Two years ago, I committed to beginning a journey toward a better understanding of racial reconciliation. When I started this journey, I was excited to see what I would learn and how I could help. When reflecting on my racial reconciliation journey, I was reminded of the adventures of my childhood, which usually involved exploring unknown places in the woods. I would enter the woods hopeful to find something I had never seen before. I sought the reward of new experiences, and the confidence that I could gain by climbing over new obstacles. Another memorable part of these trips was the fear of the unknown; the fear of being lost, the fear of not making it over an obstacle, or even worse, the possibility of being hurt with no one around to help. That is why I often found boldness in having someone with me who had been there before to show me how to overcome the obstacles, and to lead me to the places they had already been. A critical point in my racial reconciliation journey came when I read White Awake by Daniel Hill.
My struggles up to that point in my racial reconciliation journey were marked by challenges to understand what I could do, or how I could help. White Awake became a trusted guide that helped to reorient me toward a new understanding. White Awake illuminated many common responses that people often experience as they first begin trying to understand systemic racism, paternalistic societal influences, and the intentional and unintentional marginalization of people. When someone begins exploring these truths, it can be a harrowing journey due to the complexity of the issues, the long-standing cultural influences that cloud the explorer’s vision, and the pain of recognizing the explorer’s inherent complicity as they discover that they have participated in and benefited from systems of oppression. White Awake became a trusted guide allowing me to navigate these challenging truths with tools and language that could make each challenge a moment of growth in the journey.
For a white person who commits to racial reconciliation, questions such as “how can I help”, or “what should I do” are common. White Awake provides a map that describes what each step in the journey will be like. The book provides the reader with the tools to see the effects of racial inequality both within themselves and in the world around them. For me, reentering the journey of racial reconciliation with a hopeful lament has given me an understanding of how I can respond to racial situations and conversations. I realized that the value of the journey is marked not only by what you discover around you, but also by what you discover within you. It does not take long when reading the book to understand that reconciliation is not a destination, but rather a lifelong journey.