Why We Need To Know The Story Of Whiteness

Posted in Articles, History, Media Archive, Slavery, United States on 2017-10-31 20:18Z by Steven

Why We Need To Know The Story Of Whiteness


Fanshen Cox DiGiovanni

Photo: Shutterstock

Every year around our birthdays, our mom tells my brother and me the story of our births. This is the gift I look forward to most. Origin stories are important. They literally root us. Not everyone has full access to their origin story, however. Perhaps the most tragic end result of enslavement in the Americas is that many of our origin stories have been lost, manipulated and erased. Yet, we insist on learning about and from our past to direct our own futures, as seen by the new National Museum of African American History and Culture.

One origin story we have access to — but that has not been fully told — is the story of Whiteness. How did White people become White?

When I say the story of Whiteness, I do not mean a story about a person, hero or villain who happens to be White. We have plenty of those. I’m talking about the period between 1619 — with the arrival of the first Africans to Virginia — and some 60 years later when laws created hierarchies based on an invented concept called ‘White.’ There are a lot of enslavement narratives, but why don’t we have films and TV shows about who counted as White at the time, and, most importantly: why?…

Read the entire article here.

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Understanding Our Roots – White Supremacy is More Than the KKK

Posted in Media Archive, Social Justice, Social Science, United States, Videos on 2017-04-09 02:35Z by Steven

Understanding Our Roots – White Supremacy is More Than the KKK

TEDx Talks

Hephzibah V. Strmic-Pawl, Assistant Professor of Sociology
Manhattanville College, Purchase, New York

Several strong experiences with the complexities of race as a child led Hephzibah to wanting to escape these problems by becoming a business major and ‘marrying well’. As she embarked on that path she found that solution incomplete and unfulfilling and so move into studying economics and sociology. Since then, she has developed an understanding of how White Privilege and White Supremacy shaped the structures not only of her childhood, but also of our country.

Dr. Hephzibah V. Strmic-Pawl is a sociologist who specializes in the study of race and contemporary racial inequality, and has a focus on American multiracialism. She is the author of the book Multiracialism and Its Discontents: A Comparative Analysis of Asian-White and Black-White Multiracials and co-editor of the reader Race and Ethnicity: Constancy in Change. In addition to her research on multiracialism, she is invested in the pedagogy of race and is beginning new work on gentrification. Dr. strmic-pawl is also the founder of the campaign to create a holiday in honor of the Civil Rights Movement activist, Ella Baker (www.supportellabakerday.com). She is currently an assistant professor at Manhattanville College in Purchase, New York and resides in Brooklyn.

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The white supremacy of being asked where I’m from

Posted in Articles, Asian Diaspora, Autobiography, Media Archive, Social Justice, United States, Videos on 2017-01-29 21:15Z by Steven

The white supremacy of being asked where I’m from

PBS NewsHour

What comes to mind when you hear the phrase “white supremacy”? For actor comedian Peter Kim, it’s facing the commonplace cultural assumption that white is the default race in America

ANTONIO MORA: Finally tonight, a look at the subtle ways our society often equates being white with what’s normal.

It comes from Peter Kim, who was a member of Chicago’s famed Second City comedy troupe.

It is the latest edition of IMHO, In My Humble Opinion.

PETER KIM, Comedian: When you hear the phrase white supremacy, what picture comes to your mind? Maybe it’s Adolf Hitler screaming into a microphone. Maybe it’s white-hooded figures marching around a burning cross.

For me, it’s a lot less dramatic and a lot more commonplace. So, if I may, I would like to offer an updated definition of white supremacy. It’s the idea that white is the ideal, and we are all consciously and subconsciously working to achieve whiteness…

Read the entire transcipt here.

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Peggy McIntosh (1997: 291) describes White privilege as ‘an invisible package of unearned assets’. A discussion on the relative advantages and disadvantages of this analogy in advancing our understanding of Whiteness

Posted in Articles, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Social Justice, Social Science on 2017-01-10 00:58Z by Steven

Peggy McIntosh (1997: 291) describes White privilege as ‘an invisible package of unearned assets’. A discussion on the relative advantages and disadvantages of this analogy in advancing our understanding of Whiteness


J. J. Lindsley

Kanye West meets with Donald Trump at Trump Tower, December 2016. Credit: Observer.com at http://observer.com/2016/12/is-kanye-west-the-future-voice-of-trump-radio/

2013 essay revisited

The analogy put forward by McIntosh (1997) has a number of advantages. It is frequently assumed in social terms that whiteness is immutable. However, the experience of the white Irish in early twentieth-century USA suggests that ‘whiteness’ holds connotations beyond skin colour alone (Guteri, 2009). Similarly, the ‘one drop’ rule that was used to define African Americans in rules regarding segregation in the early Twentieth Century suggested that any individual with one African-American ancestor should be considered as non-white (Khanna, 2011). However, difficulties occur in this analogy when white privilege intersects with other forms (Smith, 2007). White privileges can combine with other foundations with the effect of a different set of advantages and disadvantages; be they represented through as social, economic, gender or sexuality. ‘The cumulative effect of these unseen privileges for whites sustains the current racial group disparity’ (Mallett & Swim, p.58). The questions posed by McIntosh’s (1997) analogy focus on whether we can consider the interactions between all prejudice in solely terms of maintaining white privileges, or whether other factors arise. Are the privileges gained by being ‘white’ and ‘male’ simply the cumulative effect of the assets of either category, or does being a non-white male involve a qualitatively different type of maleness? To examine these issues the following structure will be adopted. First, a discussion will be made of McIntosh’s (1997) analogy in understanding whiteness. The suggestions of McIntosh (1997) and Ignatiev (1997) for active resistance to whiteness will be scrutinised. Second, the contribution of Critical Race Theory (CRT) will be assessed. Third, the intersection of race with other factors, including definitions of race, poverty, and gender will be discussed. In the ensuing discussion, the following disclaimer is made: race and racial terms are understood as social constructs rather than biological facts, and the terms will be used purely as they are understood contextually. This must also be recognised of the term African-American which is used in the ensuing discussion…

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The Identity Politics of Whiteness

Posted in Articles, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, Social Science, United States on 2016-11-28 01:26Z by Steven

The Identity Politics of Whiteness

The New York Times Magazine

Laila Lalami

Three years ago, I read “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” to my daughter. She smiled as she heard about Huck’s mischief, his jokes, his dress-up games, but it was his relationship with the runaway slave Jim that intrigued her most. Huck and Jim travel together as Jim seeks his freedom; at times, Huck wrestles with his decision to help. In the end, Tom Sawyer concocts an elaborate scheme for Jim’s release.

When we finished the book, my daughter had a question: Why didn’t Tom just tell Jim the truth — that Miss Watson had already freed him in her will? She is not alone in asking; scholars have long debated this issue. One answer lies in white identity, which needs black identity in order to define itself, and therefore cannot exist without it.

“Identity” is a vexing word. It is racial or sexual or national or religious or all those things at once. Sometimes it is proudly claimed, other times hidden or denied. But the word is almost never applied to whiteness. Racial identity is taken to be exclusive to people of color: When we speak about race, it is in connection with African-Americans or Latinos or Asians or Native People or some other group that has been designated a minority. “White” is seen as the default, the absence of race. In school curriculums, one month is reserved for the study of black history, while the rest of the year is just plain history; people will tell you they are fans of black or Latin music, but few will claim they love white music…

Read the entire article here.

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MSU faculty contribute to book on white privilege

Posted in Articles, History, Media Archive, Social Science, United States on 2016-07-09 14:46Z by Steven

MSU faculty contribute to book on white privilege

Mississippi State University

Contact: Allison Matthews

STARKVILLE, Miss.—Two Mississippi State faculty members helped lead a literary effort examining the basis and scope of racial identity as an American social structure.

Stephen Middleton, professor of history and director for African American Studies at MSU, along with associate professor of English and African American Studies Donald Shaffer, served on the editing team for “The Construction of Whiteness: An Interdisciplinary Analysis of Race Formation and the Meaning of a White Identity.” A University Press of Mississippi publication, the collection of essays specifically looks at the origins of white privilege and the various social, cultural, political and economic practices that underwrite its ideological influence in American society. David Roediger of the University of Kansas also was co-editor.

“This book explores an old story in American culture,” said Middleton, the project’s lead editor. “It reviews a time when we thought about ourselves in certain ways, and the two categories that defined us more than any other were ‘white’ and ‘black.’ It’s an old story of what we’ve learned about our history and what we tell ourselves.”

“Whiteness” is a socially and legally constructed category, Middleton said, woven into the American psyche over time based on the need for cheap labor. This established a power and economic structure favorable to whites that socially and legally denied access to non-whites…

Read the entire article here.

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The Changing Face of Whiteness

Posted in Articles, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, Social Science, United States on 2016-06-13 00:42Z by Steven

The Changing Face of Whiteness


William C. Anderson

When Guido Menzio sat down on a regional jet for a short flight from Philadelphia to Syracuse, New York, he certainly couldn’t have guessed what was going to happen. The 40-year-old economist was profiled as a terror suspect for being focused too intently on a math problem. The differential equation he was working on was possibly mistaken for terrorist scrawlings by the nervous passenger next to him, who was concerned that Menzio wasn’t polite enough, looked suspicious and was too distracted by his foreign scribblings.

After delaying the flight and profiling Menzio, the media would soon report on the “Ivy League economist” who was “ethnically profiled” for doing math on a plane. Focal points of this story were Menzio’s whiteness as an Italian and his stature as an Ivy League economist — both of which should assure him no suspicion from authorities, unless he should be mistaken for a person of color. Amid the reverberating outcry around Menzio’s treatment, the fact that no one should be treated that way may have gotten lost. After all, the passenger followed what is protocol for many; she saw something and she said something. But what is it she saw? She saw someone she was scared of and someone who was possibly not white…

Read the entire article here

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The Construction of Whiteness: An Interdisciplinary Analysis of Race Formation and the Meaning of a White Identity

Posted in Anthologies, Books, Communications/Media Studies, History, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Social Science, United States on 2016-05-19 01:38Z by Steven

The Construction of Whiteness: An Interdisciplinary Analysis of Race Formation and the Meaning of a White Identity

University Press of Mississippi
April 2016
256 pages (approx.)
6 x 9 inches
introduction, 8 b&w illustrations, bibliography, index
Hardcover ISBN: 9781496805553

Edited By:

Stephen Middleton, Professor of History and Director of African American
Mississippi State University

David R. Roediger, Foundation Professor of American Studies and History
University of Kansas

Donald M. Shaffer, Associate Professor of African American Studies and English
Mississippi State University

A critical engagement with the origins, power, and elusiveness of white privilege

Contributions by Sadhana Bery, Erica Cooper, Tim Engles, Matthew W. Hughey, Becky Thompson, Veronica T. Watson, and Robert St. Martin Westley

This volume collects interdisciplinary essays that examine the crucial intersection between whiteness as a privileged racial category and the various material practices (social, cultural, political, and economic) that undergird white ideological influence in America. In truth, the need to examine whiteness as a problem has rarely been grasped outside academic circles. The ubiquity of whiteness–its pervasive quality as an ideal that is at once omnipresent and invisible–makes it the very epitome of the mainstream in America. And yet the undeniable relationship between whiteness and inequality in this country necessitates a thorough interrogation of its formation, its representation, and its reproduction. Essays here seek to do just that work. Editors and contributors interrogate whiteness as a social construct, revealing the underpinnings of narratives that foster white skin as an ideal of beauty, intelligence, and power.

Contributors examine whiteness from several disciplinary perspectives, including history, communication, law, sociology, and literature. Its breadth and depth makes The Construction of Whiteness a refined introduction to the critical study of race for a new generation of scholars, undergraduates, and graduate students. Moreover, the interdisciplinary approach of the collection will appeal to scholars in African and African American studies, ethnic studies, cultural studies, legal studies, and more. This collection delivers an important contribution to the field of whiteness studies in its multifaceted impact on American history and culture.

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The Psychosis of Whiteness: The Celluloid Hallucinations of Amazing Grace and Belle

Posted in Articles, Communications/Media Studies, History, Media Archive, Slavery, Social Science, United Kingdom on 2016-04-20 23:43Z by Steven

The Psychosis of Whiteness: The Celluloid Hallucinations of Amazing Grace and Belle

Journal of Black Studies
Published online before print 2016-03-21
DOI: 10.1177/0021934716638802

Kehinde Andrews, Associate Professor in Sociology
Birmingham City University, Birmingham, United Kingdom

Critical Whiteness studies has emerged as an academic discipline that has produced a lot of work and garnered attention in the last two decades. Central to this project is the idea that if the processes of Whiteness can be uncovered, then they can be reasoned with and overcome, through rationale dialogue. This article will argue, however, that Whiteness is a process rooted in the social structure, one that induces a form of psychosis framed by its irrationality, which is beyond any rational engagement. Drawing on a critical discourse analysis of the two only British big budget movies about transatlantic slavery, Amazing Grace and Belle, the article argues that such films serve as the celluloid hallucinations that reinforce the psychosis of Whiteness. The features of this discourse that arose from the analysis included the lack of Black agency, distancing Britain from the horrors of slavery, and downplaying the role of racism.

Read or purchase the article here.

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Interview: Whiteness Redux

Posted in Articles, Media Archive, Social Science on 2010-11-02 00:39Z by Steven

Interview: Whiteness Redux

borderlands: e-journal
Volume 3, Number 2 (2004)

Mike Hill, Associate Professor of English and Women’s Studies
State University of New York, Albany

Damien W. Riggs
University of Adelaide, South Australia

1. Damien: As a research area that is rapidly growing within ‘Western nations’, how would you understand whiteness studies as both creating the potential for critique, but also the potential for reinforcing the normative status of whiteness?

2. Mike: It’s interesting that you use the word “potential.” Because one of the issues that the whiteness studies phenomena in the US has raised—productively, if painfully—is whether or not humanities research in Western nations is at this moment capable of doing anything significant at all, critical, normative, whatever. Whither whiteness, and with it, whither scholarly books as the most effective basis for political agency? From a historical vantage point this is not a flippant question. We assume that writing leads to what significant social event, exactly? On the whiteness front, we know that writing has lead, well, to more writing, more conferences, additional debate. Do we presume a connection between this relatively recent outpouring of scholarship and progressive mass movements, radical insurgencies, real social change? The relation between humanities knowledge and the masses has I believe never been more confused. But neither has it been more crucial.

…15. Damien: There has been much talk recently, particular within the US and UK, of white people engaging in a movement towards ‘race abolitionism’, and as being ‘race traitors’. Do you think this connects with work in the area of whiteness studies, and in what regards (if any) do you see it as creating the potential for challenging the racialised structures of ‘Western societies’?

16. Mike: That word “potential” again. If we could only measure such a force in some way beyond just saying “yes, this or that provides our one true hope,” or “no, it surely does not.” I’ve been somewhat critical of the race traitor movement in the US on the grounds that it was voluntaristic and prone to all sorts of ontological thefting, to fetishizing the margins, to romantically blackening up, and so on. Maybe these charges were facile, or the underlying logic not so clear. But I still wonder, as I did in an article for Postmodern Culture back in 1997, about programatically performing “treason to whiteness” in order to ensure one’s “loyalty to humanity,” as that historically imperious neo-Enlightenment slogan goes. Humanity is a nice desire. But I wonder if this term, as evoked by the race traitor group, might turn on the way white men in particular are playing out a sense of late-capitalist public disenfranchisement, variously retooling, or really, gearing up their affective relations to colour, for everyone to witness and once again applaud…

…36. Damien: Whilst it is important to recognise the very local ways in which whiteness achieves hegemony, it has also been suggested that there are broader connections between the practices of whiteness in differing countries, particularly through their relation to discourses of empire and imperialism. Where do you see some of the important international connections within the study of whiteness?…

…40. Mike: Enter here the multiracial movement, which maintains an express disavowal of whiteness and, for that matter, disavows allegiance to blackness, our two longstanding oppositional correlates. There are something like sixty multiracial organizations in the US touting the cause of civil rights, self- and state-recognition, full and frank disclosure that the population designated black is mostly mixed race (as if race is a quantifiable set of blood ratios!). As I said, it’s significant that, for them, “white” is a bunk historical fiction. But it’s a horror for the NAACP that so too is “black.” The multiracial activists seek the right to be counted as one would choose, which means the full extension of a civil rights legacy that emphasises self- over observer-enumeration. Race is addressed once again as the matter of getting identity correct in one’s own eyes and in the eyes of the state. This time though, the traditional categories of race are exhausted thevery moment that race is embraced.

41. What the old civil rights organization’s realised, especially given the enthusiasm of republican legislators to get multiracial people officially counted, is that the new abundance of race categories threaten to terminate the juridical unity of race altogether. A new and accelerated civil rights lexicon increases the number of race categories that individuals may legally claim. On this order, race is everywhere significant and nowhere identifiable in the old formalist sense. So you have the NAACP’s awkward defence of the one-drop rule of hypo-descent—formerly associated with Jim Crow—as a sort of desperate, ironic collective self-defence against the difficulties implicit in the post-civil rights epoch.

42. This latest process of governing vis-à-vis racial distinction is different from previous civil rights struggles, which tried to liberalise the state and get government justly interested in the racial identities it once denied. Under this new set of protocols, the state has admitted racial interest and with ever greater freedom and nuance. But it has done so in order to rob racial coherency of its former political significance.

43. If you pursue the multiracialism debate to its logical ends, you can start to see how an individual’s right to self-identify, paradoxically, provides an opportunity for racial identity itself to release the state from its previous civil rights obligations. In this way, the state jettisons the most important historical cite of domestic dissent the very moment it presumes to go global. You could say that the neo-nationalist end of liberalism is hereby found dormant in the logic of its once benevolent ends. In effect, all and no race relations exist in the eyes of a racially emancipated state. Multiplicity is unleashed upon identity, and the organizational capacity of government is both maximised and evaporated within the simple act of saying, “I am…”…

Read the entire article here.

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