Deconstructing Whitness & White Privilege In Honour Of Black History Month

This in response to some questions that have come up in workshops lately and over the time of me doing anti-racist work.

I am going to define some terms and explain some concepts that I have lived and also been taught about by amazing individuals like Bell Hooks, Audre Lorde, Imani…I’ll tag all you in this and will thank you openly for all that you have shared with me.

I am including a note written by a super great blogger, dionthesocialist. I included the link below, to explore. I made a few changes to language that was ableist.

I also just want to preface by explaining that ‘Whitness’ and white people, groups as well as individuals are different. When you hear other People of Colour talking about hating ‘Whiteness’ it isn’t about hating all white people or even individual white people. “White privilege is not a judgment against white people as much as simply an institutional analysis.”

Racism is a system. Systems combines social power, institutional power (policies & practices), cultural messages, and individual actions. Institutional Racism is a system of advantage based on race rooted in and reinforced by cultural, political, economic and educational foundations. This is never accidental. And even when there are People Of Colour in the system, i.e. Black Cops, it is the system that is racism and so People Of Colour will still be targeted. What it isn’t is the “Shit White Girls Say To Black Girls”, I’ve included a picture that further illustrates this concept.

Whiteness is a racial identity created by upper-class colonialists to distinguish themselves from indentured servants and slaves. It is a social and political construct that didn’t always exists. People of European descent weren’t describing themselves as White prior to colonization. This category also eclipses the nuances of White folks. We all have ethnicity, not just People Of Colour. White People benefit the most from this category, whether or not they want to, whether or not they have ‘done anything’.

Other systems like Maleness, Ableness were also created with clear political intentions. These categories defined human. All else was property. Although these are other systems, it is offensive to compare these systems to each other. They are not the same and you don’t need to use racism to explain sexism or vice versa, this diminishes the unique pain and suffering of these experiences.

They were used as guarantees against being enslaved and they still are used in this way.

Colonization is the violent taking of land, wealth, labor of indigenous peoples through domination & conquest leading to their extermination in some cases, and an ongoing genocide in all cases & the Transatlantic slave trade which created a permanent underclass based on race and gender.’ People of Colour and Indigenous people are different, their experiences of oppression in this system are markedly different and also profoundly connected and intersection. People Of Colour can be Indigenous people and also might not be. The nuances of people’s identity and experience cannot be determined just by looking at their face, and at the same time, it is true that the oppression of visible minorities is distinct and deeply violent.

colonialism is racist genocide, mass rape and massive theft.

it is nothing to be nostalgic about.

colonialism is mass murder by racists for fun and profit.

 

Now comes White Privilege. This is an unacknowledged system of favoritism and advantage granted to white people as the beneficiaries of historical conquest. Benefits include preferential treatment, exemption from group oppression and immunity from perpetuating social inequity.

Now here is the part that I think most people are trying to speak to when they say that they are ‘colourblind’ (which is the most offensive, don’t say it, it sux) Race is an ever evolving social, legal and political construct that has no basis in biological fact.

When the Indian Act was created in Canada (if you don’t know about this document, youNEED to know about it, This is racist legislation that affords some First Nations People of Turtle Island ‘rights and privileges’ based mostly on the whim of the Canadian government, but occasionally based on rights that First Nations people deserve and tirelessly fought and died for.) it was based on whoever showed up at a particular time to a particular trading post. This means people can be First Nations, look absolutely any way, be of any nation and not be legally classified as an ‘Indian’.

During slavery, there were Blood Laws, meaning one drop of Black Blood made you Black.

Who is assigned into what racial category has been socially and politically defined ALWAYS.

Ok so here is some further context about White Privilege and ‘White Pride’, also known as “Why isn’t their a white entertainment channel” or “why isn’t their a white history month?”

“Yes, being “proud to be white” makes you a racist.

Let’s go back to Sociology 101 here for a second. White people, you have this thing called white privilege. You’re born with it. You live with it. It benefits you every single day. When your car is broken into and you feel comfortable enough to call the police, that’s white privilege. When you take a standardized test in school that was most likely written by someone who looks and speaks like you, that’s white privilege. When you’re able to see that the vast majority of wealth in this world is controlled by white people, that’s white privilege. Whites have amassed a great amount of power in this world, both concrete power and abstract power.

Now let’s go to History 101. How do you think white people have amassed this power? Hard work? Self-reliance? Swag? Nope. The power whites have amassed is almost universally through the oppression, genocide, occupation, and imperialism of people of color.White people have accomplished some amazing things, but mostly because they’ve established a power structure that benefits them at the expense of other human beings.

And you’re proud of that? You’re proud of an ancestry that has slaughtered countless people of color for their own benefit? True, every race has violence in its history, but none of those situations are even close to being comparable to the worldwide white supremacist structure that has been responsible for the oppression of pretty much everyone else on the planet for pretty much as long as anyone can remember.

When you say you’re proud to be white, proud of white history, proud of what white people have accomplished, you’re saying you’re proud of the genocide of the Native Americans (of Native Folks the world over), the enslavement of black people, the colonization of Africa, the Holocaust, the internment of Japanese-Americans, the oil wars in the Middle East, and a host of other violent tragedies, tragedies perpetrated through white privilege and white supremacy.

People of color have pride movements because we have been so dehumanized by white people, we need to reeducate ourselves on how to take pride in our accomplishments. These accomplishments have been made in spite of white privilege, whereas white accomplishments have been made because of white privilege. It would be like if you were in a race with someone, and then before the race, you busted their ankle with a tire iron, and then after you won the race, you acted as if it was ingenuity and talent that won you the race. No, you won the race because you (severely disadvantaged) your opponent.

White people, you’ve spend your entire history (severely disadvantaging) every other race on the planet. You as in individual may not have done anything wrong, but when you say you have white pride, you’re explicitly stating that you’re OK with the tragedies that have been committed to create and maintain white privilege.”

http://dionthesocialist.tumblr.com/page/2

 

 

Hope this helps us all. Deconstructing this system is hard work and we have to do it every single day. Unlearning the White Mythology often perpetuated in our school systems (despite the best efforts of so many rad educators) is painful. It is important to be able to locate yourself as having privilege in this system and hate the system. There is no point in feeling guilty, it is offensive to get defensive, agree that is sux to have a system that benefits 1% of the population and let’s destroy it.

 

In Love, Rage & Solidarity,