'Whiteness' is not a reference to a 'white race'
"Give the people someone to look down on..."
A great cultural illustration of this is Ken Burns' documentary, Country Music. Lumped in with "race" music, country music's roots grew from mixing slave, immigrant, and Mexican cultures.
In response to "elite's" condescension and exclusion, "country" folks created the Grand Ol Opry in 1925 to celebrate 'hillbilly' culture. By then 'blacks' and 'whites' were forcefully separated by Jim Crow laws. Country music, however, couldn't help but break racial boundaries out of pure authentic cultural truth — "The Rub," as southern culture calls it. There was no 'black' and 'white' culture, but a beautiful and persistent amalgamation of all sorts, living, hurting, and loving together.
The goal of anti-racism is not to take down 'white'-ness, 'white culture', or 'white people'. The goal is to hold leaders accountable for equitable distribution of resources and opportunities, and to end fallacious racial narratives that legitimize some groups as less acceptable or less worthy of equal respect in our culture.
'Whiteness' is a euphemism for elitism and toxic culture
Perhaps the most visible illustration of the ill-defined and wrongheaded racialized framing of anti-'whiteness' is the Smithsonian's display White Culture in their installation Talking about Race.
The Smithsonian defined racism as a function of 'white culture'. Their graphic was full of fallacious racial narratives — oddly crediting 'whites' with such fundamental principles as hard work and science, while ridiculously claiming 'bland is best' as a 'white' cultural aesthetic.
The Smithsonian's graphic created rather than stopped fallacious cultural narratives. Their approach, using the ill-defined terms of 'whiteness' and 'white supremacy culture' to frame racism, failed notoriously while creating more misunderstanding and racial tension in society. They apologized and took the graphic down.
Behaviors labeled as 'whiteness' or 'white supremacy culture' — unrealistic demands for perfection, stealing credit for other people's work, management that gives no voice to subordinates, abuse of power to silence criticism, valuing profit over mission, and in-group/out-group behavior — directly line up with behaviors of toxic culture:
Instead of counterproductively scapegoating a "race" of 'white' people, we can effectively change racist behaviors (toxic, abusive, elitist behaviors) by adopting healthy community culture — agency for individuals; along with transparency and accountability from leaders. This approach can work in our organizations, businesses, and communities.
It isn't 'whiteness' the Smithsonian and similar anti-'white' activists are after to change, it is elitism and abusive, toxic culture — behavior carried out by every culture and skin-tone, behavior that cannot be addressed as long as we frame the source of the problem as 'white people'.
Reframing racism as 'whiteness' puts the focus on a fallacious 'race' of people, instead of the 'elites' who use and exclude people for their own gain (no matter their ethnicity or skin-tone). This is textbook toxic culture. As famous psychologist Philip Zimbardo, who explores why good people do bad things, explains it — toxic cultures use individuals as scapegoats to distract from 'elites' corrupt behavior, and to keep 'elites' abusive power structure in place.
What is the value of the term 'whiteness'?
Shining the Light on "Race" ConstructionThere is positive and rational use of the term 'whiteness' as a reference to the construction of race.
In examining the construction of 'whiteness' the most important factors are who is doing the constructing, and why?
Many churches have joined the modern civil rights movement, but like the anti-racist movement in general, many focus on 'whiteness' as a "race", versus a construction of race that they help to create and perpetuate.
Take the following examples of church leaders speaking out against racism in our culture:
"The Rev. Dale Grandfield, a canon at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, introduced himself to about 100 people, many of them fellow clergy, at an Allentown rally Thursday and confessed that he’s “addicted to whiteness. I love it and I have swam in it my whole life," he said. "It has been treasured and nurtured in me and by me.”
He acknowledged that the white culture he loved — his lineage, values, the architecture, homes and museums — came from a history of oppression and slavery. He called on others to recognize their own privilege and dedicate their lives to ending injustice." -The Morning Call
This church defines 'whiteness' as 'white culture', and equates 'white history' to oppression and slavery. He calls on others to recognize 'white' privilege and end injustice.
“We’re holding you accountable,” said the Rev. Benjamin Hailey, of Union Baptist Church in Allentown. “We’re holding the white churches accountable.
Will you go from marching to fighting for significant change?" he asked.
Hashann Baats, executive director of Promise Neighborhoods of the Lehigh Valley, said white churches shirked their responsibility to speak out against white violence toward people of color throughout history, from slavery to police brutality to advocating for communities of color.
It’s not just police brutality that leads to the death of black Americans, he said, but also politicians who don’t invest enough in education and community programs that can save black youth from the violence in the streets.
“Our legislators are killing us with their budgets,” he said.
It is not clear that the 'white' church leader will stop perpetuating racism by disavowing his history and culture, nor that the 'black' church leader will get community resources from the state by holding 'the white church' accountable.
Contrast Bethlehem's approach with the 2013 Mormon declaration against racism:
Today, the Church disavows the theories advanced in the past that black skin is a sign of divine disfavor or curse, or that it reflects unrighteous actions in a premortal life; that mixed-race marriages are a sin; or that blacks or people of any other race or ethnicity are inferior in any way to anyone else. Church leaders today unequivocally condemn all racism, past and present, in any form.
The Mormon church addresses their complicity in the construction of race that dates back much farther than slavery.
To deconstruct racial hierarchies, we have to address the source where the hierarchies are constructed, right where the narratives that carry fallacious stories start.
The Bethlehem church did not address the structural norms they themselves have programmed into their members, but instead disseminated the blame among the people, and specifically 'white culture'.
Racism in Relief, A Cry for Justice -- 'White' vs. 'Black'
The modern scheme of racial wedging benefits 'elites'
Recently in the news:
On Tuesday, less than three hours after voting commenced, the Honkala campaign sent out a news release detailing alleged irregularities at multiple polling places, including the following claims:
Misleading literature from the Democratic candidate, Emilio Vazquez, implying that Green Party candidate Cheri Honkala, who has lived in District for years, is an "outsider" and a "Republican."
At multiple polling places, Democratic poll workers and committee people are located inside the polling place, handing out the Vazquez stamp and literature; not 10 feet from the entrance to the polling location as required by law.
At the polling place at 17th & Lehigh, located in an unspecified office, the Democratic committeepeople are telling people to vote for Democrat Emilio Vazquez inside the polling place as they check in to vote."
“I’d really like to know where all this money is for all these services,” said Honkala, a longtime Kensington resident who entered the political stage in 2012 as Jill Stein’s vice-presidential running mate. “If I was in charge, I’d be out on Kensington and Allegheny when people are going through withdrawal asking them if they wanted to go and get long-term hospital detox and into a recovery program. But that doesn’t happen.”
Instead, Honkala sees reporters, academics, and feel-good philanthropic types swarming the neighborhood, more often than not with a camera in hand.
“A lot of people come out with sandwiches and food and they pass it out,” she continued. “I think some of that stuff is more about making themselves feel better than really addressing some of the issues that the neighborhood faces.”