mercredi 4 mars 2015

The usefulness of whiteness and the paradox of blackness

Those who think of themselves and others who look like them as "white" get upset when they are told that they are not white. 

They are indeed aware of the usefulness of the concept they use to define themselves. Losing it means losing a form of power.

The proponents of whiteness get very upset when a person who "should" behave as "white" chooses not to do so *. They know it is a danger posed to the artificial unity of the "white race". 

In many cases, they are not even aware of any concept behind the word. They were taught to think of it as "skin color", which it is not. It is absolutely not the expression of nature but rather of ideology and culture. 

As the societies they live in have taught them to believe that "whiteness" is natural, it is extremely destabilizing for them to be reminded or told that "white" is a racist notion. (It is just as destabilizing to learn that Christopher Columbus was an invader and a slaver).

"Whiteness" is a belief that holds societies together, that would otherwise explode due to their extreme social violence. In the US, the epitome of such societies, violence is expressed through the hypocritical reference to the 2nd Amendment of the Constitution to justify the "right" to own and use a gun. 

In France, where things are usually expressed in a more subtle way, it is the reference to the Enlighment ("Les Lumières", literally, "the Lights") that keeps the French united behind another type of hypocrisy. Most French people actually believe in the superiority of their "mode of thinking" and their "right" to impose "Human Rights" (les Droits de l'Homme) which the Enlighment unilaterally designed as "universal". 

"Blackness", as a mirroring concept to whiteness, appears in societies where "whiteness" is the dominant ideology. The concept of blackness thus is a tool that dark-skinned people (mostly Africans and descendants of Africans, but also others) find themselves having to use to counteract the ideology of whiteness and its expressions in the system of white supremacy. 

Blackness is no more natural than whiteness is. But as long as whiteness is enforced as a coercitive concept, blackness will exist as a concept that forces itself on people who are the first targets and victims of white supremacy. 

It appears as a uniting conceptual tool, but is still paradoxically imposed by the opposite concept of whiteness. It may appear as a concept people choose, but there is no choice in being designed or labelling oneself as "black". It actually means that white supremacy manages to impose even the concepts its victims use to defend themselves. 

The vicious circle of racial thinking proves to be extremely powerful. Unless people decide that they are going to get rid off it altogether (refrain from using its words), they will remain stuck in a type of thinking that reinforces racism instead of destroying it. This is valid for people labeled as "whites" as well as "black" (and more rarely as "yellow" or "red"). One cannot be "anti-racist" if one defines oneself with the words of "race".

* one example of such a person in French society is Pr Louis Sala-Molins, who has written several books pertaining to the racist laws that were based on the theory of race. A French historian, Alain-Gérard Slama, said this about Pr Sala-Molins: "with a stupefying ignorance Sala-Molins accuses the western, white species he belongs to". As Pr Sala-Molins comments: "All is clear".

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