superiority and have internalized them. We experience cognitive and spiritual dissonance, because at our core we know it’s untrue. The socialized white psyche is traumatized in that it was taught how to split at an early age. We were also taught not to rock the boat by reintegrating our psyche so we often remain split. This is why Bryan Stevenson says, “The primary way trauma around racism shows up in white people is in the form of indifference.” We must do our inner work. As Richard Rohr says, “What we fail to transform, we transmit.” Our consciousness has been molested. We need a renewing of our minds.

A while back, I stopped using the word “ally” to describe myself. After sitting at the feet of many wise elders of color, I have come to learn that one is not an “ally,” or living in a way that is worthy of such a title, unless one is 100% committed to being anti-racist.

There are no white allies. There are only white anti-racists.

Early in life I realized that, were I a person of color, I would be horrified by, disappointed in, and distrustful of white folks that are not clearly anti-racist. Then I realized that, although I was white, I still felt horrified by, disappointed in, and distrustful of white folks that were not clearly anti-racist. All these years later, I still feel the exact same way.

It’s amazing what humans will tolerate when self-interest isn’t a motivating factor. That lack of concern for “the other” is at the heart of racism. But concern for “the other” is at the heart of the Judeo-Christian tradition.

In Christ, the well-being of self and other are one and the same.

Jesus is anti-racist.

To follow Jesus is to be anti-racist.

Any person that says “let’s all come together” while also being unwilling to acknowledge the experience of black Americans is unsafe and untrustworthy.

Anyone that speaks of “loving everyone” but is unwilling to denounce the policies and actions of a president and an administration that doesn’t love everyone, but rather is continually hostile, hateful, and abusive towards marginalized peoples, is unsafe and untrustworthy.

Anyone that says there are “sides” to issues of human flourishing and rampant abuses is unsafe and untrustworthy.

Make no mistake: The white moderate is always more white than moderate.

The current state of disruption is necessary.

The disorientation of those addicted to the idol of whiteness is necessary.

It’s not time for a treaty. It’s time for a victory.

This series originally appeared on Tony Caldwell’s Instagram.

About The Author


Tony Caldwell is a psychoanalytic psychotherapist in private practice and Professor of Social Work at the University of Mississippi. He is a member of the Memphis-Atlanta Jungian Seminar and the Inter-Regional Society of Jungian Analysts. As a public speaker, human rights activist, project facilitator, town hall moderator, and workshop leader; Tony has partnered with The Human Rights Campaign, the W.W. Kellogg Foundation, The William Winter Institute For Racial Reconciliation, The Mississippi Racial Equity Community of Practice, the Sara Isom Center For Women and Gender Studies, the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Radical South Conference, The Levi Strauss Co., and the Toyota Corporation. Tony and his colleague, Dr. Jandel Crutchfield, have enjoyed success in their grassroots Together Projects promoting interracial and interfaith dialogue around issues of intersectionality, privilege, police violence, and systemic racism across the state of Mississippi. Tony has presented at Wild Goose Festival, the Haden Institute, and at various other conferences, congregations, and universities. He is currently leading The Underground Church, a reconciling faith community, in Oxford, Ms. As well as conducting research linking health outcomes in the Mississippi Delta, which are 50th in the nation, to transgenerational trauma related to slavery, segregation, poverty, and marginalization, and developing interventions to address these issues. Tony loves writing about the intersection of theology, depth psychology, and social justice.

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