Now that the racial Clinton lunch firestorm has subsided, LizardBreath posts her own white person’s race-blogging. She says, in a nutshell, that whiteness is considered unmarked and other skin colors aren’t, and tries solving that the usual way, that is constructing a non-supremacist white identity.

Reading about race, something that comes up fairly often is that a facet of white privilege is the capacity to think of yourself as ethnically-unmarked: brown people have ethnicites which explain important things about their identities, but white people are just people, and anything they do is a statement of their personal identity, free of the constraints of any ethnicity. This clearly happens, and I get what makes this claim to be free of ethnicity a claim of a special privileged status, which obviously white people shouldn’t be claiming.


I haven’t got any useful ideas here, just that I’ve never seen the embarrassingness of an affirmation of one’s own whiteness addressed in the context of freedom-from-ethnicity as a facet of white privilege.

The problem with that project is that it can only work once racial inequality disappears. The concept of an ethnic identity is inherently racist: it sets up an “us” and “them,” and implicitly others “them.” At the very least, it encourages ethnic conformity among “us.” Obviously, this causes way more damage when a dominant group does it than when an oppressed one does it, but in both cases, it’s useful to no one but a few career politicians.

The successes of anti-racism in the US in the last 50 years have typically been based on integration, which in turn is based on destroying the concept of racial identities (especially but not only white). I can’t see how racial equality will improve if it becomes acceptable again for white people to view other whites as OKOP.

The other way of trying to remove the imbalance is to just obliterate the concept of identities. It’s already done superficially in the sense that it’s considered unacceptable to profile people based on race/ethnicity. The most natural way to extend this is to try convincing people that giving a damn about people’s skin color and family name makes about as much sense as giving a damn about their astrological signs.

3 Responses to Race-blogging

  1. […] LizardBreath’s responded to the feedback she received about her whiteness post, including my post about the issue (welcome, all Unfogged readers). She raises a valid point about decentering identity, namely that it makes the default group – in the USA’s case, whites – the arbiter of what’s considered mainstream. This does not appear to be the case: people who commented in the thread (and others) came down pretty heavily on the side of thinking that this is a bad idea — that whiteness should, rather than being treated as a marked ethnicity, be de-emphasized until it essentially disappears as a concept, and is just what people without any other strong ethnic identity do (eat meatloaf, Mexican, and Chinese food; decorate holiday cookies; dance poorly and without enthusiasm). People with no other ethnic identity just end up partaking in the melting pot of all the various ethnic stuff that’s gotten normalized as American over the years; people with a strong ethnic identity can do the same at will, or not, as they choose. And I can see that maybe this might work: I can’t imagine being able to erase ethnicity at all from people’s minds, but I can see it being possible to sort of erase whiteness — it’s what the discomfort I talked about in the earlier post leads people to want to do. […]

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