Monday, February 6, 2012

AZ Rep. Cecil Ash Wants A Day to Celebrate White Folks

If you went to school in North America, chances are that you are very well versed in the history of Whiteness.  You will have learned that White people are responsible for anything that is good in this world, and that people of colour exist to be colonized, stolen from, enslaved, raped, impoverished, and purposefully undereducated.  There isn't a single agent of socialization in which Whiteness does not have a hegemonic presence, and this means that POC must actively fight to have our stories told, or to have any form of positive representation.


Rep. Cecil Ash, a Republican from Mesa, is suggesting Arizona needs a holiday for white people.

"I wanted to speak to you all about Latino Americans here in Arizona," said state Rep. Richard Miranda on the House floor Monday, starting the conversation that sparked the controversy.

Miranda said Arizona should have a Latino American day in Arizona.

After some heated debate, Rep. Cecil Ash stepped up to the mic.

"I'm supportive of this proposition. I just want them to assure me that when we do become in the minority you'll have a day for us," Ash said.
"Yes, I think it was appropriate. It was appropriate for the mood that was in the House and I think that if and when the Caucasian population becomes a minority, they may want to celebrate the accomplishments and the contributions of the Caucasian population the same way," Ash said.

Ash went on to say the state should acknowledge the accomplishments of great people, no matter their ethnic background. [source]
Apparently Ash was only trying to lighten the mood, and what better way to do it than to co-opt the experiences of POC and suggest that White people need a day for representation also. His comment were a reflection of his racial privilege. Refocusing the conversation on Whiteness when a POC is attempting to raise awareness, or create opportunities for POC, is not about adding levity, it's about ensuring that Whiteness is always the center of the conversation, because being the focal point allows one to control the discourse.  I wonder if his business cards read, Rep Ash, fighting to keep the darkies in their place. Ash's action were an attempt to assert his power as a White man.

It's no secret that the U.S. is well on its way to becoming a minority majority nation.  In fact, this condition already exists in a few states, but this has done nothing to lessen the power of Whiteness.
Ash's comments reflect the rising White panic over the possibility that the day may come when Whiteness will no longer be in a position to actively oppress people of colour, and will therefore be subject to the very same treatment that they have subjected us to for generations.  Though many are convinced that the negative stereotypes associated with POC are true, they still fear that one day the  karma boomerang will return, because they know damn well that what we have been forced to live through is not humane. Ash's comments reflect the fear that one day Whiteness will find itself erased and be subjected to active persecution. An attempt to demand responsibility is always thwarted, as though the denial of the truth will somehow make it less true.

I am not one to advocate for persecution, but I do believe that they should absolutely be held accountable for the horror that they have inflicted upon POC across the globe.  Malcolm X famously said, "We didn't land on Plymouth Rock, Plymouth Rock landed on us", and the truth of this statement resonates even to this day.  In recent years, there have been attempts to re-write history in textbooks and to reduce the culpability of Whiteness, as though POC could possibly forget for one moment what our ancestors lived through, and what we continue to endure. If Whiteness were at all interested in responsibility, discussions of reparations for slavery would not result in vicious hand wringing, pearl clutching, anger and outright denial.

Programs that help to teach culture and language of Latinos have found their funding eliminated, and this serves as proof of a continued effort on the part of Whiteness to separate us from our cultural roots.  They are cast as an unnecessary expenditure, though the more connected a person of colour is to their history, language and culture, the more likely they are to succeed.  The elimination of these programs works for Whiteness because it disconnects youth from their culture and language and encourages the project of revisionism.

Arizona is also the birth place of the hideous Juan Crow laws, in which Latino people are actively targeted. Undocumented workers from Europe and Canada most definitely reside in the U.S., but because it is presumed that they are most likely to be White, no witch hunt has been convened to gather them up and deport them.  This has been enforced by the hideous Joe Arpaio, who never met a person of colour he didn't want to oppress.  The attacks have all been framed within a discourse of maintaining law and order, in the hope of disguising their malicious intent.

As much as Ash would like us to believe that his comments were made only to insert a light moment of brevity, the truth of the matter is that they were made within a framework of fear.  His intent is meaningless, when we know that racism continues to have a negative impact on the lives of POC.  Whiteness will not simply bring about an end to its hegemony, and Ash's comments work to further  the fear of retribution in Whiteness, which will in turn serve to support the idea that White supremacy must be supported at all times. In a culture in which Whiteness is positively represented and promoted daily, it is highly insensitive to suggest a day to celebrate Whiteness, even if said day may occur decades in the future. It is also worth noting that suggesting that POC will behave in the same manner that Whiteness has with it's power, makes it appear as though we have learned nothing from our sojourn at the bottom of the social pyramid.