Tuesday, 22 January 2013

The Invisible Colour?

The last time I was volunteering, I read an article called "White" by Richard Dyer. In it he argues that whiteness is largely invisible in our society, apparently constituted as "not non-white." Of course, "white" is designated as a race in our society and is therefore ideologically constituted like any other designated race. Whiteness has cultural meaning; whiteness is culturally performed. The trouble is that white is taken as the "default" or "normal" race. What is seen as normal is seen as neutral, and what is seen as neutral needs no explicit definition.
The article was written in the 90s, and I think that there has been some progression since then in defining whiteness (or finding the cultural definition on whiteness). For example, Stuff White People Like might be one attempt to constitute whiteness (though a particular kind of whiteness). However, when I say "some progress," I mean "a little tiny bit of progress." While I have a reasonably good idea of some of the ways I perform my maleness or my heterosexuality, I do not know how I perform my whiteness (though obviously I know how to perform my whiteness as I surely succeed in doing so). I might have some theoretical sense of my whiteness, and I try to remember that I am white as often as it comes up so that I am aware of my privilege. But I do not know how I perform whiteness (or how my behaviour, within our culture, partly produces my whiteness).
I am aware, of course, that my racial designation exists without my needing to act it out. Part of my privilege comes from not having to claim it. But I suspect that I have learned to behave in accordance with our culture's unspoken definition of whiteness, and that my behaviour in part helps to constitute the cultural definition of race.
What I'm trying to say, I suppose, is that I shall try to be aware of the way I perform my whiteness, but that I don't suppose it will be easy, especially since I do not have many ideas about where to begin. Does anyone else know?
(Of course, it's also worth asking how I perform my economic status, my education, my ability, my language, my religion, my psychology, and so on.)

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