JLove is on a mission to make the “White Day Done.”BY Eric Z. Camins, September 6, 2009
(Photo courtesy of JLove Calderon)
As part of our ongoing discussion on race in America, we sat down with JLove Calderon to discuss the concept of Whiteness and White Privilege in the age of Obama, and how it affects the hip hop community.
JLove is a widely respected author, educator, and activist. Known for her work on social justice, race, and gender issues, she has dedicated herself to the advocacy of “truth, love, and freedom” of marginalized groups for over 15 years. She has written three books: We Got Issues!; That White Girl; and Conscious Women Rock the Page! Using Hip-Hop Fiction to Incite Social Change, and from academia to hip hop ciphers, JLove works to empower everyday people, young folks, women and girls. When speaking with JLove it is clear that she is determined to create dialogue on Whiteness and Privilege. She believes discussion is the key to moving forward, and thinks our silence is killing us. With her latest project, JLove explains the various ways she has approached this issue, and the possibility of change.
JLove’s latest project, Till The White Day is Done: White Privilege, Hip-Hop, and Social Change, is a discussion on the complex meanings behind identity, especially that tied to race and white privilege. She describes it as “a holistic journey involving a multi-dimensional and interactive experience through the interdisciplinary arts, education, and entertainment,” for which she has collaborated with artists and activists like Sonia Sanchez, Talib Kweli, Danny Hoch, Jeff Chang, Tim Wise, Chuck D, and many more. In its entirety, “White Day” includes a book, a documentary, a curriculum guide, and a national town hall tour. JLove is conducting a series of video interviews to launch the project including her first seen here with the legendary MC Serch:
We spoke with JLove about Till the White Day is Done, and race in America.
World Up: What was the inspiration behind the project?
JLove: The inspiration behind White Day is to give a swift, and loving, kick in the ass to my community of white folks (including kicking my own ass as needed!). I believe we have been hanging out in our comfort zone way too long. Racial inequality exists. No, we didn’t ask to be born white. Yes, we were. So now we gotta deal with it! As long as we still have unearned skin privilege we need to do something about it.
WU: What is the goal?
JL: To engage white people in a journey of self and community awareness: a process by which to heal from the soul-wounds of racism, and forge a new way of being that allows all people to reach their full potential, no matter what.
WU: Why do you think White Privilege is such a difficult concept for people to grasp?
JL: White people have been lied to. We live in an illusion that was created in order to maintain the status quo. So it’s like waking up one day to someone saying, “did you know that everything you’ve ever believed in has been a lie?” How do you deal with that? It f’in hard! That’s why we gotta get to work!
WU: How can we change that?
JL: Through dialogue and discussion, as opposed to preaching and judging. Compassionate truth-telling goes a long way. As my mentor Rha Goddess always told me, accountability gives us liberation.
WU: Discussions on Race often focus on discrimination and bigotry. Why is understanding “Whiteness and White Privilege” crucial to moving the conversation forward?
JL: Ahh, great question. It is easier to talk about people of color being victims of discrimination. That makes people of color the focus, and it tends to make it seem like it was a singular event by an obviously horrible racist. It lets us off the hook, though, because it does not take in account white supremacy and institutionalized racism, the systemic discrimination that happens on a daily basis. The other thing it does is makes “well-intentioned, good white people” feel like they are just fine staying neutral, because ‘hell, at least we don’t go around being racist like those people!’ We need to keep focus on understanding that white privilege is the flip-side of discrimination. They both gotta go!
WU: Do you think people see you as White first and then Hip Hop or visa versa?
JL: I see myself as a white woman who loves hip-hop!
WU: Should it matter?
JL: When racism is squashed, I will be comfortable letting go of identifying my skin color first. But because we live in a racist society, I have to understand my role, and the impact that my race has first. That is one of the dark sides of white privilege.
WU: Can Hip Hop be truly “shared” across race lines?
JL: I believe it has, and I believe it can continue to do so.
WU: Is it possible to both recognize the role race plays in everyday life, while also seeing beyond it to bring people together?
JL: We can see how race plays a role in everyday life AND use our creativity, innovation, love, and commonalities to bring folks together. That is hip-hop culture’s gift to the world, and it is how I became the person I am today. The ability to see the whole person, to truly understand the heart, mind, and soul of somebody is what matters. And what we really need to understand is that once we get there, we will see we are all connected. And once we feel our universality, I believe there will be only one calling: liberation. ‘Cause no one’s free, ’til we’re all free.
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