Curiosity and Our Racial Identity

Earlier this month, I shared how the habit of being a learner, this month’s focus at Onward, has helped me as I explore my whiteness. And as we close out this month, I am tapping more into the disposition for the month, curiosity. The connection here is so clear. In order to develop the habit of a learner’s mindset we have to show up in a curious way. This exploration of curiosity has been so helpful as I navigate this racial identity work.

In Onward, Elena Aguilar shares that curiosity is almost the opposite of shame. It’s a disposition that makes us want to investigate, listen, ask questions, and take risks. It can make us question our assumptions about people and look beyond stereotypes. I have kept this disposition front and center as I continue to do this work.

In my quest for learning, I came across The Case for White Curiosity: Interrogating the Devastating Legacy of White Supremacy in America, by Patrick Phillips. I related to so much of his story of the role that race has played in his earlier days and I love the interaction he shared with his friend Natasha Trethewey and how he came to explore his identity:

Then, nearly a decade ago, my friend Natasha Trethewey—who would go on to become US Poet Laureate—grew impatient with my polite reticence, and asked me a startling question. Why was it that she, a woman of color, wrote so often about blackness, yet I, a white man from the rural South, never said a word about whiteness? “Why,” Natasha asked, “do you think race is only a subject for black writers? Why do you think you’re not involved?”

What came up for you as you read The Case for White Supremacy. I am curious to hear about any racial identity work that you are doing. Please share in the comments so that we can all learn and grow together.

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