Wednesday, February 27, 2008

On Whiteness- topic for 2/28/o8

On whiteness:

No one identifies as white. Whiteness is the absence of culture, the bleaching a person’s lineage. Whiteness is privilege – the reward bestowed upon Americans for discarding the language and customs of our ancestors. To be white is to be assimilated. But assimilated into what? It could easily be argued that American culture is pop culture; branded, copywriten, marketed and sold to us. So what does it mean to be white? It means to be void of any roots, to be distinguished from those with a sense of ethnic history and, to have privilege over those with history.

When my ancestors came to this country, they believed it was important to discard the old world and embrace the new. Unhappily there was no new culture and unfortunately I cannot go back to the dolers-out of whiteness and say “actually, I’d really like my peoples’ culture and language back. I would rather have a sense of history than have white privilege”. Because, as much as I think of myself as a Jew and non-white, it is peoples’ perception and the way that I am treated in the world that matters.

I feel that when a person does identify as white, it becomes very dangerous. This is because of the definition that I have given above. A white-identified person will define themselves in terms of what they are NOT as well as claim a right to privilege. Therefore, a person who identifies with an empty non-culture is inherently problematic.

Another symptom of whiteness is acculturation. Various people raised in this white non-culture often acculturate other cultures. White people who lock their hair are one obvious example. A person with no sense of history is hungry for what people with a sense of ethnicity have and so they seek it in superficial ways.

-Comrade AJ

15 comments:

momieofradical said...

Yes, whiteness is undeserved privilege over others! I identify as white and here is where I disagree. I am not void of roots, my roots are Jewish and I have a great sense of history (5000 years of it!) White is merely a category among a few races on our planet, I am white because I am not black, asian, Indian (both kinds) or Latina. So what am I? I have a sense of history and being white does not enter into it! Sorry this is so short, but I would like a response so I can elaborate.

Anarchist Jew said...

"I have a sense of history and being white does not enter into it!" Therefore, it would not make sense that you identify as white, right? being white is just the default "because I am not black, asian, Indian (both kinds) or Latina". You identify as being a Jew, not as being white- being white holds no meaning for you beyond that. Our ancestors were not white before they earned that "reward" for giving up their traditional dress and language when they came to the states. They were Jews, they were Jews in Romania and they were Jews in Germany.

momieofradical said...

Yes, white is a default because I am not anything else!!!

Where is your reference that Jews were given a 'reward' for their giving up old customs? As far as I can see they were always white, what else????

Anarchist Jew said...

I am saying that only once Jewish immigrants were assimilated were they considered white. "Reward" is just a metaphor for the result of assimilation which is whiteness. This is my definition of whiteness. Do you have a different one? This I believe is proven by the fact that the first wave of western European Jews to the US considered the second wave of Jewish immigrants to this country to be "too Jewish". An example of assimilation would be the celebration of Christmas- they considered this a "secular" holiday but it was just a token of assimilation/whiteness. Why didn't we celebrate Christmas growing up?-because we identify as Jews, and recognize Chritsmas as a Christian holiday. Now, we don't think of the difference between western and eastern Jews because we are all considered "white"- because we are all assimilated into American whiteness. I think what would help is if you gave me your definition of white.

momieofradical said...

My definition of white is that it is one of the defined races by anthropologists! These are Black, White, Brown and Asian.

Brown includes Hispanics, all Native Americans (north, central and south) as well as folks such as Indigenous Eskimos, Indians of India, etc.

momieofradical said...

Oops, I forgot that Indians of the Eurasian continent are classified as brown.

Anarchist Jew said...

Are you aware that definitions of race change? Arabs are now considered white. At one point, Irish, Italian and Jewish people were not considered white in the US. Race definitions change, they are social constructions. How can "Hispanics" be a racial group when it only refers to the language that a person speaks and there are Hispanics of ALL skin tones. Also, when you look at people in the Caribbean, at what point to you call a person "black" and at what point "Hispanic" since the islands of Jamaica and the Dominican Republic are neighbors and the people in both countries have a range of skin tones but today we are told that Jamaicans are black and Dominicans are Hispanic. There is no core of truth to racial definitions.

momieofradical said...

What is your source for this info re: Italians etc.? Okay, some of my response may have had some mistakes in minutiae, nevertheless, Jews are an ethnic group, not a race!


PS Might we be arguing semantics?

Anarchist Jew said...

Momie, I never said that Jews are a race. We are a people with a common religion comprised of various ethnic groups including Sephardic, Mizrahi, Ethiopian and Azkanazi. My point is merely this "whiteness, white race" is an evolving construction whose growth depends on ALL kinds of people and ethnic groups to give up their various ethnic idiosyncrasies. I am also saying that I identify as "Jew" and the other label of "white" has been defaulted to me with complete disregard for what I actually am and how I think of myself.

momieofradical said...

ok,
Jews are several races, including black, sephardic, etc. I am a Jew who happens to be white!

Nuff said

Anarchist Jew said...

oye you are only white because you live in this country in this era. you are not intrinsically white.

momieofradical said...

I give up! Let's argue about next week's topic

Ebony Intuition said...

"So what does it mean to be white? It means to be void of any roots, to be distinguished from those with a sense of ethnic history and, to have privilege over those with history."

So true they have no BLOODCLOT CULTURE..they steal everything from other people strip it down, dilute it paint it white then sell it back to you...lol sorry for the bloodclot lol

But I so agree with your statement.

Micah said...

I agree that whiteness is an absence of culture, at least in some ways. However, in the U.S. mainstream culture is synonymous with white culture. So, when you say something is mainstream, you are pretty much saying that it is white. Therefore, there is a white culture.

I feel very uncomfortable saying that I am white. I do not state it with pride. However, there are times when one needs to acknowledge the privilege that one experiences, and I definitely experience white privilege. So, I could say that I am a person who does not identify with any race but experiences white privilege. But! It is a white privilege to say that you do not identify with any race, just like it is part of white privilege to say that you are color-blind. As far as I know, race identification is not optional for people of color, it is an identity that is forced on them by the outside world. How would you feel if I was a millionaire and I said that I don't believe in the class system? This is even worse because I can't give my white privilege away, it is something that I will own for the rest of my life.

So when someone asks me my race, I say "white." If they have time for me to elaborate and the situation is the right one, then I will. But if they are a person of color, then I'm sure that they don't need to hear me preach to them about race.

Anarchist Jew said...

Hey Micah-

Thanks so much for commenting! If you wouldn’t mind, how did you find this blog?

I would argue that “mainstream culture” is that which is fabricated by the capitalist elite and sold back to the people. This is very different from the ancient history and culture that people possess. Many white people are completely disconnected from this ancient culture because as you said:

“It is a white privilege to say that you do not identify with any race, just like it is part of white privilege to say that you are color-blind. As far as I know, race identification is not optional for people of color.”

Also:

“But if they are a person of color, then I'm sure that they don't need to hear me preach to them about race.”

I would be wary of assuming that engaging a person who is not a member of your race is taboo. When issues become taboo and are not discussed, they become toxic.