Tag Archives: whiteness

White Privileges Denied

Image result for deny privilegeI wonder what our lives would be like if those who are privileged by race would deny these social entitlements.  What change could be brought about if when persons are offered a pass, a perk, a protection or the benefit of doubt, they would reject it?  How might we be challenged if we did not accept what we did not earn, if we rejected those things that put others at a disadvantage?  What if we no longer feigned ignorance or blindness, if we stopped looking the other way for “us” and not “them”?

What kind of people could we be if when the privilege of whiteness was presented, we said, “Privileges denied”?  Because we provide its currency.  We are the medium of transaction.  We open the door, give the leg up, shake the hand and wink.  We give them more while paying less and less attention to who we become in the process.

We are cheaters, thieves even.  Robbing from “them” to pay for “us.”  Race is only a scapegoat used to cover up our greed and need for power.

I wonder if persons would be willing to post a sign on the doors of their businesses, schools, shared community spaces, government buildings, places of worship and homes that inform those who enter that we don’t accept white privileges here.  I imagine that persons would have to prove themselves and make their way without them.  Justifying their place in the world and their position of authority would get a whole lot harder.

Patting pockets, flipping through wallets or searching purses, what might we pull from them to cover our expenses, to explain our position in the world, to justify our preferential treatment.  If we take the socially colored white skin away and say, we refuse to privilege socially colored white skin here, what then?  What do we have then?

Tell us (because we all accept it) that the limit has been exceeded far too many times and for too long, that we can no longer afford its costs, that the card has expired and won’t be renewed.  We simply cannot afford to be people of any color any more.

Unmasking Whiteness

“However painful it may be for me to accept this conclusion, I am obliged to state it: For the black man, there is only one destiny.  And it is white.”

~ Franz Fanon, Black Skin, White Masks

“This contradictory longing to possess the reality of the Other, even though that reality is one that wounds and negates, is expressive of the desire to understand the mystery, to know intimately through imitation, as though such knowing worn like an amulet, a mask, will ward away the evil, the terror.”

bell hooks, “Representations of whiteness in the black imagination,” Black on white: Black Writers on What It Means to Be White

The Apostle James writes, “Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him” (1.12).  When the Bible speaks of God’s plans for believers, God does not speak in terms of race as Fanon and hooks have written.  Thus, it is necessary to explain why we need not confuse the two.

While American society provides our perspective, it is important that we are reminded of the big picture or perhaps, the Biggest Picture.  We cannot forget that God’s eyes frame our lives very differently.  It is our senses and our temporal nature that confines us to such limited views of our humanity.  We cannot see more because our eyes are so small, so dim.

This, along with the fact, that we see as we are told.  We focus on what the group, what the majority, what a society, what the powerful tells us is worth looking at.  And even if we have to look away from ourselves, we will lean into the image that is being held up and prized for fear of being left out and consequently, being out of sight.

But, this is not a test or a trial.  This is not about acceptance, endurance or even survival.  This is assimilation.

Primarily, the testing that the oppressed endure due to the social construct of race is social.  It is a proving ground not ordained or created by God.  It is not a test that God is grading us on because we are not being judged according to the social coloring of skin.

Thus, whiteness is not the answer.  Whiteness will not get a pass.  Whiteness is not to be learned but unlearned.

This testing is also not rewarded by God.  Those who aspire to whiteness will be rewarded socially not divinely.  There is no crown for the whitest.  This is not the crowning achievement of our humanity.  There is no life for whiteness in eternity.

Secondly, the plans of whiteness and the plans of God are not synonymous.  The plans of whiteness and the plans of God are not in partnership.  There is no connection there.  They do not support each other.  Two kinds of righteousness, two saviors, to different sets of commandments, whiteness is an idol.  Only one can be right.  God.

The destiny of whiteness and the destiny that God has for us are not the same.  We will end up in two different places.  Thus, our relationships with race and God are about faith.  Which one do we believe in?  Which one is truly rewarding?  Which of these really matters?

Because you can possess whiteness and its privileges yet not know God.  Putting on whiteness and putting on Christ are not synonymous.  Only one can save you.

Thus, whiteness and all social colors are not tests but rather evidences of our lust.  And they are not new lusts: lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes and the pride of life (First John 2.16).  Race is about visibility, choosing who will be seen, valued and rewarded while God sees us all.

So, don’t put it on; instead, take it off.  It will make the value go down.

And let us stop being reproducers of these masks.  Let us stop providing, making concessions and excuses for them.  “I’m sorry.  You cannot wear that mask here.  We will need to see your real face.”

Let us no longer order or carry masks in our institutions and the marketplace, in our families and social circles.  Let’s not keep spare ones in the drawer, inherited ones in a safe deposit box or emergency ones under our mattress.  Let us no longer offer these masks, wrapped up and presented as gifts.  Let us not treat them as essential to our survival, tied to our destiny and who we must become no matter what of ourselves we lose.

No, let us prove that whiteness means nothing at all without us.  Reveal our true selves and demonstrate that we can understand ourselves without it, that we can see ourselves without it.  Move whiteness out of the way so that you can get a glimpse of the Biggest Picture.

Question Whiteness

Image result for white privilegeWhiteness is not an identity but a privilege.  It is the only real race card for if whiteness ceased to exist, so would all the other social colors.  We could all throw our hands in.  Game over.  But, no deal.

It is handed out, passed down as an American inheritance for the have’s.  But, have not we been having this conversation for years now?  What must be repeated before we understand?

We know this truth full well and still, I am compelled to tell you so.  Whiteness is not an identity but a privilege.  It is a government handout, the greatest welfare program of Western civilization.  We foot the bill again and again without receipts or questions.

No questions and no comments.  No comments!  No comments!

There is no disputing or interrogating this social rite of passage.  We treat it as an absolute, a universal truth, fixed and independent of any outside interpretation.  It is an American given.

Because we have all been told and taught that socially colored white people have done it all and are deserving of it all.  We are merely paying them back, providing advances on their creations.

Continually celebrated, whiteness is not used to being challenged.  Too valuable, too delicate, too fragile, we must keep our voices down, our questions to a minimum and our presence on the margins.

But, whiteness needs to touched, approached, crowded.

Whiteness suggests that other social colors live an apologetic existence.  “Forgive us for not being white.”  Whiteness asks that other cultures explain their differences and justify them.  “Look at me.  Listen to me.  I am important and of value.”

Whiteness demands assimilation.

But, I encourage you to talk back, to not take the social construct of whiteness at face value but to argue you against its inflation.  And when you do here are a few questions:

  1. How do you know that you are socially colored white?  Who told you?  What was your response?
  2. What does it mean to be a white person?
  3. What are the benefits of the identity?
  4. Are there losses to being socially colored white?
  5. Do you primarily identify as a white person and if not, what characteristic or quality do you prize above it?  If not, why is being socially colored white central to who you are?
  6. Why is whiteness so important?
  7. What would the loss of whiteness mean?
  8. What is the value of whiteness and why must it be prized above all others?
  9. Do you question whiteness?  Why or why not?
  10. What would you do, who would you become if you could no longer be socially colored white?

“Make America White Again”?

make-america-white-again-signJust when I think that I have said enough or said it all as it relates to my views on race, I get a sign.  This time it was a billboard sign created by Rick Tyler of Tennessee who is running for Congress.  Clearly, a play on the Trump campaign, Tyler hopes to “Make American White Again.”  Deep sigh.  And we wonder why African Americans continue to ask for more conversations on race.

When asked about the sign, Tyler said that it wasn’t meant to be racist.  You can read the full story here while I give you a little back story on the history of whiteness, which has its roots in the origins of what is now the United States of America.  Whiteness is a socially constructed difference, a manufactured, capitalistically- driven identity for sale and consumption in America.  It is given to some groups and sold to others in the form of skin bleaching creams, Westernization surgeries, hair relaxers and the like.  The symbol of purity, goodness, perfection, beauty, morality, righteousness, chosen-ness, whiteness takes all the good and the rest take on all that is unclean, bad, wrong, ugly, evil, indecent and rejected.

Making American white again suggests that it began as such.  America was never white as there were persons indigenous to the land that were all but wiped out in an attempt to give the settlers a clean slate.  Making America white has called for the annihilation of countless people, their cultures and languages.  So, Tyler’s attempt would be a first since America has never been white.  It seems that Tyler believed the lies his teacher told him.

To be sure, America was not first America and it was never white.  Pre- Columbian contact, it was Olmec, Teotihuacan, Maya, Zapotec, Mixtec, Huastec, Purepecha, Toltec and many others.  But, such is the case with whiteness and its memory, when it begins, all other people groups end.

Making America white has always meant the devaluing of bodies not socially colored white.  Compared to animals and small children, who needed the supervision of a slave- holding nation, specifically for the African American, whiteness is defined by the objectification and brutalization of other human beings.  The making of whiteness is costly and other cultures pay the price.

Making America white calls for the building of walls and “tougher immigration laws.”  Because whiteness is to be protected.  And if you are in country legally but there is an attack or if we are at war with your homeland, well then, we will need to relocate you– from the internment of Japanese Americans in 1942 to the religious profiling of Muslims in 2016.

These are the options for whiteness: fight or flight.  Stay and protect it, that is raise the cost of living in order to create a mass exodus to keep others out or move into another community and call it redevelopment.  When the neighborhood begins to change, go and create another in order to make the neighborhood white and thus, right, again.

Tyler’s slogan assumes that things are better when people are white, which smacks of Nazism and eugenics.  It sounds as if Tyler is hoping to be elected in order to create more race- based policies for the American people, which would only create more social, interpersonal and emotional upheaval.  His slogan also lends itself to another set of assumptions, all of them wrong, prejudicial, self- serving.  White is not right and the possibility of it being so is unreal.  The fact that he does not understood the outright racist nature of his choice of words should cause him to reconsider his election bid.

Look Different

imagesA couple of days ago, I posted a documentary on whiteness created by MTV. However brief, it demonstrated whiteness as a socially constructed reality as there is no white country or place of origin for white people.  Even the designation of a Caucasian is a misnomer and so is Caucasoid thought it sounds more scientific.  Both are rooted in the pseudo- science of race, created in hopes of attaching social privilege and status to physical appearance.

But, those who identify as white are not alone in their delusion as there are no black, brown, beige, red or yellow people.  Nope.  We are all apart of the masquerade of race.

But, let’s not stop there.  It’s not enough to identify the mask.  It’s time we take it off and see who is really beneath the layers of prejudice and stereotypes.

Let’s not just talk more about race but about reality– not as it is given to us but as we see it.  Take a moment and look at your skin color.  Recognize that is not the color that it has been assigned and then reflect on what that means.

How do you look now?  How does your neighbor, your neighborhood, your society and the world look now?  It is my prayer that documentaries like this one allow us to look again and again until we see ourselves apart from race, until we see each other without the lens of race, until we all stop looking alike but begin to look different.  Amen.