moron whiteness, more on whiteness
while the talk of minstrelsy continues (and reminds me to get downloading), i thought i should return to a point to which i alluded a couple days ago.
in a post last week, i hinted at something called moron whiteness. this is not a technical term. it's just a way of saying that even some well-meaning 'white folk' (and there i go along with them), stop far too short of actually moving past the epiphany of recognizing their un/conscious complicity with race and racism, thus "owning" their whiteness without seeking to move out of it and to leave behind the days of racialized social relations.
learning about and speaking of and avoiding all profit on one's whiteness can represent important strategies in getting away from race-thinking and dismantling white supremacy. whiteness is not, however, a place where one stops after "coming to terms" with who one really is (or, more precisely, with where one's phenotype places one in the social hierarchy).
this is, in part, what vron ware and les back are getting at in their incisive volume, out of whiteness (2001). in the introductory chapter, the authors bring into focus the distinction between their own vision for a radical, critical analysis of whiteness and what they consider "more pragmatic and altogether more timid proposals that do not actively seek to disrupt existing racial frameworks" (6):
A wide spectrum of possibilities awaits the new recruit to "whiteness studies," since there is no unity of purpose binding this field together. Finding a position on this spectrum depends on an analysis of all social divisions and a readiness to address the fundamental causes of injustice. In plainer terms it will depend on whether or not race is seen as something that can not only be deconstructed on paper, but also eventually rendered obsolete as a system of discriminating among humans.///
. . .
[S]o many writers on whiteness have balked at the notion of doing away with all racial categories and have instead settled for the deceptively easier job of trying to remove the undesirable elements from whiteness without rocking the boat of raciology that keeps the whole concept in motion. For some it is possible, even desirable, to retain whiteness as a descriptive term, a potentially innocent aspect of individual and collective identity--in particular, one that needs to function as an integral part of the jigsaw of multicultural discourse within the United States.
. . .
One of the problems with this type of approach is that is in danger of reifying the idea of race as a reliable index of human difference, and therefore of breathing stale life into a belief system that ought to have been consigned to the twentieth century. (6)
dj/rupture offers a pro-minstrel stance on all of this, reminding us that fitty's been blacking-up, too, and wondering whether all the bloggaz-with-attitude are interrogating the "wrong carriers."
he's got a point. and here
this dark diction has become america's addiction /
those who ain't even black use it
to his credit, o-dub also attempted to remind folks - repeatedly - that minstrelsy need not look, at least on its
minstrelsy is, i fear, a cultural legacy of which we may never rid ourselves. it seems absolutely certain, though, that neither minstrelsy nor whiteness will be going anywhere soon so long as racialized structures of oppression, disenfranchisement, and underdevelopment remain as entrenched as they remain today.
yesterday's nyt featured a sobering reminder of how bad things are in this country, chock full of the sort of statistics that one hears again and again to the point where they begin to sound apocryphal.
as a chilling reminder of how vigilantly we must keep our eyes on the prize, i still prefer the awe-ful compendium of stats marshaled at the beginning of "naming the illuminati" (2000), an article by christopher holmes smith and john fiske connecting hip-hop's late-90s chant-down-babylon tactics to the invisible, intertwined operation of whiteness and capital and the realities of racialized injustice:
Global capital and global whiteness may be always disembodied and absent from their local effects, but their effects are really embodied and really present. Naming some of them is necessary but insufficient: black males have the lowest life expectancy of any group in the United States. Their unemployment rate is more than twice that of white males, and the gap has increased steadily since the 1980s. The income of employed blacks is about 60% of that of whites (even college educated blacks earn only 75% of their white counterparts), and the net worth of an African-American (that is, assets minus liabilities) is one tenth that of a white: blacks find it disproportionately more difficult to get mortgages and small business loans than whites, thus ensuring that capital not only is white, but will remain so. Nearly half of all black children live below the poverty line, against only 16% of white ones, and not only is the black poverty rate three times that of whites, but the black poor are poorer than the white poor.///
About one in four black men between the ages of twenty and twenty-nine are in prison - more black men are in prison than in college, and the United States continues to lock them up at four times the rate even of pre-revolution South Africa. Black people convicted of similar crimes to whites will receive harder and longer sentences, and up to 80% of black men will be arrested at least once in their lifetime. Black people suffer disproportionately aggressive policing in arrest rates and treatment during and after arrest and in court but enjoy disproportionately minimal police protection. Black people know that the military puts them in the highest risk units, but even they are safer at war than at home, for the black male is the commonest murder victim in the country: he is also the commonest suicide victim.
The life expectancy of a black child born in Harlem is lower than that of a child born in Bangladesh, and black adults die disproportionately early from the twelve commonest preventable diseases. Sixty percent of African-Americans and Latinos live in communities polluted by uncontrolled toxic waste dumps, and a 1987 study found that the race of the neighborhood's inhabitants was the single most important factor in locating toxic waste dumps. Tobacco billboards are far more likely to be placed in black than in white neighborhoods, sometimes by a ratio of 15 to 1.
Schools in black communities receive far lower funding per student than those in white ones, and black graduation rates are both lower and decreasing as a result.
These dispersed regularities of racial differentiation are steadily widening the difference between white and black America, and they structure pain into the core of everyday life. The physical effects of white power are inescapably everywhere, but the discretion of its operations makes the system invisible, except in its effects. For whites, who are largely free of its effects, the invisibility is almost total; for blacks, the struggle is to make visible that which they know is there, to give a materiality to the system and its intentionality that approximates that of its effects. (608-609)
a bunch of stuff worth keeping in mind.