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Being a Traitor to Whiteness? What does that mean?
Betrayal! Sedition! Ethnicity! “Traitor” is a strong word! If you stare long enough at it you can almost hear the whispers of “race war” and “Critical Race Theory” off in the distance. Scary, right?! Now if those words don’t instill an emotional response in you, then this will just be a review for you! So…I guess just stick around for the jokes.
But what if…they do instill a response? Fear, anger, maybe even fatigue? (which I know isn’t an emotion, but you get the idea)
Maybe in other lead-ups to such conferences you would be assured that talking about race isn’t a scary thing! That you have nothing to worry about! That you SHOULDN’T feel scared!
…but what if you do? I’ll be honest with you, there was a point in my life that talking about “being a traitor to whiteness” would have scared me, too. Ten, five, maybe even two years ago? It doesn’t really matter, but we have to understand that discussing race and ethnicity and work all together is a scary thing.
Because it has been MADE to be a scary thing.
See, the thing with emotions is that they are sunk in to the bedrock of our psyche, and with such deep roots they are susceptible to corruption and influence by things that those emotions are near as we grow. Assumptions, trauma, past experiences; the stronger they are, and the longer they have been with us, the more they are tied up in those deep emotional roots.
Some of the most powerful ways things sink in to us is through stories. We have always used stories and parables and metaphor to illustrate a deeper point we want to make.
And one of the longest stories we tell ourselves is history. But if you don’t start in the right place in the story you get the wrong message. That isn’t to say that context will be able to make any story say anything, but starting or leaving a story at the wrong point can lead to entirely different conclusions, assumptions, and experiences.
I said that to say this: whiteness, as we know and talk about it now, has been constructed. From top to bottom, what we have been told is all about skin color is actually all about politics. And that ability to control who is white, and when, is a matter of politics and propaganda. In the end, when you turn “traitor” to a lie, all you’re doing is telling the truth.
Let’s pause for a second, and take a look at this far-right comic:
This is a comic from Hedgewic, a far-right fascist internet comic artist. A very small but very prolific group of online fascist propagandists do whatever they can to either cover up, dogwhistle for, or comment on the fascist actions and opinions of far-right groups and their talking points. As you can see from this comic, the artist is arguing that the far-right/MAGA crowd can’t, simply CANNOT, be accused of being racist because the MAGA crowd is more racially diverse than their accusers!
Ignoring the false equivalency of this statement, this very comic and the artist themselves are revealing the one of the main problems of their ideology in a very specific way. Have you caught it? Go ahead, look again.
Excuse me, sir, who ARE YOU?!
So, on the left we have Roosevelt and Churchill, clearly. On the right is Hitler and….a black man?
What….is….what are they saying?
What this comic is saying is that, even according to the Nazis own classification of race, the Italians are black. That black guy next to Hitler? It’s Benito Mussolini.
See what happened here is that Hedgwik has internalized the complicated mathematics of racial purity theNazis used to determine who was and who was not white to such a degree that they think they get to claim Mussolini’s blackness as a for the sake of racial diversity.
Considering Italians as black is a stark reminder of how almost every ethnicity and culture of Europe has at one time or another been considered second class, extrapolated to such a degree in this comic that there are still people who hold to the nonsense needed to make racism make any sort of sense.
And that’s the point: whiteness has been GIVEN to groups of people over the years. It has never been about skin tone or genetics, it’s always been about acceptable or unacceptable political groups.
Stay tuned for our next post, where I’ll go over a brief overview of how whiteness was constructed in the United States, by whom, and most importantly, why.
Aaron Levine (he/him) has been analyzing systems of power, production, and customer service for over fifteen years. Using a crystal clear mentality and focus derived from traditional Okinawan martial arts, Aaron has been able to diagnose, illuminate, and strategize to fix systems and systemic problems of all shapes and sizes. Earning his Bachelor’s in Sociology with a minor in Conflict Resolution, then going on to earn his Master’s in Sociology after serving in the United State Peace Corps in Eswatini for three years, Aaron has an extensive knowledge of systemic problems and their required solutions to create a more efficient use of time, energy, and money in all walks of life.