Setting Intentions

Writing against my own whiteness

Welcome to Continued Unsettling by me, Gwendolyn Ann Hill. Some of my friends have asked recently if I have a blog, or if I am interested in starting one. They ask how I learned to write about whiteness; why I write about whiteness. They send me things they are working on that deal with race, and ask me to comment on them. I just graduated and lost my job, so with all this extra time on my hands, I started paying attention to these requests. I guess I like correspondence as a medium better than almost anything else—because of how it allows me to speak to a specific, targeted audience, because of the tenderness and vulnerability that I feel are hallmarks of letter-writing—so I’m trying this instead of a blog.

Dear Reader, Hello.

If you are receiving this, I probably know you already, or you know someone I know, and you are probably white, or maybe white passing depending on what company you are in, and you are probably interested in thinking about your own whiteness. Maybe you are working on a newly discovered anti-racist reading list, or maybe you have been doing anti-racist reading for a while now, but you know that this work is never over for white people, and you want ideas for what to do, or kinship as you move forward. I can’t claim to be an expert at this (nor should I), but I can offer you transparency of my own process.

It begins with setting intentions. I started last August with the intention of writing about my own whiteness and how it relates to land and also the word “unsettling” every single day. For me, land is very important, and unsettling was something I wanted to think about, since I had recently come across the term “settler” as a term for people who are not Indigenous to this land. I thought, what would it mean to unsettle this land, what might whiteness have to do with that?

I wanted to create a practice—something that both implies imperfection and also the intent to keep going, the intent to create something like a ritual—like practicing an instrument or a sport every day, like a yoga practice or a mindfulness practice. I didn’t quite succeed—I wrote about it almost every day that month—but I have continued that practice, on and off, since. That practice became an essay that is part of my manuscript-in-progress, so I can’t publish it here and share it with you (or I wouldn’t be able to include it in my book in the future), but I decided recently that I need to recommit to doing the practice every single day, and I invite you to join me.

For Continued Unsettling, I plan to create a new journal prompt/writing exercise every day, and I plan to show snippets of what I write (what I write is usually far too long, so I have to edit a little, but I promise I won’t edit out the vulnerability, the mistakes, the hard things I’m thinking about), as well as the prompts, so you can write, too.

To open up my audience, I won’t necessarily focus on land or unsettling, although I’m sure they will come up from time to time. Instead, I will focus on self reflection. Self reflection is a critical step of anti-racism. Reading is important, so I will also share what I’m reading, but I will focus on how the reading applies to me, what it says about whiteness, how I can dismantle the whiteness within that gets in the way of racial justice.

I also plan to share an action that I am taking every single day—no action is too small, but again, practice and repetition is key—to commit to doing active anti-racist work, and I will share links when appropriate and invite you to take action as well. No one will know if you did the action or wrote according to the prompt except you. All I’m offering is the opportunity, and the belief that if given the opportunity, many of you will.

Part of my reasoning for doing this is that it will help hold me accountable, as well as help build a community of people who want to do better. I hope that you will sign up to receive your first prompt and action starting tomorrow.

If you know anyone else who might be interested, tell your friends!