I often talk about Blackness. I analyze it thoroughly because, to an extent, Blackness defines me. Blackness defines my anger, my love, and my passion for social justice.
But very rarely do I offer analytical insight of whiteness. For one, I’m not enthusiastic about delving into the roots of whiteness, fleshing out its mechanisms, and ultimately, defining its functions. When I mention whiteness, I assume that those around me already have a solid understanding of what it is.
Recently, I published a seemingly incendiary post on Facebook about my upcoming trip to St. Louis. On a national call to action, I will be joining approximately 6,000 people to protest the frightening frequency at which police brutality prevails, and the subsequent injustice that follows. Initially organized around the tragic slaying of Mike Brown, the Weekend of Resistance gained renewed fervor when Vonderrit Myers was gunned down 17 times by an off duty officer.
My post served as a reminder to those that my usual pro-Black feminist rhetoric will be turbo-charged these next few days.
One commenter innocuously commented: “You seem to suggest that the equality of one group has to come at the detriment of another. Doesn’t that merely shift the problem?”
At first, I was taken aback by this question. Anyone who knows me should know that my politic does not embrace the subjugation of another ethno-cultural group.
But upon closer inspection, I realized that the issue is whiteness, and the overall lack of understanding of what it is. So I figured I’d write this relatively brief outline of the jarring phenomenon.
Whiteness is not a person, and it’s barely a people. Whiteness is a system. Whiteness is a mechanized function buttressed on racism and perpetuated by all those ignorant of the institutionalized nature of racism. Ignorance knows no color; all people can be guilty of ignoring or remaining unaware of the institutionalized forms that racism takes. Whiteness need not only encompass white people; but they seem to be the leading group embracing it, whether intentionally or not.
There are many words for whiteness; colonialism, slavery, imperialism … just to name a few. These phenomena are all characterized by the disturbing hunger for Black and Brown blood.
In the historical sense, whiteness is disturbingly overt and grotesquely violent. From the forceful exclusion of Native peoples in America, to the state-sanctioned public lynchings of Black people, and to the Black and Brown female bodies that were raped and ravaged in between, whiteness, historically, is notoriously brutal. The historical brutality is what fostered the prosperity of whiteness; violence was needed to maintain social populations and attain economic advancement.
But with recent political, economic, and social gains, society has, on the surface, condemned the volatility of whiteness. Schoolchildren are now taught how horrific slavery was. And to suggest that apartheid was anything but ugly is taboo.
Whiteness adapted to the newfound public shaming but covertly layering the racist brutality with complicated policy and manipulative procedures. Although always an institutional force, whiteness today adapted through legislation that hints at racism, but does not outrightly stink of it.
The hidden layering of whiteness coincides with cultural mores that play on centuries’ old stereotypes and prejudices of Black and Brown people. Media feeds into these cultural mores, while perpetuating them.
This is the basic overview of whiteness. Whiteness, in short, is a systematic method meant to break down Blackness by way of cleverly inventive and effective institutions.
So when I denounce whiteness, I am not denouncing white people, nor am I suggesting or advocating that Black people do to white people what they’ve down to us for centuries. But I am fervently against the institutions that work to undermine Black advancement. I’m also fervently against those who maintain these institutions by way of their political, economic, and social power.
I am against whiteness. And you should be too.