Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Gentrification, Models of Whiteness, Ditmas Park Blog and what it means to you.

The website whiteantiracist.org has a pretty nice write up about the different models of whiteness in today's society. Reading this will give you a better perspective into the behaviors of gentrification blogs like the ditmas park blog and others similar to them. What I came away from reading this is that the world is a very complicated place. Some of us choose to be blinded by what goes around us, unless we are directly affected by it. What this mean is that African Americans in particular will feel frustrated and angered when they come in contact with certain white persons who may not see themselves as racist. See below:

Models of Whiteness

This page discusses some models of whiteness currently in use and available to whites in the United States. These are only models, and not real people. Any one white person could fall into more than one category, or change categories over time.

White Supremacist

A person who believes that the white race is or should be supreme.

What Whiteness?

There are many ways that white people avoid examining their whiteness and consequently, white racism. It is common practice in conversation for white people to mention the race of black or Asian friends, neighbors, or co-workers while never mentioning the whiteness of the white people they know (Dyer, 1997, p. 2). The effect of this and thousands of other cultural practices by whites is to position whites as the “human norm.” Dyer rightly points out, “As long as race is something only applied to non-white peoples, as long as white people are not racially seen and named, they/we function as a human norm. Other people are raced, we are just people” (1997, p.1). Dyer argues convincingly that “there is something especially white in this non-located and disembodied position of knowledge, and thus it seems especially important to try to break the hold of whiteness by locating and embodying it in a particular experience of being white” (1997, p.4).

Another way white people avoid naming whiteness is through a subtle manipulation of sentence structure. In “White Silence, White Solidarity,” Christine E. Sleeter gives two examples. When whites say, “racism causes poor education in inner-city schools,” it is unclear who is responsible for the poor education in inner-city schools. Another example to consider is: “Filipinos were brought to Hawaii to work as cheap laborers.” Again, the question remains: Who brought Filipinos to Hawaii and underpaid them? In this way, white people “personify racism, making it (rather than ourselves) the subject of sentences” (Sleeter, 1996, p. 260).

An effective strategy that many whites use to deflect attention from white racism, and their place in the power structure, is to “transmute many issues of racism into depoliticized questions of cultural difference” (Sleeter, 1996, p. 259). A similar strategy is to equate ethnicity with race. By turning race and racism into issues of culture, diversity, and difference, whites erase the story of power and privilege that pits them against people of color. The phrase "celebrate diversity" is often used by organizations and businesses to show their appreciation of difference - while effectively diverting attention from poor labor conditions, racist promotion and hiring practices, etc.

Advocates of colorblindness fall into this model of whiteness, as well. O'Brien (2001) writes that when whites pride themselves on not noticing others' race (as in “I didn't even notice she was black”) “there is an implicit ideology of white as the norm” (p. 46). When whites say things like “it wouldn't matter if she was black, green, yellow or pink,” they are employing a “strategy for avoiding race: it shifts attention away from color differences that make a political difference by embedding meaningful differences among nonmeaningful ones” (Frankenberg, 1993, p. 38).

Guilty White

The “guilty white” model refers to a white person who is able to identify their whiteness and their position in the racial hierarchy, but is unable to identify their personal responsibility for racism or the manifestations of racism in their own life. Ellen Kaye Scott describes this phenomenon in “From Race Cognizance to Racism Cognizance” (2001). Scott begins by discussing the state of antiracist discourse in the United States . She believes that in this discourse

individuals occupy one of two subject positions: victim or perpetrator. This discourse of agency in racial politics paralyzes action. Activists tend to vie for membership in the victim category and attach a great deal of shame to belonging to the perpetrator category (2001, p. 126).

She analyzes two organizations that use racism awareness workshops for their employees and/or volunteers. Scott finds that even with these racism awareness workshops, “identifying individual agency within a system of racial domination and subordination proved very difficult for these [white] women, despite their willingness to recognize their own white racial identity as a political position” (2001, p. 146). This is the essence of the “guilty white”; she feels guilty for being white in a racist society, but cannot identify the effects of racism, her part in them, or what she can do to change the situation. She is paralyzed with guilt.

Antiracist White: Standing Against Most Extreme Forms of Racism

In this model of whiteness, the antiracist white makes a public stand against the actions of groups like the KKK or the neo-Nazis. In her book Whites Confront Racism , Eileen O'Brien describes the group Anti-Racist Action (ARA) as fitting into this category. ARA focuses on “overt forms of racism” as can be seen in their main principles which include:

• We go where they go. Whenever racists/fascists are organizing or active in public, we confront them and do our best to stop them.

• We don't rely on the cops or courts to do our work or to protect us (O'Brien, 2001, p.12).

Groups such as ARA are sometimes criticized for focusing their energies on “fringe” groups like the KKK. However, it can be argued (and ARA does) that these groups are not so fringe in reality (O'Brien, 2001, p.12). Mab Segrest discusses the way that institutional racism allows Klan terrorism to happen, and quotes a black minister she worked with as saying “Our greatest danger is sympathy and cooperation by millions of American people with the Klan” (1994, p. 27). Another critique of groups like ARA and their approach to confronting racism is that members “are aware of institutional racism, but are not reflexive about their own role or position within these institutionalized arrangements” (O'Brien, 2001, p.102). Members also “are less likely to take activist stands within the institutions in which they live and work” because of a focus on overt forms of racism (O'Brien, 2001, p.101). John Garvey gives some examples of these inconsistencies in the lives of white antiracists:

Thus, gentrification in a neighborhood like Park Slope … and its sure-fire accompaniment of homelessness for some, have nothing to do with the movement into the neighborhood of numerous ex-members of the movement of the 1960s. We can live where we want and be advocates for the homeless and critics of governmental inaction. In the case of schools, we can send our children to elite programs within the public schools or to private schools and be teachers of non-white students in schools and colleges and lamenters of the poor quality of education (1996, p. 254).

Antiracist White: Working against Internalized White Supremacy and External Manifestations of White Racism

This model of antiracism acknowledges that “race is not the work of racists” (Ignatiev & Garvey, 1996, p. 179). Another way of putting this idea is that white antiracists acknowledge that “we are the problem” (O'Brien, 2001, p.57). In this model, whites acknowledge that institutions in our society perpetuate racism, including “the schools (which define ‘excellence'), the labor market (which defines ‘employment'), the law (which defines ‘crime'), the welfare system (which defines ‘poverty'), and the family (which defines ‘kinship')” (Ignatiev & Garvey, 1996, p. 179-180). White people are a part of all these institutions, and in this model the white antiracist works to acknowledge, and take responsibility for, her part in reproducing racism in the institutions she finds herself a part of. The philosophy of this model can be summed up by Dyer's statement, “I did not invent racist thought, it is part of the cultural non-consciousness that we all inhabit. One must take responsibility for it, but that is not the same as being responsible, that is, to blame for it” (1997, p. 7). Rather than being a “guilty white,” this antiracist white takes responsibility for working on her own internalized white supremacy and racism, as well as standing with people of color against overt acts of racism.

Race Traitor/Abolitionist

Noel Ignatiev and John Garvey founded the journal Race Traitor in 1992, with the guiding principle “treason to whiteness is loyalty to humanity.” They do not identify themselves or their politics as antiracist. They believe antiracism is problematic because it still acknowledges and legitimates the existence of ‘race.' Rather, Ignatiev & Garvey, and their followers, believe that “the key to solving the social problems of our age is to abolish the white race” (Ignatiev & Garvey, 1996, p. 10). By this, they do not mean the genocide of white people. In their view,

the existence of the white race depends on the willingness of those assigned to it to place their racial interests above class, gender, or any other interests they hold. The defection of enough of its members to make it unreliable as a determinant of behavior will set off tremors that will lead to its collapse (Ignatiev & Garvey, 1996, p.10).

Or, in other words, when enough white people start acting in unexpected ways, that will be the start of the abolition of the white race. In “Richmond Journal”, Edward H. Peeples, a white man, offers a few examples. As a young child, his father owned a small grocery business that Peeples was expected to work in. It was World War II, and there were shortages of items such as bread, sugar and butter. Peeple's father would hide these items in the store, and when asked by a white customer, would sell them. If a black customer requested one of these scarce items, he would deny having any. He instructed Peeples to do the same. At first, Peeples obeyed his father. But then, one day, a black woman came into the store and demanded a loaf of bread. Peeples sold her a loaf of bread, and from that day forward, secretly disobeyed his father's orders and sold bread to blacks. Another example Peeples gives of being a race traitor is an incident that occurred in 1960 at Richmond's Thalhimer's Department Store. A group of young blacks were challenging segregation. Peeples decided to join their group, and was promptly spat on by an elderly white woman. He stood in silent protest with the rest of the group until the store management summoned the police to throw him out of the store. The last example in “Richmond Journal,” involves Peeples trying to buy the “Richmond Afro-American,” a local alternative newspaper. When the cashier sees what newspaper Peeples has selected, she tells him he doesn't want that newspaper, because it's the “colored newspaper.” She goes on to instruct Peeples where to find the “white newspaper.” He responds, “You must think I'm white,” once again betraying the white race, and carrying out an act of racial sedition by acting outside of accepted norms for white people's behavior (Peeples in Ignatiev & Garvey, 1996, p. 82).



Eloise said...

Thank you for stopping by my place!

I am so glad to have found you as I too am sick and tired of Ditmas Park Blog. They are ruining the area with their gentrification tactics. I was glad to read through your posts especially about the scapegoating of an innocent black man.

God bless you

no_slappz said...

Maybe you will eventually realize that whites are bored by these silly sociological examinations.

The real question is why there is no successful black nation anywhere on the planet.