I really want to address whiteness as a (socially constructed) racial group and as a privileged position within the world because it’s something that we as white people need to be addressing in the context of race relations and racism. Ignoring our whiteness and our complicit nature in white supremacy does nothing but feed our own ignorant bliss that all is well in the world (when it really isn’t). We as a group need to be acknowledging our whiteness and how that fits into the larger narrative.
It is important to be acknowledging and centering how people of color experience racism (and how black people experience anti-blackness). But it’s also important to realize that we as white people often experience the world differently because of the way that society values whiteness over everything else. Of course, this doesn’t mean you can’t experience other oppression on the axis of ableism, misogyny, transphobia, etc. More that it’s important to realize the ways in which whiteness can be incredibly beneficial and a privilege.
One of the biggest ways to acknowledge your whiteness for the first time is through Peggy McIntosh’s 1988 article “Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack”, in which she lists numerous privileges that come with whiteness. McIntosh lists fifty different privileges in her list, from the fact that she is never asked to speak for all the people of her racial group (like how people have called for Muslim communities to condemn ISIS and other extremists but Christians don’t have to condemn extremists like Westboro Baptist Church) and that she will feel “normal” in the usual walks of public life (both institutional and social). I definitely recommend reading through that list and seeing how your whiteness might impact your own life in ways you might not have imagined.
There are so many resources to learn about race and racism as a white person – one of the most thorough places I’ve personally encountered has been Jon Greenberg’s curriculum for white Americans. Greenberg lists an amazing amount of articles and resources (like Ask a White Person) about race, racism, and whiteness and states it quite elegantly that:
There are no doubt complexities that come with White Americans working for racial justice. White privilege can lead to a chronic case of undiagnosed entitlement, creating poor listeners, impatient speakers who talk over others, and people unaccustomed to taking orders. Nevertheless, the movement for racial justice needs more White Americans to get involved.
And in case you’d like some more things to read, here’s just a short list of articles (plus my continuously updated articles page):
- 8 truths about race that every white person needs to know – Darnell L. Moore
- 18 New Year’s resolutions to fight racism – Jamie Grant, Ph.D
- 9 clueless things white people say when confronted with racism – Derrick Clifton
- Here are the real reasons why we white people still struggle to admit that racism still exists – Jamie Utt
- 5 coded phrases people post on Facebook to excuse their racism – Rachel Kuo
- Why reverse racism isn’t real – Sara Luckey (seriously stop trying to make it a thing)
- “That’s racist against white people!” A discussion on power and privilege – Jamie Utt
- 5 reasons white people don’t have to hate people of color to be racist – Rahel Neirene
- 8 ways the media upholds white privilege and demonizes people of color – Maisha Z. Johnson
- 8 things white people really need to understand about race – Jamie Utt