Sunday, October 22, 2006

Whiteness studies III - Is it vilification?

There is one last contradiction within whiteness studies I'd like to raise.

Whiteness theorists think of themselves as being at the cutting edge of anti-racism. Yet it is they who are arguably the worst perpetrators of racial vilification.

There are three grounds on which I base this claim. First, whiteness theorists deny the real existence of a white race; second, they wish to put an end to the existence of whatever white identity does exist: and third, they give whites an inescapably inferior moral status to other groups.

(It might be argued against the first point that whiteness theorists deny the real existence of all races. However, as we've seen they allow some other groups a real existence as "indigenes", and anyway they're only concerned at deconstructing whiteness - they don't target other races.)

Imagine if, say, black Americans were the target of such an academic theory. Imagine if young black students were forced to enrol in university courses in which they were told that the existence of their race was a fiction, that the "moral" thing was to be a traitor to their own race and to seek the abolition of black identity, and that, no matter what they did, they would always be morally inferior to other groups.

There would be a tremendous uproar if black students were forced to undergo such indoctrination. Yet this is what is happening to white students in Australia and overseas.

For instance, those studying to be teachers at Perth's Murdoch University have had to undertake courses taught by whiteness theorist Nado Aveling. She has written of her students:

I know that some of them only enrol in "Aboriginal and Multicultural Education" because it is a mandatory course. These students are apt to comment along the following lines:

I would never have done this course if I wasn't forced to and find it offensive that I need to pay for the privilege.

I felt I was forced to take on her views, otherwise I would not get anywhere with my marks.

Anti-racist content needs to be changed to ensure that white students are not affronted.

Nado Aveling then notes that such responses are not peculiar to her students. She quotes another whiteness theorist, Cochran-Smith, who has observed that:

responses are often strongly emotional, and resistance, misunderstanding, frustration, anger, and feelings of inefficacy may be the outcomes.

There are white students, in other words, who do react strongly at being racially vilified in whiteness studies courses.

Finally, if you're still not convinced let me introduce you to Noel Ignatiev, a Harvard academic. The kind of ideas found it whiteness studies have unleashed in Dr Ignatiev a most forthright vilification of whites. Here are some of his thoughts on the matter:

"The key to solving the social problems of our age is to abolish the white race."

"The goal of abolishing the white race is on its face so desirable that some may find it hard to believe that it could incur any opposition."

"we intend to keep bashing the dead white males, and the live ones, and the females too, until the social construct known as "the white race" is destroyed -- not "deconstructed" but destroyed."

"treason to whiteness is loyalty to humanity"

As I pointed out earlier, whiteness studies is based on a number of contradictions, the chief of which is that it claims to be "anti-racist", whilst clearly encouraging a most radical racial vilification of whites.


  1. Another excellent piece here Mark
    By substituting Jewish for white in you get this
    "we intend to keep bashing the dead Jewish males, and the live ones, and the females too, until the social construct known as "the Jewish race" is destroyed -- not "deconstructed" but destroyed."
    Which makes the argument of these racists sound like the neo-Nazis that, they so clearly are. How long before we have our own Krystal Nacht? or are herded through gates that proclaim that work will set us free?

  2. Iain, I think there's at least one ground for the connection you make.

    Whiteness studies treats whites as the "cosmic enemy" who must be abolished to finally allow the birth of the liberal free and equal "new man".

    I think it's true that Hitler saw Jews in such terms as a cosmic enemy; now whites are being cast in this role.

    However, we still have too much clout demographically to suffer the radical forms of mistreatment you describe.

    If our demographic decline continues, and the vilification persists, then we will be in a more dangerous situation.

    For more on the idea of the "cosmic enemy" see here (and note in particular Matt's first comment, since it's particularly relevant to this thread).

  3. You, obviously, don't understand what whiteness studies are about. If you knew anything about whiteness studies, you would have learned that being "white" and whiteness are not one and the same. The story about how the Irish became white capturing this point well. Also, if you listen to educated blacks today, you would also know that they continually and fairly ruthlessly critique blackness. Blacks, of course, have had to do this rigorous introspection as a matter of mental health and maintaining some measure of sanity, whites has not had do do this, therefore are almost a century behind in this social study.

  4. Anonymous,

    Being white and whiteness are not one and the same? Then this would mean that I could be white and yet not complicit in the unearned privilege of "whiteness". But this is exactly what whiteness theorists most stridently wish to deny.

    Robinder Kaur, for instance, claims that "there is no 'safe space', no haven of guiltlessness" for whites to retreat to.

    In whiteness theory "being white" makes us inevitably complicit in the evil of "whiteness" and so the only posture for a white is a discomforting one of reflexivity.

    It's an unhealthy, psychologically perverse theory for a white person to adopt.

  5. To a human born in Los Angeles, CA; U.S.A...with French, Jewish, and German, (on my father's side) and African, Choctaw, and Mexican (on my mother's side)...race IS a social construct. There is no UPROAR from me when (with all that I am composed of) all the WHITE RACIST WORLD SEES is black. There is nothing wrong with being black. The problem is when being black means being treated unjustly.

  6. Robinder Kaur, for instance, claims that "there is no 'safe space', no haven of guiltlessness" for whites to retreat to

    In that case, the logical thing to do is... nothing. If it's impossible to be innocent, don't be innocent. If it's impossible to repent, don't repent.

    Live your own life, defend against their aggression but otherwise ignore them... and have lots of white children, just to spite them.