Back @ it Again: Navigating White Space

I’ve come to a place where there’s no trash littering the streets, where nothing stays open too late, and the street lights are equipped with that soft white glow as opposed to the artificial yellows of home.

White space.

I’ve come to a place where everything is technologically savvy, where restaurants always have confusing and nondescript names like Fainting Goat, and loitering laws are enforced.

White space.

I’ve come to a place where no hips sway, no gum is smacked, and no drums beat like hearts in the distance.

White space.

I’ve come to a place where no one splashes water over their head in prayer in the bathroom, where dashikis are referred to as tunics, and brown babies are carried on the chest instead of the back.

White space.

I’ve come to Dupont Circle. A wonderful, historic DC neighborhood spanning 16 acres of pristine white space.

White Space-

“Since the end of the Civil Rights Movement, large numbers of black people have made their way into settings previously occupied only by whites, though their reception has been mixed… Blacks perceive such settings as “the white space,” which they often consider to be informally “off limits” for people like them. Meanwhile, despite the growth of an enormous black middle class, many whites assume that the natural black space is that destitute and fearsome locality so commonly featured in the public media—the iconic ghetto. White people typically avoid black space, but black people are required to navigate the white space as a condition of their existence.” (Anderson 10)

In contrast,

I come from Howard University– a 100% bonafide black space.

The minute I left Howard, I left the land of black solidarity and grits in the morning. I removed myself from the comfortable bosom of stretch marks and cocoa butter and ventured into the land of the conqueror.

“Why don’t you just go back to Howard” they say.

why don’t you just…..

…. back to Howard…..

I wish I could. I know I should. Because that’s where I belong. But I won’t say that out loud. It’s funny how sometimes we speak the same words in such different languages. It’s crazy because what they’re saying is true, but the fact that you’re saying it makes it so very false. I belong here. I belong there. I belong where ever the hell I say I belong. I won’t mince words,

“I hate it here”

“I hate you.”

Black Pain.

There. It’s been said.

I hate white people.

I hate them

Black Pain.

I (don’t really) hate them

I (don’t) hate them


It’s not that I hate them, I hate that I have to pretend to like them.

I hate that I have to pretend to (be) like them.

Getting to the Root of the Issue

Here’s the thing:

“I think Whites are carefully taught not to recognize White privilege, as males are taught not to recognize male privilege. I have come to see White privilege as an invisible package of unearned assets that I can count on cashing in each day, but about which I was ‘meant’ to remain oblivious” (Mclntosh, 76-77)

Yet and still,

  • They tell us that we’re ugly
  • They tell us to go back to Africa
  • They say that we’re loud, lazy, and stupid
  • They tell us where we can and cannot go and what we can and cannot think


  • We showcase our beauty and our brains (not that it’s hard)
  • We plant ourselves in their country and loudly remind them that “THEY’RE THE ONES WHO BROUGHT US HERE, SO WE’RE HERE TO STAY”
  • We accept the fact that we’re loud (unless we aren’t)
  • We declare that we’re not lazy  (we’re languid)
    • (And even so, we built this country with our bare hands (while singing))
  • We position ourselves around the white gaze.
    • We pander to it in our resistance
    • We pander to it in our assimilation
    • We acknowledge it by choosing to ignore it
    • We acknowledge it by acknowledging it.

Whiteness is everywhere, it is perverse and mobile. It latches on to the back of the Negro, riding around with us everywhere we go.

But the thing about urban whiteness— is that it’s not usually very rude. It smiles at you when you walk into Whole Foods and compliments you on your natural hair (then tries to touch it). It flashes its pearly white teeth and tells you that your “tunic” (it was a daishiki) is absolutely beautiful and asks where you got it from.

Urban whiteness numbs the Negro, it makes you racially paranoid. It makes you distrustful and wary. Because the one thing the Negro knows is that racism has gone nowhere:

“When present in the white space, blacks reflexively note the proportion of whites to blacks, or may look around for other blacks with whom to commune if not bond, and then may adjust their comfort level accordingly; when judging a setting as too white, they can feel uneasy and consider it to be informally ‘off limits.'” (Anderson, 10).

Sometimes, the voice screaming: “You’re ugly, lazy, innately criminal, and stupid”- the one telling you to run back to Howard– that’s the voice of your inner psyche. What this voice is really saying is: “You’re ugly, lazy, innately criminal, and stupid… in their eyes

This voice warns you of the falsities of urban comfort. This voice knows, in the depths of its black being, that it will only take one wrong move for those beckoning white hands to change to accusatory white fingers.

You don’t hate whiteness.

You hate that whiteness cannot be trusted.

You hate that your white friends are the ones tweeting about how “All Lives Matter” and how they consider themselves to be in “Formation”.

You love whiteness because it represents a sect of humanity, but you hate it because it demands that you conform to its standard.



Go back to Howard. Go back to your black space. Relish in the warmth of shea butter and gospel music. Pray to your black Jesus, and cook your collard greens. But recognize that eventually you’ll have to reenter white space (whether it be work or the grocery store) and deal with the same stresses as the last time.

So basically, there is no solvency. But there is recognition. And that’s better than nothing.

Over & Out,


Anderson, Elijah. ““The White Space”” Sociology of Race and Ethnicity 1 (2015): 10-21. Web. 3 May 2016.
McIntosh, Peggy. White Privilege and Male Privilege: A Personal Account of Coming to See Correspondences through Work in Women’s Studies. Wellesley, MA: Wellesley College, Center for Research on Women, 1988. Print.

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