Witnessing Whiteness offers a comprehensive and empathetic exploration of what white people experience when learning about race, why it is so confusing, how whiteness works in their lives, and how to act against racism. The author combines authentic storytelling, nuanced analysis, and compelling voices from a collection of cross-race guides to lead readers through a self-reflective process that creates clarity about today’s challenging and often contradicting messages about how to be antiracist.
Shelly Tochluk is a Professor of Education at Mount Saint Mary’s University–Los Angeles. For over 18 years, she has worked with AWARE-LA (Alliance of White Anti-Racists Everywhere-Los Angeles) to host dialogues and an annual 4-day institute, Unmasking Whiteness, which leads White people into a deeper understanding of their personal relationship to race and systemic racism.
Part I: Getting Started on the Journey
Chapter One: Naming and Defining the Problem
Chapter Two: A Hidden History
Chapter Three: Becoming Aware of Racism
Chapter Four: Recognizing Missteps and Cultural Loss
Part II: Guides on the Journey
Chapter Five: Revealing Racial Identity Journeys
Chapter Six: Meanings of Whiteness
Chapter Seven: Learning through Conflict
Chapter Eight: Lingering Racism
Part III: The Work of Witnessing Whiteness
Chapter Nine: Building Knowledge
Chapter Ten: Building Skills
Chapter Eleven: Building Capacity
Chapter Twelve: Building Community
Chapter Thirteen: Building a White Antiracist Culture
About the Author
In a country polarized by either/or thinking, Witnessing Whiteness uses a both /and approach to help white folks step into their full humanity and courageously witness how whiteness shapes them. It gently nudges and inspires, offering a path toward a healthy, anti racist white identity that allows for authentic pride and joy. With sharp and clear analysis informed by a deeps desire for transformative justice, Tochluk offers true life examples, practical tools, and lessons you will refer back to time and time again. This is a must-have for any white person who cares about racial justice.
During this moment of “racial reckoning,” the persistent question my white colleagues ask is: "What can I do?” I tell them: “Read Witnessing Whiteness.” With authentic and vulnerable storytelling, Shelly Tochluk helps readers harness the courage to witness how whiteness shapes their lives and their relationships with People of Color. Importantly, this is not offered as an individual effort, but work to be done within the white community. With this foundation, my white colleagues and friends are better prepared to join me as partners in transforming our institutions and systems.
The first time I read Witnessing Whiteness, it was a revelation. Now, in its third edition, Tochluk continues to deepen my racial consciousness of how whiteness informs my perspective and understanding. If you have ever wondered why race matters as a white person, read this book. If you feel you understand it all, read this book. No matter how many times you read it, there is always more to learn within these pages. This book has been the foundation of my work towards antiracism.
Accessing the amazing experiences and wisdom of activists, thinkers, writers, and mythologists on the front lines of racial issues in this country, Shelly Tochluk brings to light the most important book about race in a generation. Is ‘whiteness’ bad in itself? And what is the prison/poison that this legacy bequeaths to us? I highly recommend this book - it’s helping to raise race dialogue to a more healing and regenerative ground.