I Caught Myself Seeking Validation

I Caught Myself Seeking Validation

Wanting to be the good White person

When I got up this morning, I followed my usual routine: pray, check my calendar, check the weather, check my Medium stats to see if I’m actually making any money (I know, it’s not about making money; it’s about making my contribution). Then I started reading the stories on my Home page.

The first article was “Why I Have Given Up On Friendship With White Women?” by Rebecca Stevens A.

My reaction to the title was instantaneous and intense. By the time I’d finished reading her story, words were pouring into my mind.

Don’t give up! I’ll be your friend!! I’m not like all those other White women!

I allowed myself a moment to laugh at my hubris, then I opened a google doc on my phone and dictated the words as they came to me. Here they are for your consideration, cleaned up a bit and rearranged for clarity.

Volumes could be written about the reasons White women resent and mistrust Black women — reasons that go all the way back to when the first enslaved Africans were brought to the plantations.

But I want to write instead about my tricky ego. And to be perfectly clear, this is not a response to Rebecca’s article, which is about her own experience with White women. Rather it’s a hard look at what went through my head when I read it. Her title served as a prompt for introspection.

I wanted the author to believe that I’m different

We White people who strive to be anti-racist REALLY want to be different — and not just perceived as different. We truly desire to stand out from those others who act out their (often unconscious) racist programming.

So why do I care if Rebecca Stevens A. believes I’m different? Why isn’t it enough to know in our own hearts that we’re doing our very best? Because we want validation. We want the Black people in our lives to notice and be grateful.

If there’s an authentic element to this desire for approval, I’d love to hear what it is. Because from where I’m sitting, it reeks to the high heavens of ego.

It’s the same offensive voice I hear sometimes when driving to my son’s or daughter’s house:

Hellooooooo everybody! Here I am, a White person coming into your Black neighborhood to visit my White children who live here with you. So happy to be here!

Ugh. Like I said, it stinks.

I don’t want her to give up on White women

I’m convinced we have the capacity to be true and trustworthy friends. I know many White women who are not only striving, but have reached a level of racial awareness and accountability that would put them in the “potential White woman friend” category.

But I can’t guarantee their reliability. In a pinch, or while distracted, their words or actions might reveal their unconscious sense of superiority. Heck, I can’t even guarantee my own behavior. White supremacy has warped my mind and infected my heart, and I don’t always catch it before it exposes itself in a moment of heedlessness.

No wonder Black women may be reluctant to embrace our friendly overtures.

But somewhere in the muck and mire of my ego-driven promptings, there is a genuinely noble desire to be a friend to Black women.

How can I be a true friend?

I’ve written previously about my belief that we humans are dual-natured beings, both material and spiritual. My material self is prone to following the whispers of my ego, and my motivations are therefore suspect, riddled with pretension and posturing.

My spiritual identity, however, is designed to act on divine inspiration, suggestions from my higher self, and sacred teachings. I’m grateful to have very specific guidance from the writings of my Baha’i Faith on how White people should relate to Black people:

Let the white make a supreme effort…to abandon once for all their usually inherent and at times subconscious sense of superiority, to correct their tendency towards revealing a patronizing attitude towards the members of the other race, to persuade them through their intimate, spontaneous and informal association with them of the genuineness of their friendship and the sincerity of their intentions, and to master their impatience of any lack of responsiveness on the part of a people who have received, for so long a period, such grievous and slow-healing wounds. (Shoghi Effendi, Advent of Divine Justice)

Persuade them of the genuineness of my friendship — not by trying to be better than other White people, but by intimate, spontaneous and informal association.

By abandoning my sense of superiority and patronizing attitude. By mastering my impatience when Black people don’t respond the way I want them to.

That’s how it looks when my motivation is aligned with my higher self.

And how will we know which is in the driver’s seat — ego or spirit? My guess is, we’ll know by how the other person responds to us. Those who have been the target of oppression can smell inauthenticity a mile away.

When it’s clear that I’m responding to the promptings of my ego, then it’s time to rewrite the story I’m telling myself.

Photo by Womanizer Toys on Unsplash

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