Introduction to Everyday Whiteness

Welcome to the Everyday Whiteness Blog. Today we launch a space on-line to provide a forum primarily for white folks to sort through whiteness, white privilege and racism in order to build understanding and discover the best practices for us to do our part in dismantling racism. This forum is built on compassion and honesty, exploring the territory where “dealing and healing” go hand in hand. Our goal is to help build a knowledgeable and supportive community around deconstructing the social creation of whiteness and race in order to unravel the racism that weaves through the fabric of American Society. Racism hurts everyone – differently – and if we don’t have the understanding and capacity to talk about it then we can’t form the necessary communities of action to end it.

This call to action is clearly articulated by Julian Bond (Chairman, NAACP) several years ago and holds true today:

“Acknowledging and understanding white-skin privilege is the vital first step in any honest dialogue on race. A forthright, candid internal exchange among whites is a necessary first phase, the predicate to interracial conversation.”

We are calling folks up to join in the movement (already in progress) to deconstruct racism and reconstruct our humanity.

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Defining Whiteness

White as a term describing people refers to light skinned people of European descent. Whiteness is about white race, white culture and the system of privileges and advantages afforded to white people in the U.S. (and across the globe) through government policies, media portrayal, decision-making power within our corporations, schools, judicial systems, etc. The prevailing white culture in the United States is least likely to understand how “whiteness” works. Whiteness also brings about images of “white power” and “white pride” which promote blatant acts of racism. Using the term “white” can create a shortness of breath for many people understandably. We are not about promoting any of the negative and racist forms of using “whiteness.”

While “Whiteness” has become a study and area of research in many universities (“Whiteness studies is an interdisciplinary arena of academic inquiry focused on the cultural, historical and sociological aspects of people identified as white, and the social construction of whiteness as an ideology tied to social status.” Wikipedia and we are interested in that aspect, this blog is dedicated to everyday whiteness and everyday experiences from people out in the world, on the streets, in their neighborhoods, at work, etc. For now, we offer Beverly Tatum’s thoughts on Whiteness as our initial framework

Beverly Daniel Tatum points out that most white people do not think to describe themselves as “white” when listing descriptive terms about themselves, whereas people of color usually use racial or ethnic identity descriptors. Tatum suggests this is because the elements of one’s identity that are congruent with the dominant culture are so normalized and reflected back at one that one is apt to take such traits for granted. This is not the case for identity aspects of those who are defined as “other” by the dominant culture, whether it be on the basis of race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, or other micro-cultural aspects.
Why Are All The Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?”: A Psychologist Explains the Development of Racial Identity (revised) 2003

We will continue to define and name whiteness, as we go along, using the written word, poetry, art and film. We will engage the left and right brain, the heart and soul.

In some ways this is unexplored territory to ask white folks to seriously and consistently engage in dialogue around racism. There is an extensive history of white people standing up against racism AND many present-day speakers, groups, university classes and conferences that speak to whiteness and white privilege. We are interested in building on those events and inspiring speeches to an ongoing conversation. It’s a way for white folks in particular to ”grease the wheels” and do our “warm-up” exercises after years of avoiding the conversation or not working through our ideas out loud for fear of being called a racist. We know the most common assumption about white folks and racism is the use of racist jokes, white supremacy groups, and white people thinking that racism is a ”minority” issue. We’re asking for a new assumption and a new paradigm to grow here.