Jennifer Harvey lays it all out in her book, which you should all read, “Dear White Christians.” We should all be living our lives in opposition to whiteness. Not white people in their human existence, but the whiteness that is inherently grounded in racist agendas. In the Americas, specifically the United States, whiteness as racial identity was born through attempts to institutionalize chattel slavery. Racial categories were created as different bodies were given different legal statuses. Whiteness became associated with power, purity and freedom. Blackness became associated with loss of agency, wickedness and servitude. White supremacy, built into the court and legislative systems, achieves its goals by shifting power and advantages to whites, bestowing upon them institutionalized privilege. These racial identities have continued to be affirmed through Jim Crow, vagrancy laws, racialized police brutality, mass incarceration, and the quieter workings of white privilege in everyday life.
The racial identity of white Americans is defined by the continuous failure the resist white supremacy. It is appropriate to speak the words, “Black is Beautiful.” The statement is a clear proclamation of resistance to the narrative of white supremacy that has insisted upon the unattractiveness of people of color and the beauty of whites. To make the statement, “White is Beautiful,” is to reaffirm the racist position through which whites have been benefiting for centuries. While not all white people go out and join the Klan, explicitly refuse to hire people of color or verbalize racial slurs, all whites have benefited and continue to benefit from the undue racial privilege that has become synonymous with whiteness. Slavery was only legally sustained because of a majority of whites allowing it to continue to exist. While poor whites did not benefit economically from slavery, they were afforded a sense of superiority and self-importance through systems that encouraged viewing people with darker skin as inhuman. Through the affording of privileges to whites and the stripping of the rights of black Americans, racism still continues to trump many class disputes.
White people have an enduring responsibility to interrupt and disrupt white supremacy, no matter the form it may take. One first step is acknowledging the fact that American whiteness has been and continues to be defined by white supremacist agendas.
-Margaret Uselman ’17