Witnessing Whiteness: The Need to Talk About Race and How to Do It — Review of an Excellent Book!

George Marx
4 min readJun 20, 2022

It was a crowd of primarily Black spectators that first brought my racial being to consciousness. I will never forget the pointing, laughter, and yells: “Look at the white girl!” As a sophomore in high school in the mid-1980s, I was the different one for the first time, the minority within a group. Eight Black girls and I competed to go to the California State track meet in the 400-meter race. (xi)

So begins the Introduction of a most interesting book, Shelly Tochluk’s: Witnessing Whiteness: The Need to Talk About Race and How to Do It. (Edition three is scheduled to come out in August, 2022, two months from now.)

Tochluk is very direct, often with personal examples of the importance of white people focusing upon their own complicity in racism, and their need to proactively learn and become as active as possible at dismantling structural racism. She talks clearly of how we live in multicultural settings, yet understand so little of the daily experiences of BIPOC. The author further makes very clear how we resist thinking and talking about race, except in limited distant ways.

When we say that we do not see another person’s color, what we essentially are saying is that we do not see a person’s racial placement as meaningful. Basically, we are saying that we do not see the ways that a person of color experiences the world differently than does a white-appearing person. (p.27)

Since that time, I have learned that at the same time that I experienced a lack of attendance, there were teachers of color at the same school who did not experience the same issues I did. These teachers of color went to the homes. They overcame their own fears and anxieties. They created parent-teacher events. The parents came. They reached out respectfully before trouble emerged. Their students achieved more than mine. (p,43)

(regarding being a white Abolitionist) Unfortunately, becoming aware of, and resisting, skin privilege is an incomplete strategy. Practically, resisting the benefits of skin privilege does nothing to stop others from perceiving us and treating us preferentially in ways we cannot control. We also can only resist something that we consciously recognize. This model can allow powerful unconscious elements to slip by undetected and remain unworked. (p.46–7)