An Extra Note on “Whiteness”…

Hello again.

 

In the last post I present you all with some criticisms of “whiteness” and its manifestation in academia and society.  Before reading this post I suggest you read that post for some context. So, in this post I am going to present to you my concerns about some other views on whiteness that when misapplied, will negate the efforts to solve any problems whiteness may cause.

Recently author Robin DiAngelo’s 2018 book “White Fragility” has become a popular read. In it she describes what she has learned as an anti-racism educator who gives clinics and corporate seminars on racial issues, primarily the concept of “white fragility”, the defensive nature of white responses to being challenged on potential racial biases. It is worth reading to know exactly what it is she is saying, love it or hate it. Don’t take my word for it: read the book yourself, and come to your own conclusions. It is very educational, warts and all. 

I am critical of the book in one major way. Though she can certainly speak with authority on the knowledge and experiences gathered from her work, the amount and type of research in the book did not convince me that “implicit bias” in white people was an established fact, though they may be defensive about being racially challenged.  There is much philosophy quoted, but relatively few studies. To assume fact (when there is no wealth of confirmed and independently confirmed evidence from unbiased testing) is not social science, it is philosophy, opinion, and/or something like ideology. In social science this desire to believe something contrary to fact or without evidence is called confirmation bias: the idea that one’s feelings or “common sense” are the same as fact. White people may be employing it when they deny DiAngelo’s point, but DiAngelo too may be seeing white “fragility” or implicit bias where there is none, or at least much less than she imagines. 

What confirmation does is automatically negate, cancel, or invalidate any view contrary to one’s own, no matter if it is true (“white people are fragile if they defend themselves against being called a racist”). Though usually ascribed to religious zealots, any group of humans can develop such intense confirmation biases that even the most altruistic and well-intended movement of any sort can evolve to become authoritarian or fascistic, sometimes fairly rapidly.

Confirmation bias leads one to imagine their theories or ideas are unfalsifiable, constructed in such a way that they cannot be proven false in any way at all, no matter what evidence is presented, no matter what is true or not. By deciding that implicit white bias is automatic, white people’s every response is proof of white fragility, bias, bigotry, or outright racism… case closed before it has even been opened (*see blue colored quotes below).The hallmarks of such turns are conformity and an ill-defined enemy. Anyone not in the group is an enemy, and any idea that does not emanate from the group is a wrong idea. I see this ideological turn potentially happening in the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement.

The ideas that, historically, black lives have not mattered as much as other lives, and that we need to remind people they do with the slogan “Black Lives Matter” are wonderful ideas to contemplate towards an understanding and elimination of racism. The slogan itself represents an ideal we can and should all get behind. What becomes the organization of people around the BLM movement though can be corrupted by “bad actors”, those who would co-opt the message for anarchistic ends; tearing down anything that “gets in the way” of the mob. Thus, if someone clearly associated with the BLM movement commits a criminal act, a critique of that very act becomes “racist”,  as if it is a critique of the moral quest for black worth. We occasionally see a form of this in campus protests where students gather and make so much noise that lectures and guest speeches are drowned out, exercising their free speech to literally deny others’ free speech by not allowing it to be heard (weaponized free speech). Students will also sometimes exercise their right to stand in in a public square on campus in such a manner that no one can enter an event they are protesting. They are certainly free to stand in a public place, but their freedom is weaponized towards denying others their own freedom. This is fascistic, no matter how correct the social cause being fought for, no matter how conservative or liberal the movement, as “justice” can only occur when rights are hindered and/or stripped from others. 

Thus, it can also get dangerous when questioning the ethicality or morality of activities of movements like Black Lives Matter. How so? If a white culture commentator simply critiques the ethics or even the morality, of an act committed by a Black Lives Matter member, they potentially are called a “racist”. This is dangerous not because the BLM is using their freedom of speech or has an opinion we may disagree with, but rather that morality and civility are tacitly seen as white things, thus bad. Thus if a black culture commentator calls out the same act or behaviour, they are somehow ideologically compromised by whiteness, even if they are speaking from their own religious beliefs. In that instance they may be considered the “servant” of a white value system, betrayers of their race, an “Uncle Tom”. Whiteness is thus not a desired attribute, and neither are “white” moral ideals, even if they are are kindness, goodness, following the criminal code, tolerance, and so on.

It is here that DiAngelo’s book takes a very serious turn towards untruth. She states in her book that “there is a curious satisfaction in the punishment of black people: the smiling faces of the white crowd picnicking at lynchings in the past, and satisfied approval of white people observing mass incarceration and execution in the present” (p. 94). This breathtaking assumption, backed by zero evidence (no studies or documentation of white satisfaction over black incarceration and execution provided), is even more shocking when considered in light of the opening sentence of the previous paragraph which reads, Anti-blackness is rooted in misinformation, fables, perversions, projections, and lies. What about the perversion of inventing a “fact” about white people en masse being satisfied by the modern execution of black people, what about that misinformation and projection?

Confirmation bias hates facts, and even the most undeniable rudimentary facts are enemies of weaponized emotion. If I raise a valid moral issue with the ideology or behaviour of BLM activists and I am automatically “wrong” because I am white… god help the BLM movement because they will have metastasized into a movement seeking to institutionalize as much racism and fascism as possible while they decry racism and fascism. 

I am using a Black social movement as an example, but I absoluteIy don’t attribute any of this to blackness like DiAngelo does to my whiteness. I attribute this to human error and the relative youth of both white and black activists within BLM or any other social justice movement. Even the adults get things mixed up in this regard, but BLM and the like are filled with active, eager teenagers and young adults who really want justice and change. The “Right” gets this aspect wrong about the “Left”. To want better HealthCare is not to be a young “communist”; to want wage equality is not to be a lazy Millennial or Gen Z-er who wants “free stuff” and “to live off of the government and others’ taxes”. A woman should absolutely have the right to decide exactly what will or won’t be done with her own body…not a bunch of old white men sitting around in a dusty office. Imagine if the government elected a council of ladies to decide what all men can or can’t do with their testicles… and that is THE LAW. The bullets would start flying in about three seconds! Men would go literally insane with rage… and fear! 

(Note: It is important not to forget that BLM co-founder Patrisse Cullors openly describes herself as a “trained Marxist” and the BLM website states as of this post that they are for “radical social intervention” and are dedicated to “disrupting” the Western-prescribed the nuclear family requirement”. She was also mentored in community organizing by Eric Mann, a member of a domestic terror organization The Weathermen, who bombed government buildings in the late 20th century. Mann was sentenced to prison for his role in the activities of The Weathermen, who believed that all white babies were “tainted with the original sin of skin privilege”, and that “all white babies are pigs”. At this point it is important to ask yourself, “what does disrupting the nuclear family and radical social intervention have to do with the worth of black life, and is it possible to question Cullors’ Marxism without being called a racist?”, even though her mentor called white babies pigs? A key component of Marxism is Collectivism, the individual is subsumed for the benefit of the group. As the group grows larger, the problem is that those in the out-group are not allowed to remain individuals or in the out-group, their subsumption is by force or by complete elimination. Thus, you can’t oppose the group, you must be erased, eradicated, or destroyed by it in the worst case scenarios. Questioning the collective is a sure way to discover if the in-group allows questioning itself. If it doesn’t, you have authoritarianism, fascism, and such. Marxism has been the seed ideology of the world’s greatest evil collectives: Mao’s China, and Stalin’s Soviet Union. I am absolutely NOT saying Cullors shares the socio-political urges of Stalin, but she was shaped in her views by a convicted racial terrorist.)

Once again to be really clear… this is not a defense of whiteness or a critique of blackness, but an observation of humanity metastasizing into inhumanity; how moral causes become the same authoritarian thing they began opposing. One can become an evil fascist while fighting another fascist, like Godzilla fighting King Kong: both ending up destroying Tokyo even if one is fighting for the “good” side. Where all this ends up is social movements THREATENING anyone who questions them. That is the hallmark of evil, threatening people for merely asking why, how, where, when, who, and what.

We must be REALLY DAMN SURE what we are fighting for is the actual TRUTH, not the “truth” we like to hear. Then: If truth is a threat to white men… something is wrong. If truth is a threat to Patrisse Cullors and BLM, something is wrong. If truth is a threat to the police, something is wrong. If truth is a threat to anyone or anything, something is wrong. The truth is Robin DiAngelo’s book is not based on a large irrefutable stack of verifiable social science research. The truth is FOX, CNN, MSNBC, and other news outlets often do not provide the full context of various stories: thus, in an offhand way, they are often very slightly, kinda, sorta, a little bit “fake”. When a senior curator at a major art museum  (Gary Garrels at SFMoMA) is forced to resign when he assures staff that white artists will continue to be collected so as not to engage in reverse discrimination (true story), something is going wrong.

The truth is Black Lives Matter is currently in danger of being steered off a course of deserved, much needed racial justice to socio-political authoritarianism intended to destroy rather than build, threatening anyone who dare question any aspect of any part of their work. We as a society are in SERIOUS trouble when our skin colour automatically makes us an enemy; when individuality and objectivity are considered irredeemably evil. 

That is a fact.

And being my being white has NOTHING to do with it…

 

 

 

 

A Brief Note on ‘Whiteness’…

 I don’t know what most white people in this country feel, but I can only conclude what they feel from the state of their institutions.” – James Baldwin

Hi.

I usually don’t talk about social issues, but recent events in neighboring America have led me to think about what my being “white” means in the greater scheme of things.  I have a few thoughts to share with all of you (though my focus today will be talking to my white readers), so I hope you find them at least interesting, if not educational. Note: I use curse words in the following essay. If you don’t like swearing then do not read further… you won’t fucking like what you see. 

***This is my talk with white folks. I encourage everyone else to read along, and if any of you sees something you want to take me to task on, I encourage you to comment (politely!). I ask that you help me learn and grow if you think I have missed anything. It is not your job, but I would appreciate it. Also, I will tolerate ZERO racist language and ideology in the comment section, and either delete it or report it to WordPress if warranted.***

Before we begin consider this secular invocation: in the womb all fetuses begin their formation as female until a gene on the Y Chromosome changes it into a male fetus. Thus we are all female at one point. Also, every single human on the planet right now can be genetically traced back to a single female ancestor named ‘Mitochondrial Eve’, an early human woman who lived somewhere in East Africa between 100,000 to 250,000 years ago. That means that, in a sense, we are all African women! We are all female in the womb, and we are all African in our past. That idea should bring us joy, and bring us all together. Let’s make our ‘mother’ proud and honor her legacy by treating each other like the brothers and sisters we are…like the children she deserves.

First of all, as a PhD wielding anthropologist I think I can safely say I have put some objective thought into ‘whiteness’, as much as I have personal opinions on ‘being white’ and have existed as a white male for all of my life. I am neither proud of being white nor ashamed of it. I feel no guilt over being white, yet at the same time can acknowledge that being white is advantageous in Canadian society.  I don’t think I am a racist… BUT… one can be a good person and not racist, and still participate in society in a way that doesn’t really help end racism. In this way I believe I can always do better work as a white ally of non-white people. Think of it this way: if I see a man robbing another man, it doesn’t mean I myself am a criminal. But if I do nothing to help, then I am not really as anti-crime as I might think I am. Even a tiny amount of assistance is better than just standing there, within earshot of others, boasting about how anti-crime I am! It’s called aiding and abetting, and one can do it in a passively racial way as well. 

Thus, though I am convinced I am not a racist, my potential inaction may certainly make me look like one, at the very least. How would a person know the difference if they saw me in a social setting, so passively ‘not being racist‘ that I am practically indistinguishable from passive racists? I am not advocating for the “white saviour” phenomenon, but we live in an age where white action in the appropriate areas will really help out our non-white friends. It is not my job to run around imagining others need me to save them. It is CERTAINLY not their job to have to become my teacher and explain shit to me every ten seconds because I didn’t do my racial homework. Trust me, you’ll never hear a black guy say to a white guy, “Quit advocating for racial justice or I’ll call the police!”

Also, I feel I must come out and just say this: being a white man who dates non-white women does NOT fucking automatically make you not a racist!! It also does not automatically make you a fetishist, though unfortunately I’ve met a lot of white men in Japan who fetishize Asian women. It is possible to date all sorts of people in Japan, but these guys go waaayyyy out of their way to find as many Asian partners as possible. We used to call them “Rice Kings”, and believe me it was no honour to be tagged as one. They were also easy targets for women who knew they were fake and saw a chance to rid them of their money. Thankfully, more and more people these days are inter-culturally dating and marrying, so my views on the subject may be old fashioned and irrelevant. I may be only talking to older white men on this issue, but I think it needs to be said. If you are a white man who has been challenged on his racism, and you have defended yourself with your dating record, sorry to say but you lost that round. You can have a black girlfriend and dislike black men, in theory or in Reality. 

I also think the phrase “I don’t see colour” should be long dead, as seeing color is not problematic. If I don’t see colour, then I am openly ignoring and denying what another is, which doesn’t sound very enlightened to me. If you are white, imagine if your white girlfriend or boyfriend told you they don’t see you as white! You’d laugh your fucking ass off! I have also noticed that those who say things like “I don’t see colour” tend not to have lives that include a lot of colour to begin with. They don’t see colour because deep down they don’t want to see it. I have never ever heard a black guy, or an Asian woman, or anyone tell me they don’t see me as white. Why is it that we white folks are always wandering around not seeing all these other people? You have to see it to tell people you don’t see it! “I don’t see you as… what I can see of you!”. No wonder so many non-white folks think we are crazy.

Let’s also look at the idea of ‘white privilege’. There are white people who are as poor and as disenfranchised as black people, and so on. The word “privilege” is then seen as irrelevant. I personally think a more educational word might be “advantage”. If we white folks have never had our basic rights and freedoms messed with, we call that “just” and “normal”. But there are many who have their most basic of rights trampled on constantly, thus whites are seen as having an “advantage,” like we get extra stuff. Our “advantage” is being treated fairly according to the law… which is an advantage when others are being impeded by a lack of basic fair treatment.  Think about this:

Why were Japanese Canadians put into Internment Camps in massive numbers (90% of Canada’s Japanese population!) during World War Two, while German Canadians were interred in relative small numbers? Surely someone as dangerous and wicked as Adolf Hitler and the vast wave of hideous Nazis he commanded would frighten the Canadian government into rounding up everyone with a German last name. Some of the Germans interred were brought from Europe as prisoners of war, many others were just required to register with local authorities. So why was it the Japanese who were torn away from their homes and lives? The result was that most German Canadians never had to deal with rebuilding their businesses after the war, they had less catching up to do, though they might have been looked upon with the same amount of suspicion and scorn. That is a definite “privilege”. While German Canadians were trying to become as prosperous as they were before the war, Japanese Canadians were struggling just to survive, thanks to clear and unrestrained institutional racism by the war-time government. 

I will never be ashamed of what I or my very German Canadian family has achieved, because it was us (not our “whiteness”) that achieved it. But it is also fair to say no one hindered us in the way that darker skinned minorities often get hindered, and thus we certainly had that white advantage. So it is not problematic at all to say that I have benefitted from whiteness, somewhere, at some time. Call it privilege, call it advantage, whiteness absolutely has worked for you if you are white, even if you don’t know when or how. Only an idiot would feel guilty about it, only an asshole would deny it, and only some kind of racist would not care. To be white is, in many ways, to have a better time of things in Life. That is borne out by quality social science research.

Whiteness has REALLY worked in the intellectual industry associated with black victimhood, the lily white racism of academic privilege. Let’s say as I stand there witnessing that man robbing another man (named Steve), I take notes, turn them into a book about how Steve was robbed, and then makes hundreds of thousands of dollars off of it, get hired at a prestigious university to teach a course on Steve Robberies, get paid more money to hold corporate events, give speeches at academic conferences about ‘The Nature of Steve-centric Crimes’, go on a book tour, start an institute to research the issues surrounding Steve, and so on. Notice how Steve is excluded from something that he should have more say and participation in.  Thanks to Neoliberal university policies (education as a business) we have well established and growing fields of Steve Studies established for profit, not enlightenment, systems that continue to marginalize and ignore Steve’s own opinions, and often exclude his participation.

Not all but too many universities are making great money off of superficial engagements with actual Steves while white academics build prestigious careers and fat bank accounts off of Steve’s suffering. Now replace “Steve” with any/all marginalized group of humans and you get the point. White academics can do quality unbiased research on Steve even if their own name is Allen, but when a vast sea of almost exclusively white Steve researchers flourish and prosper while Steve himself is left behind, something is amiss. Many universities these days are promoting themselves as progressive, when in actual fact they are merely trying their hardest to make as much money from that image as possible while spending juuuust enough money to maintain the look. If your white professor/department head of Steve Studies is driving a Lamborghini, ask yourself why victimhood sure seems like great business for those who were never the victim…

Another problem is that one can, or at least in my day, could go through school from kindergarten to grade 12, and from undergraduate to graduate school without a single discussion of racism. Not black history, or the medieval literature of Japan… but about racism itself. I spent 26 (!) total years in formal schools, and not once did I ever have a in-class discussion about racism, let alone hear a single fact about black Americans apart from one jazz history class at college. The rich tapestry of black achievement in all  aspects of society was something that I learned in personal and professional engagements as a jazz saxophonist and jazz drummer out in the real world. How can that be? Black history in America is ipso facto American history; even a single mention or two does not “force” diversity down white throats, does not “disrupt” anything. I am not even talking about a separate African Studies course or a full chapter of black American history in a general history text book… I encountered ZERO information about black anything from kindergarten to grade 12, and saw no classes offered on black anything for most of my university life, apart from the occasional African dance ensemble open to all students.

If this is the case going forward, it does not provide the opportunity for white children, teens, and adults to get actual quality, guided training in the study of non-white cultures. I am not just talking about black culture(s) either. The first time I “officially” learned a single thing about Japan was in my undergraduate days, on the first day of class in my university’s karate club. I lost a grand opportunity to go from kindergarten to university thinking about Japanese Canadian Internment along the way, and learning more about it, forming opinions, trying to defend those opinions, maybe changing those opinions… building and refining an understanding of other Canadians whose families got set back socio-economically by just being a certain color and having a certain set of eyes. 

It works both ways. The black author James Baldwin once said on the Dick Cavett Show, “I don’t know what most white people in this country feel, but I can only conclude what they feel from the state of their institutions”. The first time I heard that it floored me. If we white folks learn nothing of “other” histories in our school, all the non-white folks sure learn a lot about us white folks. For example, in Canada (under the Indian Act of 1876), it was illegal for coastal Indigenous people to hold “potlatches”, large gatherings where they celebrated weddings, danced, sang, passed down oral histories, gave gifts, celebrate the passing of titles and responsibilities, and other activities that created and reaffirmed the cultural life of the group. Thus (from 1884 to 1951) the government deemed potlatches criminal because they were “anti-Christian”, “reckless”, and “wasteful”. To celebrate the potlatch was a misdemeanor punishable by prison time, and thus were rarely held (only in secret) until they ceased to be illegal. That meant for 75 years, young and old Indigenous people alike lost the opportunity to celebrate and maintain their heritage, which means they lost so many intangible cultural artifacts that they were practical “cleansed” of it in the process of being “civilized”. Also, it was only possible for an Indigenous person to vote if they renounced their Indigenous status, and even lost their status if they didn’t marry a fellow Indigenous person. 

You know when I learned that information? Yesterday (!!), after buying and beginning to read the book, 21 Things You May Not Know About The Indian Act. I learned it yesterday… though I grew up close to three different reservations. Many people don’t even know that North American Indians are not even “India-ns” as Christopher Columbus mistaken called them, assuming he had landed on the shores of India as per his mission. The fact that a whole generation of coastal Indigenous people never got the chance to openly celebrate their unique heritage means traditions and languages were lost, the process of cultural genocide. No social and cultural glue = no identity or past, a “blank slate” upon which colonial culture is forcibly written upon.

By looking at the examples above I have been building towards the point I want to make which is this: at the VERY LEAST… the prioritizing of white academics in fields involving ethnic issues, the almost complete lack of inclusion of “non-white information” in most schooling, and the moments in our family histories where we whites were less impeded than others by our local government organizations (we white folks could have all the “white” potlatches we wanted from the beginning of time to now)… shows us white people that there is maybe just a teeny tiny bit of an *institutional* problem in regards to Race, that an institution that is not officially or unofficially racist can still function in a manner that tacitly allows racial ignorance to remain, thus it is institutionally racist to some degree by default? I was never taught to be racist… but I was never taught to think about the subtleties and complexities of the lives of the various Black, Asian, Indigenous, Inuit, and Indian peoples in Canada. That is institutional by default. Think about it.

I am not trying to preach or change your mind, folks. I am just encouraging you to think about why I, a white man, learned anything of significance about non-whiteness outside of where I should have learned at least some of it.

 

That is all…