The Unbearable Being of Whiteness

Whiteness is something rarely contemplated by people who are white. Its contemplation makes white people very uncomfortable. Whiteness is not contemplated because whiteness is all about comfort and to question your own comfort, (which comes at the expense of others), is to threaten it.

When I think of all the places I have been where I would not have been welcome. When I think of how entirely different my life would look if I were socially defined as black. Not because my skin colour would change who I am, but because it would change how everyone I ever met in my entire life looked at me, treated me and related to me.

I was not born into privilege, but I was born into white privilege. This I understand completely. I have no illusions about this. But I don’t like being a part of it. I don’t like being white. White is not who I am. In fact, none of us should be white. White is a social disease that has been thrust upon us.

Too many times in my life I’ve been sitting there, looking all white in a world where white exists prominently, and everything is going along just smoothly when suddenly one of those other white people lets out a nasty foul racism-fart, assuming they are safe to do this in the presence of only whites. Being white among whites is considered safe. The social rules of any form of privilege dictate this.

Examples of racism-farts:

The old Farmer’s Market farmer, so nice and helpful, talking about breeds of chickens then suddenly begins to speculate on what would happen if you “mixed a Black with a Chinese.”

The in-laws who think dinner conversation includes pointing out that “all black people look the same” and “black on black crime is the problem.”

The acquaintance at a barbecue complaining about a co-worker then suddenly referring to her as the n-word. (And that was a normally very nice person!)

And in those kinds of situations we’ve been trained and pressured not to say anything because whiteness is all about comfort and order, and you don’t mess with comfort and order. It’s rude. And if you do, if you question it, they get angry; they get defensive; they will do anything to protect their comfort and order. They’ll try and turn it on you. They’ll attack, accuse you of being too sensitive, too ignorant, too disruptive, not being intelligent enough to understand their position.

Whiteness is a social construct born entirely from power politics. It is a lie of perpetual perfect comfort. Leave it to Beaver, The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, The Lawrence Welk Show…the lie of perfect comfort. But perfect comfort, in a world where no such thing exists, is infantile, a childish thought. Infantilism is weakness. Imagined perfect comfort is, therefore, weakness.

Herein lies the paradox. White is the weakness of comfort yet white is the strongest. How can it be both at the same time? How can the minds of white people reconcile these two things? The answer is that it can’t be done. That’s part of the reason why 87% of U.S. mass shooting are committed by Caucasian males. White people are a mess because of what whiteness entails.

It’s not in the skin colour. You must remember that. It has nothing to do with what our bodies look like or what is in our DNA. It’s in the mind and the thinking within our social collective. Our minds and the thought of whiteness is what defeats us and eats away at our spirits. We have been inundated from an early age with overt and covert lies about the existence of whiteness and its superiority, and this has deeply damaged us. It keeps us in a state of defensiveness and fear, and denies us the ability to recognize that this is not normal.

Whiteness is a myth of purity…of perfection. In other words, it is unattainable. As it is with anyone trying to live up to perfection, the white person is left with an underlying anxiety, and a constant sense of failure at never being able to achieve that which the myth tells us we are supposed to be. This frustration results in an exaggeration and generalization of the perceived failures of those defined as not-white. As a defensive mechanism, white people project their own perceived failures elsewhere. Self-righteousness and judgement are what we use to delude and comfort ourselves…to make ourselves feel all lily white.

So how do we fix this? It’s simple, and it’s incredibly complicated. We stop being white. We were not born white. This is something learned. Let’s get rid of white. If we get rid of white everything else will eventually fall into place. Not overnight, mind you. It will take time…a long time and a lot of work, but it’ll be worth it to be finally free because the real White Man’s Burden is in fact the White Man.