Thursday, January 19, 2012

RE:Race, America, and white folks
My friend just posted an interesting article on his blog on race, and I thought I would take the change to put down some thoughts. First off, don't know everything about race and its role in my life but I do know that I, being a white male of northern European decent, have benefited from racism. That much is pretty much undeniable, but although I have benefited from the institutionalized state of racial inequality I do not support the moral justifications of many in civil right movements. Many times, the stated goal (which i support wholeheartedly) is to create an even playing field in terms of race in the economy. This come across for the most part as promoting 'whiteness' in a Black, Latino, Asian, etc. community. This is unacceptable to me. I believe the very thing we need to be fighting against is the very concept of 'whiteness' and what it means to us. Over the history of the United States, there have been campaign after campaign to assimilate immigrants into the concept of 'white'.
(not me, hopefully ever)

What is this 'whiteness'? Think of the american dream. Stability in owning a home, having a tedious and strenuous job where little to no enjoyment is expected or even allowed. Two and a half well raised and obedient children who will take your place in society and possibly help support you later in life (pre-social security). Wearing a suit that does not differ from your peers, living a simply life and saving up money for when you need it. To most people this seems like the ideal life to live. But it is very far from the only way to live, and it is so closely related to race that there doesn't seem to be a separation between this and race. In fact, this is analogous to the image imposed on newly freed slaves during the Reconstruction period after the Civil War. These people were told to find land, (sometimes given to them by landowners in return for work or shares of profit or by the government), then they were told that in order to be happy and free and equal members of the US (white) that they must work day after day, doing brutal work for little reward just to sustain their families. The attempt to make black people white did not grab hold as well as moralizing leaders thought it should, thus we are taught that the reconstruction period was a failure.

I am not trying to argue that these people could have done anything else as institutionalized racism was much worse then, and making any other kind of living would surely be a difficult if not impossible task for the majority of these suddenly freed people. What I am arguing is that we use this perfect American Dream to coerce minorities into becoming 'white'.

Just about every major boom in immigration was followed by a similar moralizing movement which led to the destruction of the immigrants' cultures and morals in order to achieve the task of becoming a good- white- American citizen. I see this as a dangerous and destructive method of equalization. Because the concept of being 'white' has always been a moralizing force, and thus anyone who does not prescribe to this being 'white' is now morally inferior and should be forced to live a 'good life'. Just look at the anti-Mexican and anti-black propaganda from the campaign to prohibit demonize (on which i will write more about later on)
We need to look at the image being white and why most (white) people think it better and more deserving. Most people today would not claim to believe that black people are bad workers, but would most likely believe that poverty stricken and institutionally disenfranchised people are bad workers. Simply because they both have a different ethos about work, and because they are seen as unintelligent. How and why would an intelligent person remain in a slum, when outside of it they would have a better life? Maybe it is because they don't see the appeal of mindless hard work, moral 'superiority', or being 'white'. 

Like I said above. I do not know everything about race or how it effects me or others but I do know that there is a long history of institutionalized moralizing of race. This has, in my mind, led to the paradigm we see today with disproportionate numbers of minorities being put into jail, living below the poverty line, etc. 
I think we must examine the past to find out the true nature of racism in America, what I have found is this dangerous concept of being 'white' which has been used to marginalize and assimilate many cultures. Destroying whole systems of cultural values and practices in the process.  


  1. "How and why would an intelligent person remain in a slum, when outside of it they would have a better life? Maybe it is because they don't see the appeal of mindless hard work, moral 'superiority', or being 'white'?"

    Though I agree that ''whiteness" is a useless, degenerative concept that has evolved to very significant proportions, unjustly having 'benefited' all of us (directly or indirectly) who have white skin, there are certain things I've got to point out:
    1) The image of the white man as a successful 9-5 businessperson who hates their job is a far cry from the small American white farmer who works very hard and who's probably much happier laboring on his land than his office-bound counterpart.
    2) Poor people of all colors have no choice but to work very, very hard-- their sacrifice is almost always more physically strenuous than the 'stressed out' white man's. Farmers and people in slums everywhere have always worked hard in order to lead legitimate lives.
    3) Whiteness became a MUCH bolder dividing line as are result of slavery, I agree, and Reconstruction, ideally, would have erased that line and eliminatedthe dichotomy altogether.... But with a head start in the social structure they controed, white people weren't just going to parse ther advantage out to free slaves and see eye to eye, nor were black people magically going to emerge from the giant hole dug for them by white people. What I'm getting at is, reconstruction didn't work amazingly because white peope had this economic head start AND an idea they zealously stuck to, passively or not, that the world was THEIR vessel and blacks were now just passengers because they couldn't be forced to row anymore-- but that doesn't mean the skipper could be black.
    Giving freed slaves farmland was NOT done in order to make them more like white people. It was a (half assed) way to provide work to a very poor population and keep them fairly separate from the growing community of people with 'white' jobs. Farming isn't a white phenomenon, though-- least white job out there.

    White poverty is huge in America; the hardest workers are extremely poor; 'white' jobs that fulfill our image of success do so because white people created that image; the 'white' mentality is a horrible thing.

  2. I should note that when the white mentality doesn't take the form of an office 9-5 and two and a half kids, a passive adherence to white superiority in that we whites created the ideal, it often takes an actively adherent form: blunt racism. Hence the blue collar white and black co workers who hate each other. This has become less common, indicating to many that 'racism is over,' but that doesn't change the fact that the structure itself is white-made

  3. Rather, the structure (being the white 'ideal') was tailored for white people by white people, and in today's world the main factor that determines entry into this boring ideal is vocational education, which is much less accessible to those who are not already in the economic class of those who go to universities. So, maybe those who don't fight their way to a ''proper education" for a "proper job" would rather just break their backs in order to stay human. Which I think is admirable, and gives those folks the moral high ground.

  4. Sorry I keep going on, but one more thing--
    Those who DO fight for an education in a 'proper' field and succeed in breaching socioeconomic barriers are also highly admirable, as they are the ones who exemplify at personal cost that we're not all that different. Those few who remain stagnantly impoverished by chooce DESPITE opportunities they may have aren't always noble--- sometimes their impetus can be vengeful racism against whites, not just disapproval of the white mentality. Either way, white people started it.

  5. You know what? In keeping with the no fingerpointing philosophy behind your blog, I'd suggest that this whole 'white ideal' thing is really just a thing of the past. Today's 'ideal,' I'd argue, is to do something you love, whether or not it makes you financially stable. Being atypical has become more and more popular with time, and that'll surely make for an exciting future.