FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
WHAT IS WHITENESS?
We believe in what Resmaa Menakem calls "white-bodied supremacy" and that whiteness is a paradigm that fundamentally disconnects us from the body through trauma - for some, it is experienced as victim trauma, for others as perpetrator trauma, for many more, it may be both. 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:
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 psychological or 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.
WHO IS WA FOR?
WA is for anyone seeking recovery from the effects of white supremacy. 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/or others.
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. 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. The original 12-Step programs of AA and Al-Anon often use language referring to a male, personified 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 white supremacy, we seek to build a spiritual life and community that allows us to reach beyond our ego's understanding for guidance and liberation.
Each member is encouraged to create their own personal definition of a power greater than themselves and to find what helps them to personally create meaning. For some, this may be defined as higher power, higher self, all, flow, order, the web of life, group conscience, greater wisdom, 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. That's why in meetings, we try not to speak of our personal understanding, but we do use generic terms such as loving presence, the god of my understanding, or higher power. Personal recovery depends upon unity.
A chapter from AA's Big Book (1935) may lend further understanding:
ISN'T WHITE SUPREMACY SYSTEMIC AND INSTITUTIONAL? WHERE IS THE SOCIAL ACTION?
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 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 overburdened and exhausted, and get in the way of progress for the greater good. WA is not meant to be everything. It can, however, be one part of a whole life.