Stuff White People Say

July 17, 2008

White people “restrain themselves”

Filed under: Stuff White People Do — Restructure! @ 3:19 am
Tags: , ,

Is it fair to say that white people are literally “tight-assed”? Do they have a tendency to hold themselves in, to restrain their bodily selves in ways that other people don’t?

If so, why do they do that? As a person who lives inside a “white” body and has also studied the history of whiteness, I will offer here some tentative answers to these questions.

[…]

Ahead of his time, [Rush] argued for the abolition of slavery, and the removal of freed slaves to black colonies, where they would be trained into becoming more civilized beings. This training would include learning to restrain their bodies, as white people did.

(From restrain themselves at Stuff White People Do)

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3 Comments »

  1. Your posts title is incomplete. The white person that your post quotes (me), didn’t say (or rather, “write”) only “other people don’t.” The first quotation is a question, and the question asks if white people restrain themselves “in ways that other people don’t.” The words you left out recognize that other people have other ways of restraining themselves. The “as” in the second bit that you’ve quoted here functions in the same way–that sentence’s last phrase could be replaced with “in the ways that white people were supposed to,” and the sentence would still mean the same thing, in that it would not disallow other, non-white forms of bodily restraint.

    There’s another problem with this post. As Restructure! wrote at SWPD, “Saying that ‘white people do x’ does imply that non-whites don’t do x.” So in the context of this new blog, you’re saying that white people say that non-white people restrain their bodies, so you’re also implying that non-white people don’t say that. But non-white people, and quite prominent ones at that, do say that.

    The SWPD post of mine from which some words have been selectively lifted discusses the history of an American, white, Christian mode of restraint, particularly as described by two non-white people, African American comedian and social commentator Eddie Murphy and Japanese American historian Ronald Takaki. Indeed, the latter entitled an entire book on the topic, “Iron Cages,” with a metaphor that for him captures the particular modes of restraint that white and Christian Americans imposed on themselves. And as Takaki points out, they did so in part by fantasizing (falsely) that other people don’t restrain themselves–a white perception of “their” supposed savagery and lack of restraint helped white Americans build a white supremacist conception of themselves in relational terms, as all that much more (supposedly) restrained and civilized.

    Yes, as your post’s title says, white people do say that white people restrain their bodies and that other people don’t. I believe that pointing out the falsity of that common white claim is good anti-racist work. However, by setting up this post’s title the way you have, and then by quoting only the words of one white writer, aren’t you’re implying that that white writer has also made that false claim? If so, I hope I’ve shown in this response and in the original SWPD post that you’ve linked to, that I have not merely repeated that common, false white claim. I’ve instead helped to explain why other white people often make it, and where that claim comes from in historical terms.

    Comment by macon d — July 17, 2008 @ 1:36 pm | Reply

  2. Okay, I’ll get back to this later.

    EDIT: I’ve updated the title. What you said makes sense about the title. I will have to deal with the rest of your comment later.

    Comment by Restructure! — July 18, 2008 @ 1:26 am | Reply

  3. Macon D,

    Yes, as your post’s title says, white people do say that white people restrain their bodies and that other people don’t. I believe that pointing out the falsity of that common white claim is good anti-racist work. However, by setting up this post’s title the way you have, and then by quoting only the words of one white writer, aren’t you’re implying that that white writer has also made that false claim? If so, I hope I’ve shown in this response and in the original SWPD post that you’ve linked to, that I have not merely repeated that common, false white claim. I’ve instead helped to explain why other white people often make it, and where that claim comes from in historical terms.

    No, your post did not debunk this idea. Instead, you argued that white people “have a tendency to hold themselves in, to restrain their bodily selves in ways that other people don’t” because “they’ve been socially trained” into doing so.

    Comment by Restructure! — July 19, 2008 @ 3:06 pm | Reply


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