For those of us, like myself, who are white, one way to explore the concept of *whiteness is to do some genealogical research. During the past year I researched my Scottish and Welsh ancestors (1/3 of my DNA), who arrived in the United States in the mid 1800’s, in multi-generational family units who hoped (in the case of my Scottish ancestors) to leave poverty behind. I am not certain why my Welsh ancestors left, though I suspect it was probably due to economic opportunity (they left one coal and ore extraction site in Wales and moved to another one in eastern Ohio).
I wanted to research them so I had a better understanding of my own whiteness which includes distinct (though submerged) ethnicity and culture, and differences that make a difference. I suspect that my ancestors, upon leaving colonized control, violence, and exploitation, were eager to succeed in America and most likely embraced American ideas of “whiteness” which enabled them to achieve in ways inaccessible to them in the UK (which also, of course, included encouraging them in prejudice and racism against others – and so the cycle continues).
While on sabbatical this fall (August 25 – November 30) I am curious to visit the places they left (Merthyr Tydfil, Wales, and Killin, Scotland) and see if there is any familiarity for me. I also hope to dismantle and complexify my internalized white racial identity and narrative.
Prior to travel in Wales and Scotland, I will teach at the Unitarian College (seminary) in the UK where I will have the chance to learn more about our English Unitarian cousins. I will conclude my travels with a stop in the Czech Republic where I will be teaching at the Unitarian Academy (seminary), learning more about our Czech Unitarian cousins. While teaching in the UK and Czech Republic I will be listening for the differences that make a difference, and the challenges, opportunities, and hopes they have today.
This does mean I will be away from work for three months. After my travels I hope for some rest, and if all goes well, rejuvenation.
In Love and Faith,
*If you are looking for a deeper dive into the history of whiteness, try this article from The Guardian, “The Invention of Whiteness: the long history of a dangerous idea” or this What is White Supremacy Culture? webpage from Tema Okun.