Whiteness is a construct that is rooted in both the historical and ongoing oppression of other groups.
And even though it may not look like it did in the past, that dynamic still continues today.
The ongoing cost of white privilege is the systemic subjugation of people of color.
White people need daily messages of discomfort. Because even though white people today haven't committed the same crimes as their ancestors, they're still benefiting from them. Allowing them to exist in their privilege, unbothered, continues to contribute to systemic oppression.
Enough is enough.
And for those who think that we're being racist, you don't understand how racism works. You have to have social power to be racist. People of color don't.
Race itself is socially constructed. Race has no basis in biology. It is a concept that has been built up over centuries for various purposes, such as dividing people by their skin color, their physical features, and their culture. There are many reasons to categorize people and divide them up, but the predominant reason behind categorizing people based on race – as race is historically constructed – is to arrange people in a hierarchy based on superiority.
Over time whiteness has evolved as a category. In early America, Irish and Eastern European immigrants were distrusted and not considered “white” by the dominant English populations. Many other ethnic groups at different times were excluded from the dominant “white” society, such as Greeks and Italians. Over time, many of these groups have managed to assimilate into “white” culture. All that is happening here is that the dominant classes have accepted more and more ethnic groups, based on the ability of these groups to assimilate into the dominant culture.
The dominant culture, as it happens, is based entirely on the domination of foreign and domestic peoples.
If you wanted to take someone else’s land, or tear someone from their community and make them a slave, you basically have to believe that they are an inferior and that they deserve that treatment.
Communities of color, and African American communities in particular, were torn from their families, and then forced to struggle in a hostile land, where their economic and social rights were denied them at every turn, and it still goes on today.
This is how the concept of race has historically functioned. If you are a conquering tribe, and you come across other peoples who are in different lands, and that look and act differently, then you have the psychological pre-requisites to conquer them by using a concept like this. To do this, they have to dehumanize and “other” people from other tribes.
At the moment, we are concerned with the history of the most powerful conquering tribe we have at the moment: people of European descent. “White” people, as part of Western civilization. (And yes, there have been other conquering peoples with their own histories: Ancient China, the Ancient Greeks and Romans, the Ancient Egyptians, the Mayans, the Ottomans, and the list goes on.)
When you have a powerful military that is positioned around the world to keep everyone in line, and your oligarchy controls a large amount of the world’s capital, you typically have a little more social power than everyone else. This social power is held predominantly by white people, and it is distributed predominantly to other white people through structural systems of racism.
The average person of color possesses far less resources – both individually and socially – than the average white person. So it takes much more for a person of color to harm a white person on the basis of race, than the other way around. This is what we mean by our claim that Black people can’t be racist.
According to Banor Hesse, there is a regime of whiteness and there are action-oriented white identities. People who identify with whiteness are one of these:
1.) White Supremacist
Clearly marked white society that preserves, names and values white superiority.
2.) White Voyeurism
Wouldn't challenge a white supremacist; desires non-whiteness because it's interesting, pleasurable; seeks to control the consumption and appropriation of non-whiteness; fascination with culture (ex: consuming Black culture without the burden of Blackness)
3. White Privilege
May critique supremacy, but a deep investment in questions of fairness/equality under the normalization of whiteness and the white rule; sworn goal of "diversity"
4. White Benefit
Sympathetic to a set of issues but only privately; won't speak/act in solidarity publicly because benefitting through whiteness in public (some POC are in this category as well)
5.) White Confessional
Some exposure of whiteness takes place, but as a way of being accountable to POC; constantly seeking validation from POC
6.) White Critical
Take on board critiques of whiteness and invest in exposing/marking the white regime; refuses to be complicit with the regime; whiteness speaking back to whiteness
7.) White Traitor
Actively refuses complicity; names what's going on; intention is to subvert white authority and tell the truth at whatever cost; need them to dismantle institutions
8.) White Abolitionist
Changing institutions, dismantling whiteness, and not allowing whiteness to reassert itself