From my book, Whiteness Fractured. Routledge. 2013.


The outcomes of whiteness involve an emotional cost to racialized peoples inadequately understood by white peoples…In addition to its ignorance of its emotional impact on others, whiteness neglects its emotional dimension among whites. Ignored in the practice of whiteness is its emotional investment in itself; it deeply protects its normalization in the face of ubiquitous evidence that white innocence is a ruse. If it were otherwise, why defend it so vehemently? Why the emotionality—manifested as hostility covering for shame, guilt, and fear—when the exposure of white privilege and racism emerges in conversations? (p. 147)


If failure or lack of social rewards is not due to individual factors but to social ones such as the accumulative consequences of racism, this indicates a social failure of tremendous proportions. It means that too often racialized peoples are being unjustly held back due to racism and that white peoples pulled ahead due to privilege. Knowledge of this shatters white innocence and precipitates a moral crisis…A second basis for white fear is the anticipated retribution for the systematic, historical and ongoing forms of racism directed against racialized peoples. If the normalizing effects of whiteness were dismantled along with its power to control the terms of engagement with otherness, white groups would fear the actions of racialized groups. Repercussions and violence could ensue after racialized people come to terms with the entire system of injustices toward them…In recognizing that racialized person are more familiar with racism than are whites and that they are in a better position to protect their interests than are whites, the moral fabric of whiteness is revealed as threadbare. (p. 151)


If Others’ humanity were fully acknowledged, whiteness would collapse under the burden of its falsehoods; it could not tolerate the revelation of its relationality to otherness and its participation in domination over the Other. Psychically, whiteness assumes the position of ignorance in its alignment with certainty in its integrity…Whiteness is impelled to maintain ignorance of it because relationality is too painful to face the inequities it involves. As a result, whiteness invests heavily in its own un-knowing of otherness and of the Other’s knowledge of whiteness. (p. 156–7)


That the white fantasy of innocence contrasts with the authentic innocence of the Other can only exacerbate the projection of the Other as justified object of hostility. Admiration for the Other can transform into hatred because what is perceived as their gifts are exclusionary: “we” cannot participate in them. Indeed, “we” hold this against “them” while prohibiting recognition of “our” desire to join the Other, in effect to be one with that invented entity. Whiteness invests in the projection of Other which serves as ironic justification for racism. Having divested itself of any relationality to the Other of its own imagination, the white psyche can freely express aggression towards what now appears to be a deserving victim and a threat. (p. 167)


Whiteness must live with itself in the knowledge, however repressed, of its active participation in racism. This too becomes an object of projection onto the Other whose position is interpreted as eliciting white racism. This process is self-reinforcing. In its own racism against an Other whose origins is the self, whiteness confronts its own capacity for violence. The source of hostility is located among the racialized and violence toward them (whether physical or symbolic) escalates. All the chaos and fragmentation abhorred by the self is projected onto them and whiteness retreats further from its own differentiation, and further into racism. (pp. 167–8).


Whiteness needs otherness as a reflection of all that is right with whiteness. So essential are its others that whiteness creates them from its own fragments. Comparing itself to its others, whiteness knows itself as pure, its central place as steady as Greenwich Mean Time. As invested as whiteness is in this relationship of subordination/domination, it avoids shame through its projection of its bad elements onto its Others. They are the problem, they are different, they are the underlings, they can’t help it, they are only qualified to serve, they do it so well. Admission of the relationality between the two positions “taints” the innocence of whiteness. In the racialized Other, whiteness is saved. (p. 168)



No responses yet

Leave a Reply