Tiger Woods will go down as one of the greatest golfers of all-time. After his victory at the 2001 Master’s, Tiger became the first ever golfer to hold all four major championships at the same time. Though Woods’ game has declined as of late, he’s accomplished feats that others only dream too. More importantly than his athletic legacy, Tiger broke boundaries of what once was only a white man’s sport.

What Is “White Space”?

White spaces have always existed in our country, many of which were built on the backs of African American brothers and sisters. As a white male, this isn’t easy to admit. It brings about a weighty shame. But if we are honest and remove our “normal” lenses, we will see that white thought, culture, and experience dominates our country.

Jemar Tisby, President and Founder of the Reformed African American Network (RAAN), explains, “The white gaze describes the perceptions of reality held by the racially dominant group. In the U.S. white cultural norms hold sway. Their patterns of speech, style of dress, standards of beauty, and views about race relations are all considered normal.”

The difficulty with the modern problem of white space is these arenas are not advertised as explicitly segregated for minorities. For example, higher education is a predominately white space. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, minorities only made up 20 percent of full-time faculty members at institutions of higher learning in fall 2013. Though minorities are in roles and positions throughout the field of post-secondary education, the general make-up is largely white.

Why Does It Exist?

Andy Mineo, a young white hip-hop artist from New York, explains the topic best in his latest album titled Uncomfortable.

“My own people owned people,

But they don’t own that.

They say racism dead,

Our President is black.

Two terms in the white house,

That don’t mean jack.

If we still believe our present isn’t affected by our past.”

White spaces exist because our country is still greatly affected by the sin of slavery, segregation and racism. Jim Crow laws maintained the white space that slavery created. Civil Rights leaders were mauled and beaten for basic rights, a seat at the front of the bus, a place at the diner, and the ability to vote. White spaces were being “invaded” by minority cultures. Racism tends to be acknowledged in overt contexts while sinful man’s implicit bias is ignored or accepted.

It could be argued that white space is merely a product of cultural differences between Caucasians and those of other races. However, these white spaces are not small cultural pockets that aid in the vast make up of our American society. White space consumes American society! To phrase it like this, the word “normal” is often code for white majority meanings and application.

How To Respond?

In his poem titled Normal Hair,  Micah Bournes poses the question, “normal to whom?” One’s “normal” experience is only applicable to the individual making the statement. White culture has kidnapped this adjective and de facto made all other experiences abnormal or unusual thus inferring their lesser value.

Writer Tevin Brown quotes Anthony Forrest, cultural apologist, in his piece “Who’s a idiot? Hearing the beauty in “broken” English ” on the idea that one is only of value by the degree in which they are similar:

“I was talking with my friend, Anthony Forrest, about the ways Christians engage with other subcultures and he said, “The problem at times in Christian cultures is people are only as worthy as they are similar.” Anthony suggested that when presented with diversity in regards to things like music, race and in this case, language, Christians tend to see those who are similar to them as worthier than others.”

Believers must acknowledge this very natural sin of implicit bias, and then proactively pursue care and acceptance of others without any goal of assimilation or individual cultural change. Gospel unity and gospel diversity are not mutually exclusive. The unity in Christ is also beautiful because of the diversity in Christ! Implementing this mindset should turn white spaces into beautiful multi-colored masterpieces.

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