Whiteness means it’s snowing!

What whiteness is not, is a meaningful racial designation. It goes to status, not ancestry.

A footnote to an essay in WHITENESS IS NOT AN ANCESTOR led me to pmpress blog, where I found a post titled, The Point is Not to Interpret Whiteness but to Abolish It. It was written in 1997 by Ignatiev. Two quotes from that post follow.

David Roediger … has insisted that whiteness is not merely oppressive and false, it is nothing but oppressive and false. As James Baldwin said, “So long as you think you are white, there is no hope for you.”

Whiteness is not a culture. There is Irish culture and Italian culture and American culture—the latter, as Albert Murray pointed out, a mixture of the Yankee, the Indian, and the Negro (with a pinch of ethnic salt); there is youth culture and drug culture and queer culture; but there is no such thing as white culture. Whiteness has nothing to do with culture and everything to do with social position. It is nothing but a reflection of privilege, and exists for no reason other than to defend it. Without the privileges attached to it, the white race would not exist, and the white skin would have no more social significance than big feet.

Back on a learning curve and you, lucky readers, get to come with me!

Meanwhile an important take away from a 30 minute audio clip on Safe Space Radio, is that learning about racism for white people can consist of BOTH the heartbreak of acknowledging harm generally and mistakes personally AND ALSO embrace the need to feel like we are decent human beings. This felt like an important jiggle forward for me.

Thank you Ellen and Doris for directing me to this resource.

Thank you Belinda for recommending the book.

23 thoughts on “Whiteness

  1. RainSluice

    I Iook forward to reading this. Thank you. I was recently discussing the start up of a book group with in my neighborhood. My pile of required reading is tipping over!

    1. deemallon Post author

      My TBR list is soooo long. Ridiculously long. I want to feel less oppressed by that fact this year. Not by reading faster / better / more but by giving up the self-flagellation.

  2. Marti

    Well this is food for thought…I have never checked off white on any official form that asks for such info…I mark Hispanic and then write in parenthesis, Spanish. Hispanic, Latina, Spanish, the designations, all with different shades of meaning. Doubt that I have ever seen Spanish as stand alone…and yet I go by my very American nickname of Marti and not by my Spanish and legal name of Juanita…And further, I have never felt the pull to visit Spain…so in my elder years, I am trying to come to understand this seemingly contradictory stance!

  3. RainSluice

    I have that self-flagellation issue, too. I have been indulging in a (gift) book by Ed Wong, “An Immense World”. Lotta pages. I’m find it to be just excellent 🙂 Last night I read the chapter on dog sniffing.

    It is intellectually satisfying, funny in places and something I can read that quells my mind before “lights out” – when I am full of pundit-voices and too-much-to-do lists.

  4. Faith

    Way back in the 60s a teacher told his class “There is only one race on Earth. It’s the Human race.”

    Maybe we should check “Other” on forms and write in “Human.” Everything else is just ancestral origin or (very generic) skin color, no less, perhaps more random than selecting eye or hair color.

    Looks like an interesting book.

    1. deemallon Post author

      The one-race idea might suit us in subsequent generations after a prolonged period of reparations. For now I think it’s important to notice race, acknowledge racism, and learn (as white people) to talk about it. Like we are right now.

      The point of this book and the blog post is that whiteness is a social construct and not a race,
      particularly in the context of the U.S.

      I know you didn’t say “I don’t see race,” but this idealistic wish verges on that.

      Still, I like your idea of denying the poll takers and census folks and DMVs their designations. It’s disruptive and feels delicious for being so.

      1. Faith

        No, I didn’t mean that I don’t see race. I do (how can anyone not?), but I also think that’s the wrong word. It’s ALL construct. Me believing (accepting, acting on) this as truth is as much a way of acknowledging the inequities and false superiority of whites as my acknowledging and working to correct my own ingrained racial prejudices–the only reparations I can personally give. To believe that everyone will accept and believe this is, at this time, indeed wishful thinking. But to ignore and not act on the truth of it will not help and may actually harm (or, at the very least, slow down) any healing and universal acceptance in the future. And to repeat something often enough helps convince people (as witnessed by recent politics).

        I’m pretty sure the book, you, and I are all on the same page. We’re just approaching it from different sides, backgrounds, points of view.

        Yes, deliciously disruptive!

        1. deemallon Post author

          Thank you for this enlarged explanation. It’s not at all how I took your first comment. This spiritual approach doesn’t quite fit into our vocabularies of change, does it? It has enlarged my view. Thank you.

  5. Joanne in Maine.

    I wonder at times if I should write Immigrant when asked for race? I am only second generation American. Newbie.

    1. deemallon Post author

      I guess my feeling is that even as second generation (white) immigrants, we are bestowed the benefits of being white, so maybe we shouldn’t get to duck the designation?

  6. Saskia van Herwaarden

    …now I am interested in getting to know him as well!
    and also, I think art and everything connected in the making (and studying) thereof ís all about learning


Leave a Reply