Why isn’t there a White History Month? I want a Straight Pride parade! We hear this a lot during certain months designed to celebrate folks that are not in the dominant culture here in the United States. In other words, people who do not identify as white, cis, het, male.
What is Whiteness?
According to the National Museum of African American History and Culture, “whiteness or white racialized identity refers to the way that white people, their customs, culture, and beliefs operate as the standard by which all other groups are compared.” (https://nmaahc.si.edu/learn/talking-about-race/topics/whiteness)
What does this mean? White folks often don’t recognize that they even have a culture because they hold a history of known ethnic identity versus racial identity. For example, we may talk about being Irish or Norwegian. While white folks may identify with a nationality, we don’t connect that to race. Oftentimes, we hear people say, “well, I’m just white.” Whereas, folks that identify as Black have a shared history of enslavement and disconnection from their ancestry that creates its own culture through an unspoken bond and racial identity.
Let’s be honest, in the United States, our whole system is based on white, Christian identities. How do we know this? Government and organization holiday calendars are based mostly on Christian and white American celebrations. Professionalism is based on white norms such as concepts of timeliness, dress/hairstyles, and communication. Students are taught history through a white European lens. This is whiteness in action.
Whiteness means that those of us who identify as white don’t have to think about our identity on a regular basis because we are the accepted norm by which everything else is measured. It’s also where white privilege, white supremacy, and white nationalism come from.
So what can we do?
Explore and recognize your white identity and the inherent privileges that it affords you.
Our goal is to move from conformity through integrative awareness. Here are some statements for you to reflect on. What is your reaction when reading these statements? Where does this reaction come from? What does it tell you about your racial identity awareness?
Source: Racial Identity Development Let's Talk About Race - Racial Identity Development
There are just a few of the items to consider as your transition to racial integrative awareness. The following article will lead you through other steps on your self-awareness journey. Review the Racial Identity Development worksheet to reflect where you are in your journey. Let's Talk About Race - Racial Identity Development
Understanding Whiteness within Context of Nationality
When coming from a country or culture that is not historically seen as white, but has been colonized, there are people who have the ability to pass and/or access white privilege. For example, someone from Latin America may identify as a person of color, but others perceive them as being white. When a person from a colonized nation has access to whiteness and closer proximity to whiteness, they also have access to privileges that other people of color, who may not pass, do not have. This can cause tension as the white passing person sees themselves as non-white and may not see the advantages that have been afforded them or may see it and use that advantage to promote white supremacist ideals. In discussions with other people of color, especially those who are more melanated, they may invalidate the experiences of bias, prejudice, and oppression experienced by those who do not pass as white individuals.
Take time to investigate your privilege
Privilege exists on a spectrum. There are several notches on that chain, including where you were born, your economic advantages, your sexual orientation, gender, and other identity dimensions.
Seek out and listen to the lived experiences of those who are more melanated than you. Be curious and open to their experience.
Check out these Resources
Talking about Race - Whiteness: Whiteness | National Museum of African American History and Culture
Let’s Talk about Race - Racial Identity Development: Let's Talk About Race - Racial Identity Development
Resmaa Menakem - Black Women, You are not Defective: Black Women: You Are Not Defective
Deconstructing White Privilege: Deconstructing White Privilege with Dr. Robin DiAngelo
bell hooks on interlocking systems of domination: bell hooks on interlocking systems of domination
White Men: Time to Discover Your Culture Blind Spots: White Men: Time to Discover Your Cultural Blind Spots | Michael Welp | TEDxBend
Being Black, Jane Elliot: Being Black by Jane Elliott
The Expanding Definition of Whiteness by Nell Irvin Painter: The Expanding Definition of Whiteness - Big Think
How White Privilege Works: The Root How White Privilege Works | Unpack That
HomeGrown LLC Website Authors: Catherine Davis