FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
WHAT IS WHITENESS?
We believe that whiteness, or the legacy and myth of white racial superiority, is a paradigm that emerges from acculturation to what Resmaa Menakem calls "white-bodied supremacy" and the possession of racial privilege. It fundamentally disconnects us from the body through generational perpetrator trauma. This disconnection is the source of violence, towards ourselves and others. We share our personal experiences of whiteness in meetings and member-to-member. Of course, these stories are only part of the collective story. For a brief, but more sound contextual analysis, we would like to direct you to the words of historian, artist, author, and scholar, Nell Irvin Painter on the subject.
For more on the attributes that define whiteness culture and serve to uphold the myth of white supremacy, we refer to the often-quoted findings in Dismantling Racism: A Workbook for Social Change Groups, by Kenneth Jones and Tema Okun:
WHO IS WA FOR?
WA is for anyone seeking recovery from the effects of internalized dominance and whiteness. Each one of us holds different advantages and power within the North American Family and are impacted in different ways and to different degrees. WA members recognize, however, that regardless of our positionality, we all have a personal responsibility to heal ourselves from the disease of whiteness so that we may stop the cycle of violence to ourselves and others.
ISN'T RACE AND "WHITENESS" AN OUTSIDE ISSUE?
In short, no. WA's Tenth Tradition states, "Whiteness Anonymous, as an organization, has no opinion on outside issues except for the dismantling of racist systems of thought and behavior." We firmly believe that whiteness, racism, and other forms of oppression live in our bodies as much as it lives in external systems. Therefore, these are not outside issues but in fact are central to our health and well-being and the work of recovering our collective humanity.
Many of us came from other 12-step programs and are finding that recovering from whiteness and the myth of white supremacy culture more completely addresses the source and fundamental nature of our dis-ease.
IS WHITENESS REALLY AN ADDICTION OR DISEASE?
We don't know for sure that whiteness is an addiction, though the defining characteristic of addiction is the same as whiteness: a compulsive set of behaviors that continue despite harmful consequences. Chris Crass calls whiteness a "death culture." We believe that it is a social, psychological, and spiritual dis-ease that can infect anyone. We know that the 12 Steps have been helping people recover from seemingly hopeless patterns of addiction for decades and has been applied in a wide range of contexts. There is no known cure for the disease of whiteness, but there are various forms of treatment available. The daily practice of the 12 Step lifestyle can be one way to liberate us into a connected life built on healthy, life-affirming principles.
WHY BE ANONYMOUS?
On the surface, whiteness and anonymity seem like a toxic combination and historically it has been. Anonymity in the WA program is not meant to protect us from the accountability of the outside world but from our own selves. As white-bodied people, we struggle with a fundamental compulsion to perform. We draw from the experience of AA members who struggled, as we have, with ego--or personal desires and ambitions--getting in the way of our common purpose and welfare. To read more about why anonymity developed and why it is essential to the 12-step recovery program, you can read an excerpt from AA's Big Book here: https://www.aa.org/assets/en_US/en_tradition12.pdf
IS WA RELIGIOUS?
No. WA is not affiliated with any religious sect or denomination, overtly or covertly. We do say that this is a "spiritual" program, however, and must be clear that "spiritual" means anything that returns you to a sacred sense of humanity and heart. The original 12-Step programs of AA and Al-Anon often use language referring to a male, personified, external god but we are not limited by this. Because those of us seeking help have not been able to find relief on our own, have tried many other ways to change, and are often baffled by the effects of whiteness on our thinking and behavior, we seek to build a spiritual life and community that allows us to see the truth--that our personal liberation is inextricably interwoven into the liberation of all.
Each member is encouraged to create their own personal definition and to find what helps them to personally create meaning. For some, this may be defined as higher power, collective wisdom, higher self, all, flow, order, the web of life, group conscience, reason, love, nature, awareness, the universe, the force, spirit, creator, great mother, heavenly father, god, goddess; it may be a religious deity, or something else. The point is to develop a relationship with something that is personal to you and will help you move beyond your ego's understanding of yourself and the world.
Each person’s definition is entirely personal, valid, and respected. Personal recovery depends upon unity.
A chapter from AA's Big Book (1935) may lend further understanding:
ISN'T WHITENESS SYSTEMIC AND INSTITUTIONAL? WHERE IS THE SOCIAL ACTION?
We firmly believe that personal wellness and social justice are completely intertwined. We are committed to taking informed, effective, right action that creates opportunities for healing, not more harm. We believe that in order for this to happen, we must look deeply into ourselves and do the work that will remove the psychological and spiritual obstacles that have historically kept us from this ideal. We in WA are looking for freedom from the habits of mind that have kept us segregated from people who are different from us, keep us in states of emotional reactivity that create harm, and get in the way of our work towards making progress for the greater good.
As we heal and practice the 12 Steps in all facets of our lives, we become higher functioning members of society and become involved in all manner of causes related to social justice outside of the rooms. WA is not meant to be everything. It can, however, be a solid foundation for living a more whole life built on authenticity and integrity.