Friday, July 18, 2008

associate the word "race" with non-white people, instead of with themselves

Silence about whiteness lets everyone continue to harbor prejudices and misconceptions, beginning with the notion that “white” equals normal. Whiteness oppresses when it operates as the invisible regime of normality, and thus making whiteness visible is a principal goal of anti-racist pedagogy.

--Gregory Jay,
"Teaching about Whiteness"

As we all probably know, the "blogosphere" is growing at an exponential pace these days. Writing a blog, and reading more and more blogs by other writers, has certainly changed my reading and writing habits (though in ways I can't really quantify or qualify just yet). I just read somewhere that 175,000 new blogs appear everyday. But I'm not sure where I read that--losing track of my sources more often is certainly one change in my reading and writing habits, brought about by the increased time I spend online.

A tiny sector of the blogosphere focuses on matters of race. Of course, "tiny" is a relative term. The number of blogs that focus explicitly on matters of race must be far less than one percent of the blogs out there. On the other hand, there are already far more blogs that focus on race than any one person could possibly read, probably in his or her entire lifetime.

So far, the racially oriented sector of the blogosphere is incredibly diverse, but it also seems limited in some ways. I would bet, for instance, that the vast majority of the bloggers who focus on race are located in the United States (but that might just be my US-centric, English-oriented view of things). Also, if it were possible to select a truly representative sampling of blogs from the race-oriented sector of the blogosphere, I imagine that the selector would be hard pressed to find many at all that focus explicitly on racial whiteness.

If the Internet in general is an extension of American society and culture, then it's likely that the oppressive "whiteness-as-unmarked-norm" phenomenon that Gregory Jay describes above holds true in most of the blogosphere as well. If so, then what's wrong with a space of sorts within another murky sea of whiteness for exclusively non-white discussions? Should white folks really try to elbow their way into that conversation, as if seeking center-stage all over again? Why should discussion of "whiteness" be a part of the online discussion of "race"?

I think it should, if white discussants of the topic remain respectful and unobtrusive. And if they remain accountable to those who suffer from the white supremacy that benefits themselves. They can do so in part by also acknowledging and referencing non-white work on the topic responsibly, and by listening attentively to non-white critiques (which doesn't mean, of course, that a white participant in anti-racist discussions has to agree with all non-white critiques of his or her work, just because the critic is non-white--how racist would THAT be?).

I say such things with confidence because I have found a few blogs that offer extensive, effectively anti-racist analysis of the ways of white folks, from both white and non-white perspectives. "Know Good White People," for instance, offers repeatedly inspiring and often fascinating takes on whiteness from a black perspective. Renowned author, speaker, and activist Tim Wise runs a blog with whiteness-related content at Red Room. There's also "Beyond White Guilt," a LiveJournal community that functions as a blog of sorts. "Wigger Lover" features posts on a particular mode of white identity, including a wide array of rare video clips (which is all part of an effort on the blogger's part to get a film made on the topic). Although the blog "Too Sense" isn't directly focused on whiteness, a white writer there, One Drop, often addresses whiteness with remarkable perspicacity. And there are, of course, overtly "white" web sites that handle whiteness in a way quite the opposite from that of those blogs that I'm talking about here, which actually make up "the anti-racist race-oriented sector of the blogosphere."

There's also, of course, the famous (and infamous) "Stuff White People Like," and the whiteness blog that you're reading now, which I initially began as a disgruntled response to SWPL. I'm always on the lookout for other blogs that focus on whiteness in an anti-racist manner, and I've actually been spending a lot of time recently at a new one. The SWPL-to- SWPD spinoff machine continues, it seems, as this new whiteness blog is named "Stuff White People Say."

Actually, the connection of SWPS to this blog, SWPD, is closer than mere moniker resemblance. The posts at "Stuff White People Say" are so far entirely focused on stuff "said," or written, at this blog. By me.

An originator of the new blog, veteran writer Restructure!, explains her motivations in starting "Stuff White People Say" this way:

Macon D really doesn’t understand how problematic his blog and his comments are, and when we are resisting racism, he sees it as a personal attack on his status or something. In many ways, commenting on his blog is of limited use, because our criticism is perceived as destructive or negative criticism existing merely to negate his blog. If we create our own blog, then it will reframe our resistance as antiracist content itself. (I think.)

On the other hand, I think I shouldn’t waste my time with him, because it’s useless.

Then again, there are so many people reading that blog, especially naive white people, and they might come away with the impression that his blog is ‘antiracist’. I mean yes, it is antiracist in a way because he is resisting some racism, but he consistently makes completely screwed up comments . . . .

[W]e shouldn’t hold our breath for Macon D suddenly having an epiphany and finally understanding why his blog is so screwed up.

As I said, I've been spending a lot of time recently at this new blog, looking for insights that I can transfer to my work here. Though I am, as Restructure points out, a "slow learner," I do appreciate the efforts of her and others there. Although we all get frustrated at times, and sometimes we let that frustration show, I do believe we share a general goal, and that progress toward it is taking place. I encourage you to check out that progress (and maybe even contribute to it).

Finally, here's hoping that more anti-racist blogs focused on white supremacy will appear soon. If you know of others that I've missed here, please let us know.

A larger presence of such blogs can only help to raise white folks' awareness of their own racial status, thereby helping to dispel their common fantasy that race has nothing to do with themselves.


  1. I love that. In deepest wingnuttia you only ever see "racism" applied to African-Americans, a *conscious* judo move because they know damn well what they're doing.

    Even that crap works to undermine the notion that whiteness is rightness. So thanks, right wingers, for shooting yourselves in the foot.

  2. This is a very important post. Yes whiteness is something that needs to be deconstructed and truly understood if we intend to end racism and have the post racial world that "they" keep telling us that we are living in. The idea that there is no such thing as whiteness as a race or a culture allows it to keep being presented as normal and therefore invisible. Not only that it creates POC as exotic it is a binary that is dependent upon each other for definition and understanding.


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