Blog 1: An Introduction
BLOG 1: An Introduction (It is long I know, but I need to set the context)
Welcome to Whiteness in America. Well if you are reading this in the United States, whiteness literally has been a part of the American experience since Europeans seized this land from the Indigenous People of America. And there it is, I have lost some of you, and that is the group I am trying to keep, but it is the truth, and that is one thing I think we need a little more of, truth and speaking truth to power. If you are interested in learning more, check out Dunbar-Ortiz’s book An Indingenous Peoples’ History of the United States and/or David Roediger’s book How race survived US History.
For those that are still here, thank you for sticking around, let me introduce myself. My name is Thomn, and I am the primary author and creator of content for this page. I am many things, a father, a partner, a son, an educator, and I am currently a Doctoral Candidate studying Higher Education Leadership and conducting research on the topic of whiteness. However of all of these things, as it relates to this work I am a white person.
My goal for this introductory blog is to share with you why I decided to begin the project Whiteness in America, a brief overview of my understanding (based on many phenomenal scholars) of what whiteness is and how it has been enacted, and first and foremost a little bit about me.
Like most white (cis)men, I am going to start by talking about myself. All humor aside, I think it is important to understand the context in which I share information, see the world, and understand life and the intersectionality of privileges that relate to my identities. This is not to say that my understanding and positioning will not shift, there are however elements of my positionality that will stay permanent. For example, as I stated earlier, I am white. What does that mean exactly, is it simply that my skin is lighter? The concept of race is complex and it is most simply explained by calling it what it is, a social construct created to develop caste system that advantages those that are white. Sure being white has to do with my skin color, but it is much more complex and there are certain things that have accumulated over time that are part of being white, that is where whiteness comes in.
So, I see things from a white person’s perspective. To me, this means, that my lived experience and the things around me have been crafted for me. My racial identity is the “default”, it is what has been normalized as American, and even in some cases if you are Christian, Jesus who could not have been white with blonde hair and blue eyes, has been in some cases pictured as white to make people like me feel more comfortable about being down with Jesus.
As previously noted, I have several other identities that intersect with my racial identity, and most of these identities are ones that come from a place of privilege. Let me take a pause for a moment and say that this is not a page in which I want privilege to be a “dirty” word, it needs to be understood, unpacked, and owned by those that have it. My statements here are not to deflect or remove fault, or to be taken as a point of feeling ashamed or a sense of guilt, but rather acknowledge that I see the world through intersected identities that are privileged. Additionally, I have to acknowledge and call out that I still am working through many things and there are times that I will say or do things not helpful in disrupting oppressive systems. This admission is not meat as absolvent of these actions/words, but rather a place of holding me accountability and recognizing that I much like everyone else am unfinished and am still in need of continued learning and self-development.
I also want to acknowledge what I hear all the time when I try to talk with white folks about being white, yes of course there are areas in your life in which you might have had challenges or even faced oppression based on other identities. I too have had these experiences. However, from the way I see it, my racial privilege has created advantages both hidden and overt that have allowed some of the other areas of disadvantage to not be as big of a barrier. I will talk more about this in other blogs and the podcast.
Needless to say, my identities mean that I am part of the patriarchy, I am the colonizer, and I am a huge part of the reason why racism, white supremacy, sexism, transphobia, homophobia, ableism, and many other forms of oppression exist. I am not saying that I actively support these systems of oppression, nor am I saying that I want to be part of these systems, in fact it is the contrary. I do however, recognize that my identities and the way my identities have been shaped, and the messages I have learned about these identities throughout my life have shaped an experience that reflects unknowingly upholding values that perpetuate oppression.
For those of you that have similar identities, this does not mean you I are “bad people” nor does it mean that you or I wish for it to be like this. However, my life exists the way it does because of my race and the other intersected privileged identities that are part of my being. Failure to recognize, name, and work to actively engage against these systems of oppression only allow them to operate in a status quo. Thus, why I believe, in the words of Howard Zinn, “You cannot be neutral on a moving train”.
This is part of the reason I created this website, the blog, and the podcast. Sure, in my life I actively engage in anti-racist practices and challenge white supremacy. Sure, I have my research, but I felt the need to do more. I want to create a platform to engage, deconstruct, and disrupt part of the American lived experience that is so deeply woven into the fabric it is rarely seen by white folks. I am also doing it, because I am just tired of social media as an outlet. The dialogue, if you want to call it that, and faux activism and passive approach to advocacy it promotes is just too much for me to handle. Now for those that are making waves and doing good work through social media by using it as a platform to enhance understanding and advertise events that create change, keep on keepin’ on. For me, I was not be successful and I felt like I was starting to become part of the noise that was not doing anything.
With all this being said (I have a reputation for being verbose) I am frustrated, saddened, disheartened, and angry. However, I started to realize that I was not doing anything but getting more and more frustrated and more and more angry, and this was leading to an overt sense of helplessness. In my daily actions, I was working to challenge whiteness and white supremacy, but when I saw some of things people were posting I just could not help but to disengage or engage in a way that was not helpful. So, I decided to change how I was approaching talking about whiteness. I recognize that some people will never read this, or if they do they will not change their minds, and the intention is not to change minds but rather provide an introspection to the manifestations of whiteness and make it more recognizable. My hope is that the stories shared here, and on the podcast will begin to resonate with folks. I firmly believe that, in particular due to social media and other factors, we have created a culture that has been able remove the human experience from oppression, in other words there seems to be a loss of compassion and ability to humanize with others that differ.
Case in point, those that argue detaining kids in cages is appropriate because it helps maintain strong immigration policies. Not being able to see, hear, and understand the feelings of these kids or their parents and loved ones, is an example of a disconnect existing in some arguments for “stronger” immigration. From my standpoint, it seems there is a loss by those with a dominant point of view to see the humanity and in ability to humanize the lived experiences of those that do not look like you. This space is dedicated to creating dialogue and an educational platform, and I hope that it serves as an opportunity for this to occur.
So, if you are still reading, I hope you are ready for a journey. Over time you will hear stories that will make you cry, laugh, and deeply reflect on what you understand to be your lived experience. Several people have asked me who the audience for this page/content is for, and too be honest I am not sure. I hope that all find it interesting, but I think mostly, I want white folks to engage with this content. I want the content to cause reflection in hopes that white folks reflect on their lived experience as a white person, and think about how racialized their lived experience is and maybe start being part of the change.
For those that are still a little confused about what whiteness is, I would invite you to read my dissertation (still in progress), and I recognize that request is somewhat self-indulgent. So, instead, I will to summarize whiteness in a more brief fashion than the other parts of this introduction.
Suppositions related to the topic:
· Race is a social construct
· Racism is a symptom of whiteness and white supremacy (Matias, 2016)
· Race has been constructed and interconnected to property rights (Ladson-Billings and Tate, 1995).
· Whiteness is a mechanism that secures power and access through being itself a property. Whiteness as property means that whiteness is owned, transferred, and appreciate in value (Harris, 1993)
· Whiteness is something that people invest in, and upkeep much like stocks. The more you invest in maintaining whiteness the more it has worth, the more that you can use it to create advantages and access and the more those without possession are left out (Lipsitz, 2006).
· Whiteness is maintained mostly by white folks, but also can be upheld by People of Color.
· Whiteness evolves, but can be deconstructed and disrupted to support greater equity and justice (Nayak, 2007).
Utilizing this framework, whiteness is sought after, invested in, and something that is constantly reframing the system to advantage those that are allowed to buy in over those that are not able to buy in. Even if you are not actively engaging in whiteness, as a white person, by not constantly working to disrupt the system, you are allowing for the value of whiteness to appreciate.
Yep, there it is whiteness in a few bullets and a short paragraph. I know it is more complicated and we will soon dig deeper with examples, discussions, and thoughts on how it manifests daily. If you would like to do some reading check out Nolan Cabrera’s and/or Cheryl Matias research.
Your feedback and thoughts are always welcome and encouraged. The only thing that I ask is that if you are providing feedback that you do so by using your name. I look forward to sharing this journey with you.