Stuff White People Say

July 30, 2008

“We want to talk about racism, but how can we do that without people of color there?”

Filed under: Uncategorized — nquest2xl @ 5:17 am

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.

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53 Comments »

  1. what I would like to see white people do is an analysis of Eurocentrism. I find this very important because many whites remain eurocentric also in their fight or whatever against racism. But one can’t change anything using the same ‘tools’, my opinion.
    Right, there would be no whiteness without Blackness, but Eurocentrism itself, the core of White Supremacy, is independend from a fixed opposit ‘other’, what I mean with that is, that Eurocentrism will always “create” the ‘other’.

    Comment by jwbe — July 30, 2008 @ 11:37 am | Reply

  2. jw,

    Do you see a distinction between European culture and cultural artifacts, and Eurocentrism. My impression is that you see little redemptive value in eurocentrism, and as I’ve seen it described, I would have to agree with you. My question then, is whether you understand the artifacts of european culture as having some value, or do you see them as merely vehicles for the cultural poison of eurocentrism?

    Back to the original question, I don’t actually think it is too far off from jw, the need for a defining other. Now, the question is why the perceived need for the other to define who we are, which probably includes an analysis of eurocentrism. I’ve seen Wise talk about the ingrained belief in a cosmologic system structured around antagonistic duality, and this is perhaps what jw is alluding to in talking about eurocentrism. I don’t know nearly enough to even start a discussion on that.

    Comment by LLB — July 31, 2008 @ 5:37 am | Reply

  3. “…the question is why the perceived need for the other to define who we are…”

    Who is “we” in that statement?

    Comment by Nquest — July 31, 2008 @ 6:06 am | Reply

  4. sorry, we = white people

    Comment by LLB — July 31, 2008 @ 7:21 am | Reply

  5. LLB, the initial, Baldwin question wasn’t answered and it’s clear “the need for the other to define who [you] are” (whatever that means) is an extension of them being defined and constricted and imposed on by that definition.

    What in the world is the basis of your question? Non-Europeans have not only had European culture imposed on them but Eurocentrism as well, to the extent it can be separated from the culture.

    Comment by Nquest — July 31, 2008 @ 11:51 am | Reply

  6. I’m afraid I’m not understanding you here Nquest. I understand that Baldwin’s question wasn’t answered. Who is the “them” in “an extension of them being defined”? Also, I understand that non-Europeans have had European culture and eurocentrism imposed upon them, but I don’t understand how that relates to what I was saying. What do you mean by “the basis” of my question? My question to jw was merely an attempt at trying to understand what he means by an analysis of eurocentrism and how that relates to European culture as a whole.

    Comment by LLB — July 31, 2008 @ 5:00 pm | Reply

  7. Darn, all references to “he” and jw, should be “she”. I know jw is a woman, I just went momentarily stupid (or maybe not so momentarily, since I’m having trouble with Nquest too).

    Comment by LLB — July 31, 2008 @ 5:02 pm | Reply

  8. LLB, I think I don’t understand your question. How do you want to separate European culture, cultural artifacts and Eurocentrism?

    Comment by jwbe — July 31, 2008 @ 5:17 pm | Reply

  9. “I understand that Baldwin’s question wasn’t answered.”

    Then answer, if you can, without trying to change the subject and avoid dealing with the actual subject here.

    I don’t understand how that relates to what I was saying.

    When you say the question is, “why the perceived need for the other (African-Americans, e.g.,) to define who we (Whites) are?” then the relationship is clear and your attempt to change the subject by not answering the Baldwin question and trying to flip it is clear to.

    Who is the “them” in “an extension of them being defined”?

    Them = “the other” = Black people, e.g.

    So my statement should read like so: it’s clear “the need for [Blacks, e.g.] to define who [Whites] are” is an extension of [Blacks] being defined and constricted and imposed on by that definition (see Baldwin’s question). I should have been more clear.

    What do you mean by “the basis” of my question?

    If you say you “understand that non-Europeans have had European culture and eurocentrism imposed upon them” then what is the reason for your question asking “why the perceived need for the other (non-Europeans) to define who we (Whites) are?” What is the foundation of your question? People ask “why” about things they don’t understand or things they somehow feel is questionable or, in this case, “the perceived need of/for non-Europeans to define who Whites are” as a (re)action by non-Europeans that you don’t understand the reasons for and/or purpose of.

    Comment by Nquest — July 31, 2008 @ 6:32 pm | Reply

  10. To jw,

    I wasn’t asking how they can be separated. I don’t even know if they can be separated. I was asking if you think they can be separated, whether the artifacts of European culture can be redeemed, I suppose, from eurocentrism.

    To Nquest,

    I wasn’t changing the subject. I was trying to tie in jw’s comments with the subject of the post. I don’t see my question as being at all different. It is, in my mind at least, simply a rewording of Baldwin’s original question, “Why was it necessary to have the nigger in the first place”. I disagree with you that African Americans even need to be brought into the discussion of why an “other” is perceived by white people as a necessity for self-identity. One can explore these questions of white identity and the need for an “other” with out necessarily defining the other. The discussion is focused on the perceived need, an analysis of that perception, and not the “other”.

    My question is why do whites feel like they need the boundaries of other people to know who whites are. I was interested in an analysis of this felt need on the part of white people, and not necessarily on the “other” that they happened to have hit upon as the boundary. Basically, I am asking why are white people using others to define themselves? This, I feel, is the same question that Baldwin asked, and unfortunately, I don’t yet have an answer to it.

    I hope that makes things clear, but I get the feeling it is only going to lead to further questions, since I still feel like I am missing some important part of your critique.

    Comment by LLB — July 31, 2008 @ 7:19 pm | Reply

  11. My question is why do whites feel like they need the boundaries of other people to know who whites are.

    whites don’t want to know who they are but they want to idealize themselves and therefore European culture. By creating the ****** they can do so. They can as a collective continue living all their destructive illusions and still they aren’t ******, the created ‘other’ who never can be according a European mindset human beings.
    Positive stereotying vs negative stereotyping. Hypocrisy as a European way of life.
    Whiteness means also having the power to define the ‘other’ and to define what whiteness is not.
    European culture is built on opposites, otherwise it couldn’t exist: Civilized vs uncivilized, Christians vs pagans or unbelievers, developed vs undeveloped etc.
    It’s also a fact that Eurocentrism doesn’t call the growth or maturity of an individual progress and also doesn’t understand this as a value, but progress is defined by how capable humans are to control their environment. This is the reason while Eurocentrics can praise nuclear weapons as progress.

    Comment by jwbe — July 31, 2008 @ 8:01 pm | Reply

  12. so, the conclusion of all is: Whiteness studies should concentrate on what we really are. It must demystify whiteness by demystifying European culture. White privilege is only the result of it. My opinion, Whiteness Studies which don’t explore intraracial white relationships won’t be so productive I think. We don’t have to study us in relation to an ‘other’, because this other is a fiction, in reality there is no other.

    Comment by jwbe — July 31, 2008 @ 8:36 pm | Reply

  13. Well, my question for you was slightly different, but it can lead into my other question about European cultural artifacts. Do you think it worth while then to study European culture, art, literature, philosophy, etc., in order to understand who we actually are as opposed to the idealization of ourselves via whiteness?

    Comment by LLB — July 31, 2008 @ 9:04 pm | Reply

  14. Art, literature and philosophy are parts of European culture

    Comment by jwbe — July 31, 2008 @ 9:06 pm | Reply

  15. Also, your observation about the fictional nature of the other reinforces Baldwin’s point about the nigger and how while whites seem to need one, he isn’t one. This makes a lot of sense to me and I wanted to thank you for reiterating it.

    Comment by LLB — July 31, 2008 @ 9:13 pm | Reply

  16. jw:

    Art, literature and philosophy are parts of European culture

    I know, I was just sort of listing them to give you an idea what I meant by European culture. Do you think there is some value to be had in studying European culture, whether as an end unto itself or as a means to something else (like developing a sense of cultural awareness independent of idealized whiteness)?

    Comment by LLB — July 31, 2008 @ 9:16 pm | Reply

  17. I somehow don’t get your point I admit. Understanding European culture means looking at European culture.
    And how do you want to develop a sense of cultural awareness independend of idealized whiteness when you don’t understand Eurocentrism?

    Comment by jwbe — July 31, 2008 @ 9:19 pm | Reply

  18. This makes a lot of sense to me
    when it makes sense to you then stop using the N-word, at least this is my opinion

    Comment by jwbe — July 31, 2008 @ 9:23 pm | Reply

  19. My apologies. I hadn’t noticed that the vowel was removed from the quotation of Baldwin. Please feel free to edit any of my comments to reflect appropriate respect. I honestly did not mean to be disrespectful and I promise not to do it again.

    Comment by LLB — July 31, 2008 @ 9:52 pm | Reply

  20. jw,

    I think my question was rooted in a concern that the taint of eurocentric thought was sufficiently pervasive throughout European culture and its artifacts that it might be better to study something else.

    The phrase “throwing out the baby with the bath water” is sort of what I had in mind, only I wasn’t sure if there was a way to separate the two. If the artifacts of culture and eurocentrism are inseparable, shouldn’t the elimination of eurocentrism also mean the elimination of the culture it has created (or the culture which created it)? I readily admit that this seemed extreme to me, but I wanted to talk it through and see if I wasn’t mistaken.

    Comment by LLB — July 31, 2008 @ 9:57 pm | Reply

  21. shouldn’t the elimination of eurocentrism also mean the elimination of the culture it has created

    with culture here you mean art, literature etc.?

    Comment by jwbe — July 31, 2008 @ 10:18 pm | Reply

  22. Yes, art, literature, etc. I’m don’t know how to treat these materials given their connection to (and possible perpetuation of) the eurocentric perspective.

    Can one enjoy these things on their own merit (like reading Aristotle, Dante, Shakespear, or whatever other dead white male one chooses), or are they to be merely analysed to further our understanding of the european culture apart from its idealized whiteness, or should they be abandoned all together. That is the question, what is the role of these things in the life of someone wishing to put aside their eurocentric mindset (if there is a single answer to that question).

    Comment by Anonymous — July 31, 2008 @ 11:06 pm | Reply

  23. Yes, art, literature, etc. I’m don’t know how to treat these materials given their connection to (and possible perpetuation of) the eurocentric perspective.

    Can one enjoy these things on their own merit (like reading Aristotle, Dante, Shakespear, or whatever other dead white male one chooses), or are they to be merely analysed to further our understanding of the european culture apart from its idealized whiteness, or should they be abandoned all together. That is the question, what is the role of these things in the life of someone wishing to put aside their eurocentric mindset (if there is a single answer to that question).

    Comment by LLB — July 31, 2008 @ 11:06 pm | Reply

  24. I don’t believe that ‘1984’ would be an answer, means, destroying the past does make it non-existent.
    Not all of European culture promotes whiteness or Eurocentrism, but those parts who do need examination, some elimination.
    Some examples: Street names. Many names remember white “heroes”. Statues and monuments, how many are there which glorify the colonial past.
    Books. Take “Mein Kampf” by Hitler for example. In Germany every Nazi-propaganda is prohibited and therefore also “Mein Kampf”. Any access, also down-loading it on internet is illegal. In Germany you won’t see any movie which makes fun or is in any way disrespectful towards Jewish people. And this must be expanded to all groups of people.

    There are many movies, often created by Hollywood, which glorify the American past, cowboy movies as well as movies about the time of slavery, helping stereotypes staying alive as well as diminishing or totally distorting history.
    Glorifying historical places, like former plantations and ante-bellum houses for example. Nobody sane in Germany would glorify a concentration camp but sees it at what it is: A place where people were exploited, suffered and finally died or were killed.
    I didn’t see anything even coming close to such an understanding when I was in America, but perhaps this has slightly changed, I don’t know.
    Holidays like Columbus Day for example.
    Christmas would be a topic, there is probably no stronger capitalistic holiday in Western countries, imposed on all people, regardless belief.

    It is not about “oh, all European is evil”, but it is about how we are created or supposed to be created to act assimilated within this system.
    It also means being aware of the language we use, what fairy tales we tell our children, where the color white almost always represents ‘good’ and the color black almost always ‘bad’, which songs we teach etc.
    Yes indeed, we have to clean up a lot.

    Comment by jwbe — July 31, 2008 @ 11:32 pm | Reply

  25. Thanks, that was the sort of answer I was looking for.

    Comment by LLB — July 31, 2008 @ 11:48 pm | Reply

  26. LLB: “I disagree with you that African Americans even need to be brought into the discussion…”

    Obviously, I understood you to be bringing African-Americans into the discussion along with other non-Europeans when I took you to be saying:

    “why the perceived need for the other (African-Americans, e.g.,) to define who we (Whites) are?”

    I’m trying to understand why you haven’t addressed the way you phrased your statement-question which has either led to confusion on my part or represents you confusing what you said with what you meant or whatever. I also don’t understand why you’re asking questions about why whites feel a certain way when examining Whiteness or being anti-racist makes that something that you have to explore, if either one of those things are something you endeavor to do. So that’s why I made a point of saying Baldwin’s question wasn’t answered and I know why you needed to rewrite it (and not address it).

    Comment by Nquest — August 1, 2008 @ 1:42 am | Reply

  27. Nquest,

    Looking back on my initial comment, I would summerize it like this:

    1. Restate Baldwin’s question
    2. Suggest the answer might have something to do with some aspect of eurocentrism
    3. Disclaim competence to discuss the matter much further.

    Comment by LLB — August 1, 2008 @ 3:09 am | Reply

  28. Basically, I don’t really know how to address it. I haven’t studied whiteness or white people nearly enough to do more than blind speculation.

    Comment by LLB — August 1, 2008 @ 3:10 am | Reply

  29. Also, (and I apologize for the multiple comments in a row) is your problem with my summary with the word “perceive”? If so, I think I can explain.

    I used that word because I don’t believe the n****r was needed to define white people, since if it is needed, then there would seem to be no hope in forging a new identity that does not reference people of color. But it is obvious that a need was perceived, and so I qualified the necessity for PoC with the word perceived.

    Comment by LLB — August 1, 2008 @ 3:18 am | Reply

  30. LLB, early I said the following:

    So my statement should read like so: it’s clear “the need for [Blacks, e.g.] to define who [Whites] are” is an extension of [Blacks] being defined and constricted and imposed on by that definition (see Baldwin’s question).

    I understood your original statement to ask why Blacks/non-Europeans needed to define Whites.

    Perhaps I would have understood your question better had you said:
    “the question is why do Whites feel they need “the other” to define who they/we are”

    As far as you addressing Baldwin’s question… just because you “haven’t studied whiteness or white people nearly enough” is no excuse not to deal with the question. Your lack of study didn’t stop you from making this thread. Instead of saying you hadn’t studied enough then you decided that the subject matter there was something you had to explore.

    And, really, what kind of “painful process” is it when you have all the answers or are prepared to answer whatever question that comes up? Also, Baldwin’s question didn’t just apply to Whites who were ready and comfortable enough to answer the question.

    Comment by nquest2xl — August 1, 2008 @ 5:56 am | Reply

  31. if it is needed, then there would seem to be no hope in forging a new identity

    That doesn’t follow… The very reason why JW questions “othering” is because he questions the need for and the deleterious effects of “othering.” Now, you’d have to talk to her about what you forge a new identity around but no one is arguing that it is needed except for in the current racist construct that built it in the first place.

    Comment by nquest2xl — August 1, 2008 @ 6:24 am | Reply

  32. Basically, I don’t really know how to address it. I haven’t studied whiteness or white people nearly enough

    there is one thing I would like to know in general from white people saying this what I quoted above. My question: Why not?

    Comment by jwbe — August 1, 2008 @ 12:53 pm | Reply

  33. Nquest,

    I suppose I should have qualified my disclaimer by saying that I don’t know enough to answer it yet. I do hope to move beyond my current state of ignorance, and I had thought about writing something about the question. I just haven’t had time yet to put some thought into the answer. But hope springs eternal and the weekend is coming up, so I’ll try my hand at answering Baldwin’s question this weekend.

    Also, I understood “needed” as meaning “a necessary condition”. Now if “othering” is a necessary condition to white people’s identity, then of course there is no hope of moving beyond it. This is why I qualified “need” with “perceived” since a perceived need is not necessarily a necessary condition, but could be a fault of perception, and in the case of eurocentric “othering” this is what I believe has occurred, a fault of perception.

    jw,

    The honest answer to your question is that it never occurred to me. I was never in a situation which made me feel like it was something I needed to study. Finding Macon’s blog was the beginning of me thinking beyond overt and individual acts of racism (which I didn’t do and would have condemned in others).

    Comment by LLB — August 1, 2008 @ 2:50 pm | Reply

  34. I was never in a situation which made me feel like it was something I needed to study.

    and this is the part I don’t understand (and you are not the only white answering that way).
    The lack of ?curiousity? or a necessity, necessity for oneself, living among whites, who as a collective committed and commit crimes beyond my personal imagination. Did you never look at the white collective and honestly wanted to know: Why? What kind of people they are? Never truly questioning the sometimes very strange values of this society?

    Comment by jwbe — August 1, 2008 @ 5:00 pm | Reply

  35. That was it. I don’t believe I ever looked at the white collective, at all. Individualism is a pretty strong meme here in the US. The ability to “explain” racist behavior in terms that obscure the racism is a lot easier when you can’t see the forest for all of the trees.

    Comment by LLB — August 1, 2008 @ 7:32 pm | Reply

  36. and how did you learn history at school? History is also about a collective

    Comment by jwbe — August 1, 2008 @ 9:03 pm | Reply

  37. And in addition, when you say this: “Individualism is a pretty strong meme here in the US.”

    What then does it mean when a white American says ‘I am proud to be American’?

    Comment by jwbe — August 1, 2008 @ 9:50 pm | Reply

  38. Actually, jwbe, there’s a famous song here that has that line as the first in its chorus (“I’m proud to be an American”). The next line is, “where at least I know I’m free.” Freedom to be an individual, that is, to be whoever one can make of oneself, which is a cherished American fantasy (free speech too, and freedom to own guns, and lots of other supposedly wonderful freedoms). The mix of American-ness with individuality is paradoxical, but it’s also something Americans are especially (and, I think, delusionally) proud of. Not of the paradox itself, but instead, of both of those things at once, somehow, especially the “individualism” part. I also think the Cold War exacerbated this mindset–the Soviet Union was the collective-minded threat supposedly represented so well by Orwell’s 1984, and America was the land of the stalwart (and especially male) individual, which in part explains the popularity during that era of cowboy movies and TV shows. And of course, this freedom was a much more viable concept for straight, Christian, white men than for members of other, much more consciously marked (and less “normal”) groups. Again, membership in all of those empowered categories paradoxically led a person to think they were free of such categories, more of an “individual.”

    Comment by macon d — August 1, 2008 @ 11:28 pm | Reply

  39. Didn’t mean the smiley face–something I typed came out that way. Now that I see it in that spot, though, it kind of works!

    Comment by macon d — August 1, 2008 @ 11:29 pm | Reply

  40. there’s a famous song here that has that line as the first in its chorus

    could you post the entire lyrics of this song?

    Comment by jwbe — August 1, 2008 @ 11:51 pm | Reply

  41. jw,

    American high school history is pretty whitewashed. You get to learn all about how wonderful the white founders of the USA were, but PoC don’t do much other than make a guest appearance, and even then only when it ties into what the whites are doing. This was my impression, and I was an avid student of history in highschool (I read the entire US history textbook, something that was not required for the class)

    And Macon is right about “Americanness” and its connection to individuality. Being “proud to be an American” meant being proud of belonging to a collective of sorts, but it was a collective united by ideology, and individuality, with the corollary of basic freedoms delineated in the Constitution, was central to that ideology. All of the historical facts that undermined said ideology were either ignored or mentioned in such a way as to color them incidental and unimportant to the progressive movement of the United States of America.

    Comment by LLB — August 2, 2008 @ 12:30 am | Reply

  42. Here are the lyrics to the song jw:

    http://www.anysonglyrics.com/lyrics/l/lee-greenwood/proud-to-be-an-american.htm

    Comment by LLB — August 2, 2008 @ 12:33 am | Reply

  43. I should add that US history, at least as portrayed in high school for me, was a narrative of individuals. History was rarely about the collective.

    Comment by LLB — August 2, 2008 @ 12:39 am | Reply

  44. did you never question that America was build on a lie “all men are created equal” etc. You never wanted to know the entire history?

    Comment by jwbe — August 2, 2008 @ 1:08 am | Reply

  45. I always hated this song:

    God Bless the U.S.A.

    By Lee Greenwood

    If tomorrow all the things were gone I’d worked for all my life,
    And I had to start again with just my children and my wife.
    I’d thank my lucky stars to be living here today,
    ‘Cause the flag still stands for freedom and they can’t take that away.

    And I’m proud to be an American where at least I know I’m free.
    And I won’t forget the men who died, who gave that right to me.
    And I’d gladly stand up next to you and defend her still today.
    ‘Cause there ain’t no doubt I love this land God bless the U.S.A.

    From the lakes of Minnesota, to the hills of Tennessee,
    across the plains of Texas, from sea to shining sea,

    From Detroit down to Houston and New York to LA,
    Well, there’s pride in every American heart,
    and it’s time to stand and say:

    I’m proud to be an American where at least I know I’m free.
    And I won’t forget the men who died, who gave that right to me.
    And I’d gladly stand up next to you and defend her still today.
    ‘Cause there ain’t no doubt I love this land God bless the U.S.A.

    God Bless The U.S.A. Words and Music by Lee Greenwood
    © Copyright 1984 by MUSIC CORPORATION OF AMERICA, INC. & SONGS OF POLYGRAM INTERNATIONAL, INC.

    Comment by macon d — August 2, 2008 @ 1:20 am | Reply

  46. And why did you hate this song?

    Comment by jwbe — August 2, 2008 @ 1:43 am | Reply

  47. because it’s idiotic, and it glosses over a lot of nastiness, especially US foreign (i.e., imperial) policy. I didn’t make the connection to the American fetishization of individualism until it come to mind while reading this thread. so now i have another reason to hate it. it’s appeal is also totally white, of course.

    Comment by macon d — August 2, 2008 @ 1:57 am | Reply

  48. did you never question that America was build on a lie “all men are created equal” etc. You never wanted to know the entire history?

    I’m not sure what you are expecting of the me. I didn’t question it because I wasn’t aware. I mean, yes, I knew about slavery and the hippocracy of “created equal” but I was lead to believe that this had all been rectified by the time I was reading about it. The biggest discovery for me wasn’t that there was no lie, but that the lie was still going on today.

    I grew up in an almost completely white, rural, conservative protestant environment. I was about as sheltered from the truth as one could be, on a number of issues, including racism. My path to today has been a rather long one and it has been almost totally self-initiated. I’m not asking for you to pat me on the back, I’m just trying explaining how it is I could be so ignorant.

    Comment by LLB — August 2, 2008 @ 4:10 am | Reply

  49. I don’t expect anything from you, I am just asking, because I think this belongs to ‘studying whiteness’. distorting of history as well as not learning to think on one’s own.

    Comment by jwbe — August 2, 2008 @ 11:04 am | Reply

  50. It is a very interesting omission in a persons education. I mean, I was encouraged to think on my own on a number of subjects, but whiteness and race was a fairly large gaping hole in this tendency. Of course, it isn’t a very surprising omission considering its utility in perpetuating white supremacy.

    Comment by LLB — August 2, 2008 @ 2:47 pm | Reply

  51. […] Nquest wants to know why white America has yet to answer this question posed by James Baldwin. I initially stated that I didn’t feel that I knew enough to even attempt an answer to the question, to which Nquest responded: As far as you addressing Baldwin’s question… just because you “haven’t studied whiteness or white people nearly enough” is no excuse not to deal with the question. Your lack of study didn’t stop you from making this thread. Instead of saying you hadn’t studied enough then you decided that the subject matter there was something you had to explore. […]

    Pingback by the laughing linden branch » Why was it necessary to have a n*gg*r in the first place? — August 2, 2008 @ 5:32 pm | Reply

  52. […] 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. “ link […]

    Pingback by “I don’t think about things like that” « Stuff White People Say — March 1, 2009 @ 12:24 am | Reply

  53. […] But Europeans created the ‘opposite’ to themselves: African people. Black. This alleged opposite can never be included as *us* in the European mind-set, this leads to a post Nquest wrote: “Baldwin asks White America to question: […]

    Pingback by “White racial frame” « Stuff White People Say — July 21, 2009 @ 11:46 am | Reply


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