Stuff White People Say

October 24, 2008

“There is no Whiteness without Blackness”

Filed under: Stuff White People Do — nquest2xl @ 6:12 am

“Whiteness exists in a relational context with other races…” – Macon D

Such is his argument or, rather, his rationale for his curious approach to Whiteness.  It’s a rationale because Macon refers to that theor-riod notion (theory behaving and employed like a mindless factoid) to justify his problematic attempts to use things about Black people (e.g. racial complaints, real or imagined-by-Macon) “in the hopes that some white people would wake the hell up and stop” doing things that offend Black people.

That’s all well and good but such a project-aim becomes problematic when:

  1. Macon fails completely fabricates, exaggerates or overhypes the racial complaints of Black people or
  2. the racial complaints Black make either aren’t necessary to make the “wake up and stop” case to Whites and happen to be used as a guilt-trip bludgeon against Whites to highlight behaviors that are, perhaps, subconscious which merely require exposure to show the problems with the behaviors.

Of course, the theories which examine race as a social construct suggest that the concept of the White race here in America for example — where various White ethnic groups from Europe eventually forged an identity they never had — was established based on what or, more precisely, who they were not.  That’s the “relational context” Macon spoke of but the question is: how is that factoid relevant to how you approach Whiteness?

Frankly, I don’t think that it is.

Consider the following essays:

Add to that the Peggy MacIntosh’s classic Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack (of White Privilege) and Eduardo Bonilla-Silva’s study of the phenomenon of Racism Without Racists then a different, and dare I say more appropriate and focused approach to exploring Whiteness and providing the impetus to “untrain” or unlearn it is revealed.

Maybe its me but I always got the impression that examining Whiteness, understanding it, etc. was an exercise in thorough introspection.  At least that’s the idea I always got from reading Robert Jensen, Tim Wise, Molly Secours, Noel Ignatiev, etc.  I know there is and has been, for generations, rigorous discussion and debate about Blackness — what Black is, what it means to be Black, etc. — with tons of discourse that deal with “Blackness”, however conceptualized, in its own right, on its own merits, on its own terms.

Further, the “relational context” in which Whiteness has existed, historically speaking, with “Other” races — with Black often being the paradigmatic “Other” — is, in fact, the problem.  I think a shift from the race relations paradigm to a human dignity and human rights concept is needed.

Seems to me a simple “What Would A Human Being Do?” or a “How Do You Expect A Human Being To React?” would go a long way towards avoiding minefield creation.


  1. I hope I can get my thoughts together, the problem I see in some/many anti-racist approaches is the fixation on the Black “other”.
    The education within Eurocentrism or “training to become white” is in the essence nothing else than the education to be able to disconnect and to other any people “necessary”.
    It is a system where people/masses can be so easily manipulated, literally over night, against any group and the “art” of Eurocentrism is that those who destroy, turn violent against a certain group, feel they do the right thing.
    White privilege is only one part of the story, it is true for the collective, but not necessarily for white individuals.
    The basis of Eurocentrism is a non-solidarity among people which translates into every aspect of life.
    For me it doesn’t make much sense to concentrate “just” on racism within this system without trying to understand the mechanics behind and without realizing that within this system everybody can become a victim of this system via the ‘method’ of othering. That doesn’t mean that I compare pain or discrimination, but why can’t white people see what this system will do against anybody who is not conform? Why are also many (white) anti-racists so blind towards all the white victims of this system? Why this disconnection of “you suffer, I don’t”?

    Comment by jwbe — October 24, 2008 @ 9:59 am | Reply

  2. in addition, why are whites so blind also how quickly white supremacy excloses certain groups? Regardless if this was/is based on religion, attitude (“witches”) etc., European history is a history of exclusion, dehumanizing and collective violence towards the “othered”.

    Comment by jwbe — October 24, 2008 @ 1:43 pm | Reply

  3. Why are also many (white) anti-racists so blind towards all the white victims of this system? Why this disconnection of “you suffer, I don’t”?

    Good questions. I always thought the core focus and purpose of Whiteness studies, etc. was to examine ways in which Whites are victims. I think you’re close to hitting on what I’ve tried to flesh out about the way Macon’s so-called anti-racist is more of the same old school White liberal approach. It’s like the discussion about “allies” we had on — i.e. how the old paradigm reflects a certain kind of White paternalism and, hence, White Supremacy.

    Comment by Nquest — October 24, 2008 @ 2:18 pm | Reply

  4. Re: the old school White liberal paradigm

    In a discussion about Reparations, Jeff Hitchcock (the administrator of and contributor to noted how comments from CURE activist/author Ida Hakim reflected an explicit paradigm shift from an old school “white-people-can-be-allies” model — which emerged during the Civil Rights Era and, particularly, immediately after — to one where PoC-can-be-allies to Whites. The latter is what Macon pays lip service to when he mouths the platitude that PoC, generally, know more about racism/Whiteness than Whites. When you apply that same kind of idea to the former (the “white-people-can-be-allies” model), I think you can see why that old school approach is both paternalistic and problematic.

    Of course, I took issue with the conception of ally-ship. In a word, the way White liberals or self-proclaimed White anti-racists like Macon have defined being an ally is to position themselves as the “helper” of PoC as if PoC are the people with the problem, the people who need help. You can see that in the way Macon tried to justify his structuring his approach to Whiteness by using Black people’s racial complaints as a prominent feature in his topics:

    “I’m wondering what you think of my handling of black experience in that post that I mentioned, the one about how white people often “pet black people.” …I wrote that post after reading and hearing black people complain about this common and nasty form of white behavior. I then generalized those complaints into a “common complaint that black people make about white people,” and wrote a post about how white people often do that, in the hopes that some white people would wake the hell up and stop doing that shit.”

    I guess the clearest way for me to say the problem I have with Macon’s approach as the Great White Helper is to say that I’ve always viewed Whiteness studies and the whole focus on Whiteness, White Privilege, etc. as a White self-help project because White people are the ones with the problem (or as Robert Jensen insisted “in the racial arena, [White people] are the problem”), the people who need help To the extent it benefits PoC, that’s one thing. To embark on the Whiteness project for the purpose “helping” PoC, again, resurrects the old model White liberals adopted quite some time ago with many problematic results.

    Comment by Nquest — October 24, 2008 @ 3:04 pm | Reply

  5. I think, that whiteness studies have developed that way – vs. the Black “other” – also because of white guilt. This German thinking, to say so, that we as a collective brought so much pain, that we are not allowed to talk about our own pain (the “forgotten generation” for example I mentioned on your blog).
    At school we also didn’t talk about the German children who were considered “unwertes Leben”/unworthy life because they were “disabled”. Euthanasia or sterilization, medical testing, why aren’t we allowed to also feel for them?
    Feeling one’s own pain and recognizing all parts of history doesn’t mean to disrespect other people or to diminish their history within this system, but I think it helps understanding the core of this system.

    And yes, this “ally-thing” as well as reacting in Macon’s way to “Black complaints” is again shifting away from whiteness/Eurocentrism and white people in general. As I already mentioned, the issue is not that white people do certain things, touching people out of the blue (not only Black people as Macon wants to assume), but to ask the question: Why are they doing this?
    I think that seriously studying white people’s behavior and relationships etc. among each other, ‘white’ to ‘white’, would uncover many answers about this society.

    Comment by jwbe — October 24, 2008 @ 3:36 pm | Reply

  6. I think that seriously studying white people’s behavior and relationships etc. among each other, ‘white’ to ‘white’, would uncover many answers about this society.

    I think approaching Whiteness from the “Why are they doing this?” perspective to examine White people’s behavior and relationships with anybody, Black, White, etc. is the very kind of introspection I’ve always understood the focus on Whiteness, White Privilege, etc. to be about. And, you’re right, it’s the way “Black complaints” are used as a way that shifts away from asking those WHY questions that bothers me.

    Macon was conspicuous in his absence-while-present in the thread that took this thing head on:
    “We want to talk about racism, but how can we do that without people of color there?”

    Comment by nquest2xl — October 24, 2008 @ 4:25 pm | Reply

  7. Just comes to my mind, this “whites don’t have a ‘white’ culture, while others have their culture”, this is I think also Eurocentrism in action. White people’s belief that non-white groups are a uniform group around the world. Ask such whites what they consider as for example Black culture and the Macons of the world give answers like “get used to Blackness” and reducing Black culture to music and gestures.
    It is also this looking for simple answers or solutions which is part of Eurocentrism.

    I also don’t think that Palin is just the result of ‘white privilege’. I think it is evidence how easily a European mind-set can be blinded and then their standard for their leaders are so low that Palin can become VP.
    Eurocentrism existed before racism, so I think there is also the question why Europeans were so able to accept that other people should be inferior or not human. Why were they so eager to believe those “scientists” who invented race to place Europeans/whiteness in the center? Why did they create a religion which also othered nature?

    Comment by jwbe — October 24, 2008 @ 8:28 pm | Reply

  8. Great OP. Macon D’s posts are supposed to be about white people, but when he’s making posts about how white people dance poorly, sit quietly in movie theaters, and leave larger tips, it’s quite obvious he’s not talking about whiteness. He’s talking about his perception of non-blackness, which is based on stereotypes about black people.

    Comment by Restructure! — October 26, 2008 @ 3:47 am | Reply

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