Leah Farmer

Personal perspectives on faith, literature, and life.

Day 16: White Centering

Self-centering is a natural thing that we all do as individual human beings. Our egos make us see things from a self-centred view: How is this important to me as an individual? However, white centering is a collective ego that asks the question how is it important to us white people.

When I read books, I often stay on a topic or genre for a while. One book leads to another which leads to another. My freshman year of college, I read The Autobiography of Malcolm X for the second time (having read it as a sophomore in high school). I carried the battered copy I owned (and still own) with me from class to class and read for a few minutes before each class started, only prying myself away when the teacher began to lecture.

That book led me to books about Marcus Garvey, MLK Jr, Medgar Evers. And then I wandered down the rabbit hole with Alice Walker, Toni Morrison, and Octavia Butler. Which then led me to my all time love of Maya Angelou.

But I was made fun of repeatedly in this little southern college town. I was teased for reading black literature BY CHOICE and often my being from liberal California was called out. But for me it was less about the differences and more about authors who’s voices I’d never heard and a depth that I was drawn into of story.

When I consider White Centering and the interview that Saad talks about with Toni Morrison about when she would begin to write stories that were relevant to white people, my stomach tightens and I realize how my own choices and interests have made me unable to see that for most of us white people, we assume that the art around us will be from white people and made relevant specifically to us…or it doesn’t have value.

There is something so fucking fundamental about changing this that is needed. For ALL of us to be better, but certainly to increase space and safety for the art of those who are NOT WHITE. To value the stories of BIPOC is so key to our own growth and understanding.

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