The title comes from something Macon D posted from Damali Ayo’s “White Noise” list that apparently is part of her book “How To Rent A Negro.” I’ll be honest, the first thing I thought about when I read the line was Macon’s own peculiar idea that White anti-racists, e.g., “should not discuss whiteness in isolation from other races.” (paraphrase)
What disturbs me is, somehow, Whiteness is not something to be considered on its own merits, so to speak.
I thought about that, too. Upon further reflection, I thought about the idea of racial “othering” that JWBE emphasizes. I go further to reflect on something James Baldwin said:
“[White people] are, in effect, still trapped in a history which they do not understand; and until they understand it, they cannot be released from it. They have had to believe for so many years, and for innumerable reasons, that black men are inferior to white men. Many of them, indeed, know better, but, as you will discover, people find it very difficult to act on what they know. To act is to be committed, and to be committed is to be in danger. In this case, the danger, in the minds of most white Americans, is the loss of identity. Try to imagine how you would feel if you woke up one morning to find the sun shinning and all the stars aflame. You would be frightened because it is our of the order of nature. Any upheaval in the universe is terrifying because it so profoundly attacks one’s sense of one’s own reality. Well, the black man has functioned in the white man’s world as a fixed star, as an immovable pillar: and as he moves out of his place, heaven and earth are shaken to their foundations…”
Of course, it’s been said that Whiteness has always been defined by what it is not — blackness — and White identity or Whiteness was created as a contrast to whatever black was. People also tend to view racism as an issue for Black people, e.g., because they are targets of it. So it only seems natural to talk about Black people while dealing with Whiteness, right? I mean, there is no Whiteness without Blackness, right?
Then I ran into this video of an interview where Baldwin poses a critical and unavoidable question:
At approximately the 5:23 mark, Baldwin asks White America to question:
“why was it necessary to have a n*gger in the first place?”
Baldwin reasons that the very creation of the “n*gger” indicates that there was a need for the “n*gger” and that White America has to find out why. Baldwin said then that the future of the country depends on how White America answers that question. I’ve yet to hear it raised. (Instead, we have all this foolishness from Whites who feel cheated because Blacks supposedly can say the word when they can’t.)
I submit that Baldwin’s question is one way for Whites to approach examining Whiteness with a direct focus on Whiteness without the kind of dependency the title line implies and the apparent crutch and built-in focus shift inherent in what seems to be Macon’s idea of “the best way to understand whiteness”, relationally and comparatively to non-whites, as evidence by his problematic practice.
Obviously, given Ayo’s observations, Macon is not alone.