Why Whiteness

I have written quite a bit about whiteness.  I know that this is a subject that causes anger in many people.  The usual response is to call me a racist, or lecture me about my tone. Once in awhile I get the you’re to sensitive or things aren’t as bad as you make them out to be comments.  I realize that these are a defensive reaction but it is still highly irritating to say the least.

The reason we need to talk about whiteness is because it is everywhere.  It has become so dominant that it is normalized in every social institution.  Everywhere you look there is the influence of white culture.  I am well aware that many view culture as something that belongs to “others”; you know the “exotic darkies” but trust me whiteness has its own unique culture.

Even though whiteness is highly visible for all to see, it is something that is rarely discussed.  Usually when we discuss racism we attack it from the point of view of the person of colour.  We talk about things like how the legacy of slavery still haunts blacks, or the ways in which Indigenous cultures continue to be colonized. but never do we associate that as an act in maintenance of white hegemony.

Whiteness does not just exist, it is active, vibrant and alive.  Daily whiteness works hard to make sure that it is the centre of matters from the important to the trivial.  If we only speak about race in terms of the way that it effects people of colour, we are denying whiteness as a race and as an active participant in racial hierarchy.

Though focusing on the exotic darkies may be comfortable because that is what we have always done when we speak about racial discord, it is a very limited conversation.  Healing does not come from avoiding our pain and discomfort it comes from directly challenging it and forcing a change.

When I speak about whiteness I do it in search of a world in which all voices are truly equal.  For me it means releasing some of the anger that I have, and for others it may mean owning their unearned privileges. 

Privilege is the loaded word in all of these exchanges.  What some have come to view as a right of their existence is actually the result of  systemic racial equality.  The ease at which you are able to navigate the system to your advantage exists because the system was created to benefit you. 

Though I speak in generalities when I focus on whiteness it is important to point out that if you are disabled, gay, of lower/under class status etc the degree to which you will be able to benefit will be reduced.  This does not mean that a POC in your same position is your equal.  If standing next to a person in the same situation your whiteness will reassert itself and reestablish the hierarchy.

To be critical of whiteness is to risk attack simply because one is butting up against the norm.  How could a person of colour express dissatisfaction with a system that clearly so many people are happy with.  The sheer length and breadth of white hegemony would seem to make it an impenetrable fortress.

But my worth…my value…my satisfaction is every bit as valid as a white person.  Despite the content of whiteness with the inequality, my marginalization is something that I cannot content myself with.  It is not a matter of seeking to remove privilege but a demand that said privilege be extended to all.  The same opportunities and life chances that my white neighbour has, should be the same opportunities that are granted to me.

I should not have to fear that the police will one day attack my child.  I should not have to lie awake at night worried about the fact that I have to explain to my child that despite his gentle nature that the world will see him as a threat because of his blackness.  I should not have to battle with a racist education system to ensure that my child gets the education he is entitled to by law.  Finally I should not have to do battle daily to ensure that my child does not hate his blackness because that is the message that the world sends to him.

As an adult I do not expect any changes to directly effect me.  My path has been chosen and I must simply navigate it until its end, but as a mother and a potential grandmother I soldier on for those who will come after me, just as my foremothers did.  Whiteness is personal to me because it effects not only my life but the lives of those I love. 

Feel free to throw your hissy fits, stomp your feet, and howl, but your privilege must come to an end.  You are not more valuable to this world than my beautiful child.  I do not want your pity or your condescension.  My right to equality has been paid for in blood and I shall not allow your over sensitivity and selfishness to deny me my birth right.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *