Why We Need To Talk About Whiteness and Privilege

So the recent post on WPD caused quite the stir, talking about whiteness usually does.  As stated in both the post and comments white privilege is encoded to the body, and I do mean this literally.  Unless you want to go through the Michael Jackson school of beauty, you cannot rid yourself of your colour.  You also cannot change the way that people respond to you based in colour.  Not having control over others does not alleviate you having the responsibility to own your privilege, or make attempts to mitigate it.

“Now what, now what?”…I get that one all the time.  Of course whiteness wants a solution and people of colour need to provide it.  I am sure this is seen as being racially sensitive, because hey you’re willing to listen right, but why should I be willing to serve.  For “now what” to be answered, you would have to have a true understanding of what it means to exist as an “othered” body in the Americas. You would have had to take the time to think about the ways that race/ class/gender/sexuality/ability etc intersect in our lived experience.  That takes work, so why not just get those of us that are considered raced to cough up the answer, so you don’t really have to learn anything, but you can convince yourself how progressive you really are.

Socially there is an imbalance in knowledge.  For the sake of survival POC have had to learn about whiteness and how to negotiate it; whereas no such knowledge has been necessary for those that are white.  They can freely go about their days seeing whiteness reflected everywhere as good and positive. Open a history book and you will be immediately astounded by the achievements of whiteness.  Our knowledge of you is unavoidable, whereas yours is conveniently reduced to the month of February and the obligatory shout out to MLK.

Even in our so-called conversations about race we usually discuss how it impacts bodies of colour and ignore the degree to which whiteness is an active participant in maintaining racial hierarchy.  Oh no..talk sweet don’t get white people riled up with the idea that they continually benefit from racism.  Make sure to walk on egg shells because it will be assumed that no matter what you say, you are calling all white people racist, or suggesting that there is no hope for change. Hell why even talk about this negativity in the larger social sense at all…feelings might get hurt. The illogic of this astounds me. Why initiate a conversation if not to inspire change. Would it not be easier for me to watch Barney with kids than go through this freaking headache every time I dare to suggest we climb the white monolith?

Discussions about racism cannot always be about the body of colour because it is not a one sided issue.  Framing the conversation this way maintains the idea that bodies of colour are always necessarily objects instead of subjects, and it further supports the racial hierarchy that has become institutionalized. 

Ultimately whiteness does not have to invest in the racial debate because to do so they would have to admit not only purposeful ignorance but shame.  OOOOh I wrote the shame word. Now I am not suggesting that you should be ashamed for being white, but how about shame in wilfully participating in a system that daily degrades others? How about shame in daily committing acts that maintain your privilege and support a concept that you claim in your most PC moments to be against? 

Peoples very lives are at stake and now is not the time to claim neutrality, it is passive aggressive and dishonest.  While you may openly say that you are not prideful (gee how sweet), not expressing shame in a system that daily dehumanizes a large percentage of the population residing in the Americas is disgusting.   Neutrality tells me that there is a limit to how far you are willing to invest in the project of equality.  You may claim to “own it,” but having the courage of your supposed convictions is one step to far. 

Perhaps I should just order a round of cookies for everyone…hey its cheaper than buying drinks right? The only problem with that is a half assed effort doesn’t get anyone anywhere.  Staring at each other from a rift that is wider than the grand canyon, talking at each other, instead of to each other just maintains the status quo.  Now I obviously know that some people are more than happy with the systemic inequality, but for those of you that dream about a time of real equality this impasse must be breached. 

So I say own it, and not on just some liberal look at me I’m PC level, but as a real and honest human being.  Anomie need not be a main feature of our society.

Editors Note:  There will be discussion soon to follow on biracial bodies. I feel that they deserve their own separate post.  Straddling the multiplicities of race should not be just an add on to a post on white privilege.

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