African American writers and theorists have represented and analyzed whiteness for over a century; such analysis has been necessary for social and physical survival. Only within the past decade have white scholars heeded the call to interrogate whiteness as an ethnicity and to come to terms with its accompanying benefits of power, privilege and cultural dominance. Whiteness studies examines race as performance, perception, ideological category and social reality, acknowledging that while race is a biological fiction, the lived experience of race is shaped by very real existing structural and institutional inequalities. From the inception of what is now the United States, race has been an organizer of power, although white colonizers did not think of themselves as raced. Colonists conceived of race as a quality of the other. Consequently, “whiteness” was defined by absence or negation, particularly of slavery, synonymous in the minds of 18th century U.S. whites with blackness. Following “Enlightenment” philosophies of humanity, the prevailing notion of whiteness came to mean universality and normality while refusing to acknowledge any racial character. By the twentieth century, whiteness was redefined and policed by court battles over segregation and immigration law. Changing census categories currently appear to offer more freedom to redefine one's race, but nostalgia for an imagined white core of U.S. identity lingers. Whiteness theorists therefore argue for the abolition of the white race and its accompanying racial privilege and domination. They call for treason to whiteness through solidarity and anti-racist forms of white identity. Whiteness studies is crucial to contemporary understandings of “race”, as well as the inevitable intersections of race, ethnicity, social class, gender and sexuality.
Herndon, G. (2002), "Re-visioning race: Dismantling whiteness", Lehmann, J. (Ed.) Critical Theory: Diverse Objects, Diverse Subjects (Current Perspectives in Social Theory, Vol. 22), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 225-237. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0278-1204(03)80011-7Download as .RIS
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