An old saw about therapy is that the thing you don’t talk about is the thing. The therapist and patient together avoid this thing, this shameful and threatening thing. The thing is unconscious — sometimes partially, other times totally. You only know it by the silence and illogic that surrounds it, and the extremes to which the patient will go to erase any sign of it in their own mind, and in their therapist’s, too. The first step towards unpacking the thing is finding a way to talk about it.
Just talk about it, moving step by careful step into a psychic place so raw that even acknowledging this unconscious thing is a threat to safety and sanity. Freud called this process “making the unconscious conscious” and it has defined psychotherapy ever since. Depending on who you are, that question falls somewhere between obvious and sacrilege. That’s one sign that whiteness might be the thing. A spin of today’s media dial offers its own data, a smorgasbord of white people flailing within the confines of whiteness: Covington Catholic and Rachel Dolezal, Permit Patty and Baked Alaska.