Learning To Decenter Myself

“You’re centering yourself in your blog. It’s not about you and Gloria, together”.

These words were delivered to me in summer 2020 by a white gentleman. They stung a little. I’d asked him for feedback on this blog/project; he’s a writer and has also worked personally on learning to be anti-racist.

Cut to the present: Gloria is doing very well with her new kidney that she received May 13th.  I saw her last Saturday when I brought dinner over; we hugged joyfully, and I could feel energy in her body. Before long she will come to my place and probably kick my ass at ping pong with her newfound strength. It’ll be great. “You’re a boring transplant patient,” her doctor told her happily yesterday, which is code for “you’re making excellent progress”.

Back to summer 2020. Sam was right. I’d been centering myself, which is what white people are trained to do in relation to people of color. We’re the star; they’re the sidekick. I will be giving a kidney on Gloria’s behalf. Here I am. Look at me; I’m doing this good thing.

After Sam’s feedback, I started focusing more on Gloria, both in my writing and in my conversations with people on kidney donation. People then started asking me more about how Gloria was doing, which in turn helped me to keep moving my friend more to the center of my focus and my blogging. By January 2021, I expected Gloria and myself to be interviewed together by my alumni magazine for a story, and we were. “How is Gloria doing?” friends now ask me upon greeting. Which is perfect, because Gloria’s restored health was the goal from the beginning.

Decentering myself needed mentoring from someone wiser than me. We underestimate our need for mentoring in white culture; we’re too individualistic. Learning to be anti-racist takes a lot of unlearning. And to be honest, there were times in my journey that my conversations did need to be about myself and my plan to give a kidney, because I needed my friends’ support in order to have enough strength to follow through. And people can’t support you if they don’t know about your goal, your struggle and your vulnerability.

In general, learning to center Gloria rather than myself has been like learning to play my guitar in tune. When a string is flat or sharp, there’s an offness, a discordance, the way that “look at me” is off-putting and out of spiritual alignment. Getting my guitar strings into tune brings peace to the ear. Decentering myself will surely be a lifelong project, but the ongoing effort is bringing peace to my spirit.

Reading (more days than not) the Anti Racism Daily helps me to grow in my anti-racism. A number of friends have told me they’ve started reading it since I recommended it last year. So I thought I’d recommend it again today, as we’re starting Memorial Day weekend.

4 thoughts on “Learning To Decenter Myself”

  1. H Alison,, so glad to hear that Gloria’s health is being restored and that she may soon slay it at ping pong! Great awareness about being a star vs. sidekick. Micki

  2. Thank you. This work is a multilayered journey…and you are truly on the path. TY for the Anti Racism Daily link. I missed it before.

    1. Heather, you have been a great mentor to me since you are a kidney donor, and also a physical therapist with unique insights on recovering from surgery. If I can be a mentor to you too (on anti-racism), I love it!

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