“Our lives have no meaning, no depth without the white gaze. And I have spent my entire writing life trying to make sure that the white gaze was not the dominant one in any of my books.” — Toni Morrison
The bluest eyes are staring
What is the white gaze? Many authors of Israelite descent have articulated their thoughts on this. From Ta-Nehisi Coates, W.E.B. DuBois, James Baldwin, to sublime author & writer, Toni Morrison. I came across a definition that is really potent and salient to me. The white gaze is when white people view innovations and creations from people of color, under the lens of white ethnocentrism. Ethnocentrism is the belief in the inherent superiority of one’s own culture. Ergo, the white gaze includes looking at white culture as the loftiest, most pristine standard of “good” culture.
The notion that white culture is superior to all other cultures. Also, I use the term “white” for since it is readily understandable. However, I don’t like the ambiguity of the term. To be fair, white culture is a broad term. I prefer the Biblically correct term; Yaphethites. Negroes descend from Shem. Africans descend from Cham. White people descend from Yapheth. I don’t ignore the reality and fact that there are different cultures among Yaphethites (whites). Greek culture exists. Swedish culture exists. Italian culture exists. French culture exists.
I want to take this time to engage both interview clips of Toni Morrison being interviewed by Charlie Rose and Jana Wendt, respectively. First, the Charlie Rose interview. The real confrontation for my people is not white people. The real confrontation for my people, is our sin. Us rebelling against our God; us kicking and screaming against His Law that He blessed us with. In regards to Toni Morrison’s interview with Jana Wendt, I find her inquiry of Toni marginalizing whites, and why them seem to be of no particular interest to her.
“You don’t think you will ever change and write books that incorporate white lives into them, substantially?” — Jana Wendt
Oh yeah. She Wendt there. The disproportionately low representation of white people in media, is a huge problem. Where were the white people on The Jamie Foxx Show? The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air? Gullah Gullah Island? In fact, let’s go on Twitter right now, and start the #WhiteLivesMatter. Of course, I say this in jest. For writers of color, is it mandatory for us to write about white people, in order to become mainstream? Or is this just another byproduct of the white gaze? Was Jana’s query coming from a place of virulent racism and privilege, or curious innocence? I’ll let you all arrive to your own conclusions.
The Omnipresent gaze
As for me, I am totally, wholly, absolutely unbothered by the white gaze. To be even more candid, I don’t care or concern myself with it. I don’t write my pieces thinking, “What will white people think about this?” Chalilah li. For me, I am concerned with a more Omnipresent Being. There is a passage in Hebrews that says the following:
Before God, nothing created is hidden, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must render an account. (Hebrews 4:13, CJB)
Are my writings satisfying in Yahweh’s sight? Are my writings pleasing to Him? Is my art advancing the Good News of His Kingdom? Are my articles amplifying the superiority of His ways? Do they glorify Him? Now yes, not every piece that I pen will be filled with sobering solemnity. I will have fun. Good fun. Wholesome fun. Clean fun. Within the parameters of Torah.
For my fellow writers of color, I would encourage you with the following: tell your story. Don’t be paralyzed by the white gaze. White culture is not superior. Black culture is not superior. Asian culture is not superior. Pop culture is not superior. Yahweh’s culture is superior.I look forward to engaging your stories, your anecdotes, your experiences, your narratives. Your art. Unburdened. Untainted. Unencumbered, by the white gaze. As for me,I will continue to strive to be pleasing in my Creators eyes. You know, they say the pen is mightier than the sword. What happens however, when one combines the pen, with the sword of The Spirit; that is, the Word of God?