Monday, February 1, 2016
Becoming a mother has been doing wonders for the depth of my appreciation for the degree and mechanisms of gender construction in the societies to which I belong. Aside from clothes, dolls, toys, decor, and the usual accoutrements of early human life in advanced capitalist societies, I want to explore how the Boy/Girl bifurcation operates in the minds of caregivers. What freedoms, powers, opportunities, and circumscriptions open, close, expand or restrict our choices?
White people should learn to interrogate our whiteness: not just how privilege operates, but also how whiteness masks one's own culpability in oppression. Part of the nature of constructed whiteness is to conceal itself from itself. Simultaneously, whiteness pretends to view, represent, analyze, and empathize with what is nonwhite. This subjectivity presumes to see and know its object, without making itself an object. Such is the veil of power thinly woven like a near invisible, yet taught and sticky, spider's web. This web also entraps its weaver and must be undone. But, she often fails to see it.
The idea of white tends to connote an absence of ethnicity, despite the pride so many whites take in our varied European ancestries. The obvious examples of this assumption of blankness appear in grocery stores, travel guides, and haircare departments of pharmacies. White and European do not equate. It is important to disassociate race from ethnicity before deepening any self-interrogation of one's whiteness.
The smug superiority that inhabits the consciousness of an internalized "right" to domination characterizes the psyche of entitlement. Rights discourse sometimes defines a right as an entitlement, and such justice theories would not regard the notion of entitlement as an inherently problematic status. When we complain these days about people being "entitled" the underlying indignation seems to be targeted against unjust entitlement. A similar argument may be made about the notion of privilege. When we add the adjective white to the front of entitlement or privilege, a race theory rubric surrounds these terms to expose the injustice of those positionalities. Ironically, whites still do often feel unconsciously entitled about our privileges, and resistant to acknowledging any injustice in the advantages accrued at personal levels. Our roles in the system of oppression have become internalized.
Acknowledgment of such internalization often shows up in the symptoms of resistance, denial, avoidance, belligerence, and bellicose attention mongering. For the earnest white liberal, a typical emotional response arises in the forms of fear, anxiety or dread. Thanks to the Existentialists, we have learned that such abysmal openings in conscious can shift and transform a horizon of being. Let us mine these existential opportunities for awakening.