Sunday, January 9, 2011

Welcome to the Cosmology of Whiteness Blog

Welcome to my blog on the cosmology of whiteness and white supremacy. I am a queer man of Anglo-European descent, and I understand that the institutions of American society were established by people who look like me for the exclusive benefit of people who look like me. The land of this continent was stolen from its original inhabitants and given freely to people who look like me. People who look like me exploited that land using slave labor until it was no longer economically viable to do so. White supremacy has gone through several phases during the history of the United States, from an era of legal slavery and government sanctioned genocide, to an era of Jim Crow and overt imperialism, to the current era of colorblind systemic racism, neo-liberal neocolonialism and lately anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant hysteria. The one thing that never seems to change is the dominance and unmarked status of whiteness.

I use the term whiteness almost interchangeably with white supremacy. But they are not exactly the same. White supremacy names the system of racial dominance operating in U.S. society (and globally), while whiteness (deriving from W.E.B. Dubois’ notion of “personal whiteness” and currently gaining academic currency via the field of “whiteness studies”) names the system’s epistemic and normative dimensions. It refers to those standards and values that are derived from Anglo-European culture and treated as universal norms (aesthetic, linguistic, behavioral, moral, cognitive, etc.). It also reminds us that this cosmology (see the post on cosmology) is racialized; that is, the supposed beauty, rationality, and industriousness associated with being white depends on the projection of opposing qualities onto racialized groups. This normative structure is then used both to secure and to explain the relative advantages afforded to white people. In other words, white supremacy identifies the racialized stratification of our social system, while whiteness describes the racialized cosmology that supports it.

One of the purposes of this blog is to unpack and explore the ways in which my personal history and the collective history of people who look like me has resulted in a situation in which those who identify as white have opted to cut themselves off from the larger human family in exchange for access to material benefits and a tenuous feeling of racial superiority. I wish both to take responsibility for the benefits I derive from systemic white supremacy and to do what I can to support the healing of the enormous wounds inflicted on the human family by white supremacy. I am committed to expunging the layers of white conditioning within myself and to helping others like me to do the  same. Only in this way will it be possible for me and people who look like me to develop mutually trusting relationships with our black and brown brothers and sisters and engage effectively in the struggle to end white supremacy.

I want to say at the outset (even though I know it probably won’t help) that my aim is NOT to shame white people or to suggest that only white folks are capable of racial prejudice. This blog is about the system of white supremacy - its history and its cosmology. It is not about blaming individuals or groups based on their skin color or racial identity. I do not hate white people or America (though I do strenuously reject that the former constitutes the latter). If anything this blog is rooted in love, and in the earnest desire that those of us who have (however unconsciously) traded our membership in the human family for power and privileges based on skin color can find a way to regain our humanity.

At the same time, not blaming does not mean not assigning responsibility to those of us to whom the system confers power and privilege. I have been playing a game that has long been rigged in my favor. I therefore have a responsibility to change the game so that the rules are fair and to ensure that past injustices are atoned for. This responsibility is completely independent of when and by whom the game was set up.

Finally, I want to make it perfectly clear that every worthwhile insight on this blog owes its existence, to one degree or another, to the five hundred year liberation struggle of the people oppressed by white supremacy. Sadly, we white folks, even those of us who earnestly desire justice, have shown ourselves to be largely incapable of recognizing the operations of white supremacy without the help of people of color. I am no different. Practically everything I know about whiteness and white supremacy I learned from African American and Native American thinkers and activists. I am particularly indebted to W.E.B. Dubois and James Baldwin without whose penetrating insights on whiteness this blog would be empty.

1 comment:

  1. Wow, this is mind-opening, heart-pulsating, shockingly sad, sadly exclusive in its contents and soooo necessary for us white people to learn about. Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us fellow learners, thank you for your beating heart and the surgical clarity of your words. I have only one thing to say: MORE!
    Kim A. Page