Did the title catch your attention? I hope so, because it is intentional. I wonder what the world would be like if every morning thousands of white people took a page from 12-step programs and greeted one another with, “Hello. My name is _______, and I am racist.”
I was recently diagnosed with the disease of racism. The strange thing is that I made the diagnosis myself, which is really the only way you can know if you have it.
The metaphor of racism as a disease (as opposed to racism as individual actions carried out consciously by bad white people) works for me. It affects my thoughts, my feelings, my assumptions, my speech and my behavior. It affects my cognitive and emotional processes, my physical reactions, and my sight. I didn’t used to know that I’m sick with a disease. I felt fine. I could see that others were suffering. I could see that. I didn’t like it. But I thought it was their business to find a cure for their suffering from racism. I had my own work to do to grow as a person.
What changed? One thing that changed was coming across the work of Robin DiAngelo, whose insistence that we change the way we define racism allowed me to keep my self-image as a “good person” intact, while acknowledging that the disease of racism is running through my veins as sure as my blood is. I no longer had to live in denial.
The good news of the racism as disease paradigm, for me, is that healing is possible. There may not be a cure, but I can get to know this disease just as I would if a doctor told me I have diabetes or lupus. I would read, research, and reflect. I’d seek out people who also have the disease and look for or build a support group to talk about how we’re affected and to share our symptoms and stories. I would consult experts who have studied the disease as their life’s work, and hopefully I will eventually consider myself to be in recovery.
In the months to come, as I learn more about this condition, I hope to share my ongoing reflections with you. Please, remember, this is a self-diagnosed disease. I’m talking about how it affects me.
Whether you are currently afflicted or not, please share your thoughts in the space below as the Spirit moves you. I’d love to have a conversation.
*Yes, I acknowledge that technically I’m not a Benedictine nun; a Benedictine nun lives a cloistered life. But would “Racist Sister” make sense to anyone?