Whiteness and You … and Me, Too

Posted: August 13, 2019 by julietteochieng in oddities
Tags: , , , , , ,

Cite: New York Times

by baldilocks

I’m going to try to read this whole thing without stabbing my eyes out.

A taste:

The most important and consequential thing that sociologists have discovered about whiteness—having white skin and/or being identified as white—is that it is perceived as the normal or default race in the U.S. Though the nation is racially diverse and most are aware of that, anyone who is not white is specially coded through language in a way that marks their race or ethnicity, while white people are not treated this way. “European American” or “Caucasian American” are not common phrases, but African American, Asian American, Indian American, Mexican American, etc., are. It’s also common practice among white people to only specifically state the race of a person they came into contact with if that person is not white. Sociologists recognize that the way we speak about people signals that white people are “normal” Americans, while everyone else is a different kind of American that requires additional explanation.

For anyone who is not white, that additional language and what it signifies is often forced upon and expected of them, whereas for white people, because we are seen as the norm, ethnicity is optional. It is something that we can access if we want to, and use as social or cultural capital. But, it is not required of a white American, for example, to embrace and identify with her British, Irish, Scottish, French, and Canadian heritage. It is rare that she will be asked to explain where she or her parents are from in that special way that really means, “What are you?” Her whiteness casts her as normal, as expected, and as inherently American.

We see the “normal” nature of whiteness in film and television too, in which most main characters are white, and in the case where a show or film prominently features actors of color, it is considered a “Black” or “Hispanic” cultural product. Film and television that primarily features white people is “normal” film and television that is thought to appeal to the mainstream; those that feature actors of color in lead roles and casts composed predominantly of people of color are considered niche works that exist outside of that mainstream. The race of the cast members marks the work as “different.” (TV show creators Shonda Rhimes, Jenji Kohan, Mindy Kaling, and Aziz Ansari are contributing to a shift in the racial television landscape, but their shows are exceptions, not the norm.)

Fact is, I agree with this. But is it really that big of a deal?

And what I hate about the dust-up and uproar about “white supremacy” and “white privilege” is that the dust ups and uproars reek of the very things they hate.

If you, citizen of good faith, think that each individual is equal in the sight of God, then that’s great. The overreaction, however, to anything remotely critical or other-ing of any black person is problematic and is, frankly fake. It’s a cover for the true feelings of those who wage war against White “Supremacy/Privilege”: that whites are superior to non-whites and especially to blacks. To them, the only way to counteract it is to, basically, lay down and die. Or, at the very least, to refrain from reproducing.

(Psst! Here’s something else: the overreaction to actual white supremacism smells bad, too.)

How else do I know that the war is fake? The overreaction happens only when black liberals/leftists/Democrats are criticized. But let someone call, say, me, a “sell-out n-word” and none of the Warriors Against Whiteness could give a rat’s. I see you, Anti-Whiteness Warriors!

Ah, well. Let’s read. Let me know if there’s a surprise ending.

Juliette Akinyi Ochieng has been blogging since 2003 as baldilocks. Her older blog is here.  She published her first novel, Tale of the Tigers: Love is Not a Game in 2012.

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