How to thoughtlessly consume whiteness

A SYTYCB entry

Is your complexion fair or pale? Do you check the box that says “Caucasian” next to race when you fill out your demographics? Do you, like the vast majority of people who answered yes to both of those questions, just not think any deeper about whiteness? Well here’s a helpful list of tips for you to keep that up!

1. Be Intellectually Dishonest With Yourself

Lack of critical self-reflection is step one in any successful attempt at brain-washing – it closes your mind so that criticisms from other people can’t get in there and plant ideas. So it only makes sense that you just don’t think about what the word Caucasian means (don’t you dare go look that up now), or about the vast array of cultures across Europe and even parts of Asia from which white people came. This is especially true if you are located anywhere in North America, where we are all spoon-fed a melting pot version of white culture, regardless of our ethnic background, from the time we plant our first steps on this stolen land. But the key to being intellectually dishonest is to forget, deny, and plead ignorance. This is especially critical whenever you’re facing yourself in the mirror. Just occupy your thoughts with manufactured concerns about whether you’re thin enough, instead.

2. Be Intellectually Lazy, Too

In keeping with the tradition of not thinking critically at all about whiteness, this is your first real step into thoughtless consumption. Since we’re already spoon-fed, we don’t need to think about any other ways of achieving nourishment. For that matter, we don’t even need to worry momentarily about whether we’re actually enslaved by a system of cultural indoctrination that infantilizes and disempowers us all, by forcing our compliance with regulated intervals of a fake white culture pushed into our faces and crammed down our throats. Just chew and swallow like a good little whitey. Whether it’s history written exclusively by the hands of white men (especially in public education), or the homogenous imagery of whiteness plastered across every billboard, newspaper, and television screen, the point here is to just eat it up. Oh yeah – and guilt-trip and/or terrorize anyone who doesn’t, by calling them racist (this is a trump card).

3. Laugh Carelessly About White Stereotypes

God, is this list of tips ever getting long! Well, it’s time to crack a joke that diminishes a white person’s heritage (even your own). And since white people aren’t allowed to acknowledge their own heritage without being called racists, it’s even a good ice-breaker at a party. Everyone loves a good ginger joke, and that’s always a good warm-up, but Viking jokes – now there’s a rich source of punchlines. Everyone can laugh at their baby-eating, village-raiding, woman-raping, genocidal stereotypes! You’ll get the whole room going! You can top that up with slanderous remarks about trailer trash, rednecks, and honkies. I mean, people who actually come from that background will just laugh, too, right? Ooh! How about Hitler jokes while you’re at it? And why stop there? You’ll still have time to joke about pedophiles in the Roman Catholic church, and when you’re done with those, you can joke about Soviet Russia. And if anyone tries to be a wet blanket, just tell them everything is funny and they’re just being over-sensitive.

4. Arbitrarily Decide That Whiteness Is Superior

The last tip I have to offer you is to develop and embrace a superiority complex over your pale or fair complexion. You can do this by rejecting anything that’s non-white as “savage” or “barbaric”, and then stealing bits and pieces of “savage” or “barbaric” non-white culture and showing them how to do it better. Like by making your very own authentic Native American war bonnet out of chicken feathers from a Michaels craft store, and then giving yourself a hip new Native American tribal name. You get extra bonus points for calling it “art”, “ironic”, or a “political dialogue”, or for doing it for an outrageous Halloween costume. Or you can dress up in a tunic and a turbin on International Blasphemy Rights Day, and carry a toy machine gun around with you. If you can, convince one of your female friends to show up wearing nothing but Victoria’s Secret underwear and a facial veil, call it “Reverse Sharia Law”, and laugh about terrorists. And again, if anyone gets angry, just find a race realist near you to help you out of it so you can go back to boozing.

If you follow these tips, you’ll be well on your way to being complicit with systemic white supremacy. Good for you!

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9 Comments

  1. Posted August 22, 2012 at 12:55 am | Permalink

    I really wanted to like this, but I’m afraid it has ended up just being a muddled mess. I think that the issue is that several of these points don’t have anything to do with “thoughtlessly consuming whiteness,” but are instead a matter of deliberately engaging in convoluted mental gymnastics in order to avoid owning white privilege.

    • Posted August 22, 2012 at 6:41 pm | Permalink

      I’m sorry you feel that way, as it seems that your perception is likely founded in the vision of homogeneous whiteness I hoped to interrogate here. Part of having white privilege is being treated better (systematically) by default, simply by virtue of skin colour (I have a number of friends who pass for white until they reveal that they are mixed race). Part of the onus for those of us who inherited that privilege is to understand where it comes from (which is inextricably linked to where we come from).

      If we don’t ever stop to think critically about how whiteness is constructed as some sort of homogeneous entity, for fear of being accused (as you have above) of “denying white privilege”, how do you suppose we whiteys are ever going to accomplish the enormous task of owning and letting go of our racial privilege, instead of constantly denying and avoiding it?

      If we don’t ever stop and think critically about what whiteness means, how are we going to become allies to indigenous peoples while occupying the land our ancestors stole from them?

      If we don’t ever stop and think critically about our own roots, how are we going to magically avoid being crippled by white guilt (a form of privilege-avoidance), victim envy and cultural appropriation (do I even need to explain this?), or outright avoidance of critically important changes in the way we speak and live day-to-day (rather than just -saying- “I understand privilege” while doing nothing about it)?

      If we are afraid to look into ourselves, how are we going to humble ourselves and look at what we’ve internalized? Racism isn’t a one-way street, even -if- the vast majority of traffic is jammed in one direction.

      • Posted August 22, 2012 at 8:53 pm | Permalink

        I’m absolutely not saying that we shouldn’t stop and think critically about what whiteness means. I’m saying that the points that you outlined above aren’t examples of “thoughtlessly consuming whiteness.”

        • Posted August 22, 2012 at 11:23 pm | Permalink

          Then I’m afraid I won’t be able to understand where you’re coming from until you write your own blog post about it. My argument is that race is a construct and whiteness is no exception to that statement.

          Everyone, regardless of skin colour, is force-fed this artificially concocted version of white culture in North American society.

          Everyone, regardless of skin colour, has a responsibility to resist it, confront it, challenge it, and understand what it costs -everyone- in this society, regardless of skin colour. When we don’t, we are a part of the problem.

          Where I’m coming from is as a person of mixed ethnicities, one of which (actual ethnic Caucasian here) is used as a sloppy substitute for the word “white” (note: I didn’t say -Caucasoid-), because white people are terrified of interrogating their internalized racial privileges and the possibility of oppressive ideas in their own heads whenever someone says “white supremacist” in a feminist dialogue. So we often just avoid it all together and bully anyone with pale skin who even hints at the possibility that colonialism has cost incurred a cost against white people, or that whiteness is constructed and the manner in which it is has effectively erased an enormous diversity of cultures.

          Most of my mixed cultural and ethnic heritage (including my Jewish ethnicity) has been systematically -erased- by this homogeneous vision of whiteness and the family who work to maintain it. I find a lot of personal and political power in probing into how much this cultural process has actually cost me and the rest of my family (half of which I don’t share a common language with since WWII), and that empowers my voice, my physical presence, and my capacity to empathize with the experiences of racialized communties, as a white anti-racist ally.

          This was a relatively short blog post with the intent to interrogate the most pervasive ways white culture in North America is constructed — the most sneaky, subtle ways we are -all- vulnerable to consuming it uncritically (thoughtlessly). If you disagree with my approach or think you can express it better (perhaps from the opposite direction), I encourage the effort.

          However your first comment essentially argued that if I, a white person, acknowledge my heritage (which, unbeknownst to you, has been stolen from me and systematically erased by the very colonial government and dominant culture that did the same to the First Nations, on whose land I live), then I’m just doing this to look for ways to avoid owning the fact that I’ve inherited privilege by virtue of birth lottery.

          I respectfully take issue with your standpoint towards me on this issue. And quite frankly, I have to -resist- taking offence, given my history, just to try and engage respectfully with you at all. I can’t tell if you assume I’m just some privilege-avoiding whitey (although it sure comes off as though you do), or if you’re not conscious of the assumptions you’re projecting into this conversation (which, again, is the entire purpose of this blog).

          I’m not just flapping my metaphorical gums about hurt feelings and crying white tears here. If more white people actually thought critically about the construction of whiteness — especially in North America — then perhaps more of us would actually start changing our lives to reflect a rejection of that fake whiteness, and start challenging racist structures in our governments and dominant cultural attitudes.

          • Posted August 23, 2012 at 12:24 am | Permalink

            However your first comment essentially argued that if I, a white person, acknowledge my heritage (which, unbeknownst to you, has been stolen from me and systematically erased by the very colonial government and dominant culture that did the same to the First Nations, on whose land I live), then I’m just doing this to look for ways to avoid owning the fact that I’ve inherited privilege by virtue of birth lottery.

            No, no and no. When I said in my first comment that the points raised “are instead a matter of deliberately engaging in convoluted mental gymnastics in order to avoid owning white privilege,” I was talking about the four suggestions you listed, not about you or your behavior. As in:

            Be Intellectually Dishonest With Yourself
            Be Intellectually Lazy, Too
            Laugh Carelessly About White Stereotypes
            and
            Arbitrarily Decide That Whiteness Is Superior

            aren’t methods for thoughtlessly consuming whiteness, but are rather methods of deliberately engaging in convoluted mental gymnastics in order to avoid owning white privilege.

            I’m not saying that *you* are engaged in mental gymnastics to avoid owning white privilege (I didn’t even know your ethnicity until your comment). I’m saying that the title of your piece seems to indicate that people thoughtlessly assume whiteness as normative, but that the body of your article describes something much different.

  2. Posted August 23, 2012 at 2:28 am | Permalink

    @unequivocal

    That was. Really. Sincerely. Completely unclear.

    For the record, privilege-avoidance is an exercise in mental gymnastics, and people do engage in it. Including white people who have launched character assassinations against me, because I dared to suggest that we didn’t all come magically from a colonial settlement, and owe the basic respect of acknowledging where we actually come from, to all the indigenous communities across Turtle Island. If not also to ourselves.

    I am sad to report that I was recently sitting in a room full of white people learning about white supremacist hate groups online (and how they operate, and how they are supported), and only the presenter had heard about the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (a five-year project funded by the federal government of Canada, to research the personal histories and healing needs of residential school survivors and their communities across the country). More than that, no one other than myself and the presenter seemed to acknowledge that the dominant culture of this country is characterized by the support network that breeds this kind of hatred. And most sadly of all, that point was grossly understated.

    I could call it “Convoluted Privilege-Avoiding Mental Gymnastics”, or I could call it something that might catch the eye of people like those I shared that room with, and try to speak to them about what they are doing to contribute to and maintain systemic white supremacy, in the hopes that if they read it they will stop and think critically about their own identities.

    I do a lot of writing with highly technical jargon, but this post wasn’t for people who are already steeped in daily exercises of feminist theory. I’m trying to make this accessible to as many people as possible, by deliberately choosing non-technical language and presenting it within a framework of reverse psychology with sarcastic surprises throughout.

    Sincerely, I wish we hadn’t gotten this confused with each other. I’ve had many conversations like this that devolved into broken friendships, sworn nemeses, and people flinging all sorts of baseless accusations of bigotry at me. In truth, a First Nations elder is responsible for planting the seed that has blossomed into this article.

    • Posted August 23, 2012 at 10:36 am | Permalink

      My apologies for the lack of clarity on my end.

      • Posted August 23, 2012 at 10:25 pm | Permalink

        Thank you for the feedback. I feel like this was a productive conversation, at least. Certainly more so than times I have actually been attacked by my own (white) friends for daring to speak about this type of issue. My apologies for jumping prematurely to that conclusion about your motivations for commenting here. I’ve literally only received hateful/spiteful feedback on my writings about decolonization.

        • Posted August 24, 2012 at 12:25 am | Permalink

          No worries. These sorts of conversations are always difficult to parse, especially over the web. I’m glad that we were able to eventually figure out what the other was trying to say. =)

          Be well, and keep up the good fight.

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