Whiteness History Month is scheduled for the month of April 2016 at Portland Community College (PCC). However, this program will be very different than, say, Black History Month. Instead, it is an “educational project examining race and racism through an exploration of the construction of whiteness, its origins and heritage.” Instead of celebrating Whiteness, it castigates it:
- Whiteness History Month Project, unlike heritage months, is not a celebratory endeavor, it is an effort to change our campus climate. The Project seeks to challenge the master narrative of race and racism through an exploration of the social construction of whiteness.
Whiteness, a skin color and a worldview, is the problem – a “master narrative of race and racism.” And PCC thinks that Whiteness exclusionary practice is still alive and well:
- At Portland Community College, evidence from hiring data, student-led research, surveys, focus groups, college-wide emails, and other sources have illuminated the underlying reality of whiteness embedded in the overall college climate. Portland Community College’s strategic plan calls for "intentional action" to "create a nationally renowned culture for diversity, equity, and inclusion."
While it is undeniable that Whites fare better economically than Blacks, PCC blames this on entrenched White racism. However, PCC doesn’t seem to consider the fact that Jews, Indians, and Asians also fare better. Why isn’t Whiteness discriminating against these groups also? PCC doesn’t address this question.
According to PCC:
- Whiteness is a socially and politically constructed behavior. It has a long history in European imperialism and epistemologies. Whiteness does not simply refer to skin color but an ideology based on beliefs, values, behaviors, habits and attitudes, which result in the unequal distribution of power and privilege based on skin color. Whiteness represents a position of power where the power holder defines social categories and reality—the master narrator. Whiteness originates racism. It is relational. “White” only exists in relation/opposition to other categories in the racial hierarchy produced by whiteness. Whiteness is a state of consciousness, often invisible, shaping how white people view themselves and others and thus perpetuating ignorance throughout communities. Cultural racism is founded in the belief that "whiteness" is the universal [or privileged].
If it’s “politically constructed,” why are we seeing billboards advertising it? Instead, “Whiteness” is publicly condemned and never promoted. Clearly, Whites are the bad guys and must be exposed and shamed. While there are racists to be found in every ethnic or racial group, it has become acceptable to single out Whites as the originators of racism. However, isn’t PCC perpetuating racism by identifying one racial group as racist without any direct evidence?
Certainly, if there is a systematic White “cultural racism” that is victimizing other racial groups, then it needs to be uncovered and counteracted. However, PPC has not attempted to provide any evidence of this sinister plot. No confessions! No emails exposed! Nor have they made any attempt to show that other non-White racial groups are similarly disadvantaged. Such a discussion would simply interfere with their Whiteness narrative.
Instead, PCC’s indictment seems to rest on the White racist past, and there seems to be nothing that Whites can do to atone for their guilt but to wallow in it continuously. PCC expresses no appreciation for this country’s progress in eliminating discriminatory laws or the programs that now even favor Blacks, perhaps even to their detriment. Nor do they seem to want to entertain any evidence showing that Whites suffer far more from Black-on-White crime than Blacks from the opposite.
Besides, there is no mention in the White media of other disparities that do not fit into the Whiteness narrative. For example, according to a recent study, white students are subject to the worst bullying in schools. The Star Tribune writes:
- "A higher percentage of white students — 24 percent — said they were bullied than black, Hispanic or Asian students. Twenty percent of black students said they were bullied compared to 19 percent of Hispanic students and 9 percent of Asian students."
In addition to this, charges of Whiteness have become so acceptable that it is rude to even question them. I
However, in "The Silencing: How the Left is Killing Free Speech," liberal democrat, Kirsten Powers, writes:
- Mary Frances Berry, an African American and former chairwoman of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights under President Bill Clinton, wrote in a Politico online discussion: “Tainting the tea party movement with the charge of racism is proving to be an effective strategy for Democrats.”
- Berry, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania, added, “There is no evidence that tea party adherents are any more racist than other Republicans, and indeed many other Americans. But getting them to spend their time purging their ranks and having candidates distance themselves should help Democrats win in November. Having one’s opponent rebut charges of racism is far better than discussing joblessness.”
Unfortunately, the White media is not holding them to account for such incendiary statements. Sadly, for many African Americans, these charges feel very real. They understandably tend to validate their own frustrations, fears, and anger. Just last night, actor Will Smith announced that he is boycotting the Academy Awards because he “feels” that Blacks aren’t being represented in sufficient numbers. Another allegation of Whiteness, and it met with the approval of the White media, which has blasted this “indictment” all over their networks, further alienating Black and White, to the detriment of all of us!
A friend wrote a letter to the New York Times charging that a local library was being closed because it was bringing too many Blacks into the area. I later asked what evidence he/she had for this inflammatory allegation. Answer: “It just felt that way to me.” Well, it might feel that way to many people, but this kind of charge is not only libelous; it is also incendiary.
Has my friend helped Blacks by affirming the exclusionary Whiteness narrative? Instead, she has joined a long list of Whites whose needlessly inflammatory rhetoric has served to further disenfranchise the Blacks.
Today, allegations of White racism are very acceptable. President Obama has frequently alluded to our racist past, suggesting that White racism is still very much with us. Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton recently invoked the charge of White racism in regards to the water crisis in Flint, Michigan. Even though such statements are highly inflammatory and polarizing, no media outlet has asked her for evidence to support her charge. However, had another candidate charged that the Blacks were behind systemic racism or systemic crimes against Whites, they would be tarred and their candidacy thoroughly rejected.
This kind of “help” can actually be hurting. In “Please Stop Helping Us,” Jason Riley argues:
- The intentions behind welfare programs, for example, may be noble. But in practice they have slowed the self-development that proved necessary for other groups to advance. Minimum-wage laws might lift earnings for people who are already employed, but they also have a long history of pricing blacks out of the labor force. Affirmative action in higher education was intended to address past discrimination, but the result is fewer black college graduates— particularly in the fields of math and science— than we’d have in the absence of racial preferences. And so it goes, with everything from soft-on-crime laws that make black neighborhoods more dangerous to policies that limit school choice out of a mistaken belief that charter schools and voucher programs harm the traditional public schools that most low- income students attend.
- Time and again the empirical data show that current methods and approaches have come up short. Upward mobility depends on work and family. Social programs that undermine the work ethic and displace fathers keep poor people poor, and perverse incentives put in place by people trying to help are manifested in black attitudes, habits, and skills. Why study hard in school if you will be held to lower academic standards? Why change antisocial behavior when people are willing to reward it, make excuses for it, or even change the law to accommodate it?
- Although black civil rights leaders like to point to a supposedly racist criminal justice system to explain why our prisons house so many black men, it’s been obvious for decades that the real culprit is black behavior— behavior too often celebrated in black culture.
Perhaps the plight of the Black community isn’t the result of Whiteness. Riley writes:
- In September 2011 white unemployment was 8 percent, versus a unemployment rate of 16 percent. For black men it was 18 percent, and for black teens the jobless rate topped 44 percent. Nor was employment the only area where blacks as a group had regressed economically under Obama. According to the Census Bureau, black homeownership rates in 2011 had fallen to a point where the black- white gap was the widest since 1960, wiping out more than four decades of black gains.
- When Fox News’s Sean Hannity asked black talk-show host Tavis Smiley in October of 2013 if black Americans were “better off five years into the Obama presidency,” Smiley responded: “Let me answer your question very forthrightly: No, they are not. The data is going to indicate, sadly, that when the Obama administration is over, black people will have lost ground in every single leading economic indicator category. On that regard, the president ought to be held responsible.”
Many ascribe the problems to covert racism and its determination to exclude blacks from society. Sometimes, this is called “systemic racism,” an alleged sinister and unseen master-plot to keep blacks in their place. Why do the Leftists invoke this imaginary conspiracy? Since it is an incontrovertible fact that there is no longer legal racism! All of the racist laws of the USA have been over-turned. Therefore, the blame-spinners must re-envision racism in another way. Even black-on-black crime is to be regarded as a product of this White conspiracy. However, Riley rejects the blame-game:
· Race consciousness helps cohere the political left, and black liberalism’s main agenda is keeping race front and center in our national conversations. That’s why, for example, much more common black-on-black crimes take a back seat to much less common white-on-black crimes. The last thing that organizations like the NAACP want is for America to get “beyond” race. In their view, racial discrimination in one form or another remains a significant barrier to black progress, and government action is the best solution.
For the sake of all of us, we need to get beyond race. Meanwhile, the Whiteness narrative goes largely unchallenged! PCC castigates Whiteness without even considering the racist politics of other racial groups. Instead, it is enough for PPC to point to the economic disparity between Whites and Blacks as proof of ongoing White discrimination.
Without supporting the truth of their charges of a White conspiracy, the PCC event will have participants grapple with these questions, to reinforce that “already” established “truth of White guilt”:
- What is whiteness and how is it socially constructed?
- In what ways has whiteness been institutionalized, imposed and internalized?
- In what ways does whiteness emerge from a legacy of imperialism, conquest, colonialism and the American enterprise?
- What are the legal, cultural, economic, social, environmental, educational, and /or intrapersonal consequences of whiteness?
- Who benefits from the consequences of whiteness? Who loses from whiteness? How?
Meanwhile, many thoughtful Blacks understand that the new racism of Whiteness and its accompanying White guilt have been destructive, even to the Black community. As a panelist at a conference on racism, Shelby Steele was asked what an ideal America would look like. He writes:
· I said that what I wanted most for America was an end to white guilt... the terror of being seen as racist— [the] terror that has caused whites to act guiltily toward minorities even when they feel no actual guilt. My point was that this terror— and the lust it has inspired in whites to show themselves innocent of racism— has spawned a new white paternalism toward minorities since the 1960s that, among other things, has damaged the black family more profoundly than segregation ever did. I also pleaded especially for an end to the condescension of affirmative action... the benevolent paternalism of white guilt, I said, had injured the self- esteem, if not the souls, of minorities in ways that the malevolent paternalism of white racism never had. Post- 1960s welfare policies, the proliferation of “identity politics” and group preferences, and all the grandiose social interventions of the War on Poverty and the Great Society— all this was meant to redeem the nation from its bigoted past, but paradoxically, it also invited minorities to make an identity and a politics out of grievance and inferiority... their entitlement and that protest politics was the best way to cash in on that entitlement. (Shame: How America's Past Sins have Polarized the Country)
Steele believes that white guilt is now more destructive to the Black community than white racism. He argues that the very programs intended to help Blacks were not simply ineffective but actually damaged the Black community:
· White guilt was a smothering and distracting kindness that enmeshed minorities more in the struggle for white redemption than in their own struggle to develop as individuals capable of competing with all others.
However, White guilt remains the meta-narrative within our centers of influence, and guilt drives us to do many unhelpful things to reduce guilt. It damages not only Blacks but also Whites. For one example, Germany is leading the way in Europe in taking in refugees who have been repaying their kindness with rape. Why are they tolerating this treatment? As one woman confessed, “We don’t want anyone to think that we are still Nazis.”
Self-atonement is clearly not the answer. However, when society continues to deliver up a steady diet of Whiteness training, it’s hard to resist.
How then do we get beyond race? Love! But not a “love” which degrades one race in favor of another, or a “love” imposed without wisdom, as an entitlement, which just serves to reinforce race! This type of “love” is addicting and disempowering. Instead, we need a love that recognizes that we are our neighbor’s keeper and protector, a love that voluntarily reaches out without coercion, knowing that since we have been given, we too must give.