The Construct of Whiteness
Throughout my academic and corporate career I knew tons of people who bought into it. It’s like they were ashamed of being ethnically or culturally different. They did everything they could to “fit in”. I worked with folks who were Jewish or Irish, but never at the expense of being white. Others were Italian, Polish, or Greek, but never at the expense of being white. Others still were Arab, Chinese, Russian, French, Mexican, Korean, etc… No matter what their heritage, nationality or ancestry was, it always took a backseat to embracing this ever-softening soul-draining cocoon of homogenized whiteness. It was their standard for all things good and human; and they worshipped it like a god. It was some type of self-imposed post-modern eugenics experiment.
And as is with most constructs, I realized that with whiteness comes stereotypes, self-hatred, narcissism and neurosis, fear ‘n’ loathing, and most importantly, the near-endless consumption opportunities businesses live for: The endless hair and makeup products for achieving that idealized look of “white” beauty. The fashions tailored to accentuate the perfectly “white” body. The foods, music, media, and entertainment properties developed to feed and nurture those perfectly “white” cultural sensibilities. And on a grander scale, there are the politics, histories, religions, and laws designed to protect, reward, foster, and spread the perfectly “white” set of values, beliefs, social paradigms, etc. And may a semi-Judeo, very-Anglo-western-manifest-destiny-loving-God help you if you see things any differently.
The result has been generations of Americans constantly hustled into chasing this falsely constructed white reality. And since we’re all connected, everyone—Black, White, Asian, Hispanic, native, immigrant, indigenous, foreign, etc. is, to one degree or another, affected by it. Those who buy into whiteness reap the rewards of white skin privilege. But the rest, who are too dark, too ethnic, or simply too stubborn to accept it get criticized and marginalized. But for The Hustle, whiteness equals power, profit, opportunity, obedience and control. It has since day one.
(And as I noted in “gatekeepers,” this construct has to be an inside job. The folks best equipped to solve it are who can solve it are those who’ve benefited the most from it. At some point, all those who see themselves as “white” need to lead the charge for solutions.)
With the transatlantic slave trade—first Indian,
then African—Europeans increasingly saw “white”
as a race and race as an important human characteristic.
—Prof. James W. Loewen