Wednesday, November 14, 2007

on whiteness

How do you define whiteness? What are some white American values and customs? If you are white, what does it mean to your identity?

I'm currently working on a paper for Multicultural Counseling class that is forcing me to examine some of these things. It's interesting yet hard because I don't think White Americans think about these things very often. Being a part of the dominant culture, our "whiteness" may seem so universal as to make it invisible. My culture has become the norm by which minority cultures are judged and examined. Sometimes, "deviance" is easier to define than "normalness."

When I finish this paper, I'll give some more thoughts on these things. For now, I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Dang, is this how I return to blogger after an almost four month hiatus? A brief paragraph and some questions that I hope are thought-provoking? It's not quite the "I'm back!" kinda post that I had planned on, but it's what's on my mind. Starting several weeks ago, every once in a while I started reading some of your blogs and leaving comments to try to slowly ease back into the blog world. There is a lot going on in my life that I'd love to write about, but I just haven't sat down and done it. I wrote one post last week that was merely describing a new experience that I had, but I never posted it because I wanted to edit it.

But I truly would love to hear your thoughts on whiteness. After that, there are so many things that I want to share with each of you, and I want to share in your lives as well. This may not be dramatic or poetic, but I have returned.


Martha Elaine Belden said...

welcome back, sweet friend!
it's been F A R too long.

i'll have to consider the whiteness question a bit. right now all i can say is, you're right about the never considering 'whiteness' (i guess) because it's the norm. i just don't think about race that often, in general. people really are just people to me... i mean, i know race exists, and obviously i see black, hispanic, asian, white... i guess it just sort of stops there for me.

anyway... if i think of anything else, i'll come back :)

Anton said...

Scandinavian-American, please.

RC said...

i think you hit the nail on the head when you said white people don't think about their whiteness.

in their view, they are "normal" and not worth analyzing.

we don't think about "white music" "white food" "white family values" "white entertainment" etc.

(The only white values we think about are our inabilities to dance and play basketball...that's only because common cultural catch phrases that have developed).

Good luck on your paper...hope you learn a lot about "whiteness."

Ben said...

Good thoughts. It's worth considering, also, that most white Americans don't share all that much common history, or a connection to the history they do have.

If there's anywhere the whole "melting pot" idea really worked out, it's in the fusing of English and German and Irish and Italian and all sorts of other nationalities into "white" - there are certainly still some urban centers, like Chicago or Boston, where it's still meaningful to self-identify as Irish or Italian or something else, but in the broader culture, that's disappeared.

In a setting like Europe, the question of national identity is still on the table; in America, it's blended into a lowest-common-denominator generic Euroamerican quasi-identity.

I don't mean for that to be a value judgment - it's just the way I see things. "White" is "normal," because "white" is the majority and doesn't really have to define itself in terms of a collective story or over against something else. Black people, the vast majority of them, have a fairly similar story to their origins as black Americans. More recent immigrants tend to exist in community settings that work to preserve their distinctiveness over against the background of the majority.

If your family came over on the Mayflower, maybe Thanksgiving has special meaning for you. If you're Irish or Polish Catholic, maybe you live in a community where the Church helps you maintain that cultural distinctiveness.

Otherwise, you're just sort of... indistinct. Your traditions don't connect you to the distant past. Your preferences are shaped by national-level popular consensus. Your values have more to do with ideology than heritage. So it goes.

Anyway, welcome back.

if walled in climb up said...

Hmmm, "whiteness" is hard to describe. And I think that because we have observed an enormous number of and the plethora of differences of so many white people in our lives, it is hard to see any one overriding similarity. They are all so different.

I'm glad you're back! There's been a void lately. : ( No Kelly in blogland.

Cara said...

ben and rc have some good thoughts. i guess you've turned in your paper by now. i've been thinking, and i can't come up with too much.

evangelical and hell fire come to mind.

popularity in high school
trailer trash

those come to mind too.

Lauraishness said...

this most made me audible *hmmm!* as in I was very intrigued.

Glad you're guess is you've already put some time into this paper...but hrm, whiteness, not sure what it means to me exactly.

I think of the WASP stereotype when I think of whiteness. Sunday church-going, lunch-eating, family-having, money-making, status-grubbing, book-talking, cause-joining, carrying-around-pictures-of-grandkids,
wal-mart-going kinda people...

maybe that's just the land of my birth :P