Theodore Allen, The Invention of the White Race, Verso 2012

To learn and grow through history, one must first look at it.

That arresting statement, printed on the back cover of the first (1994) volume, reflected the fact that, after poring through 885 county-years of Virginia’s colonial records, Allen found “no instance of the official use of the word ‘white’ as a token of social status” prior to its appearance in a 1691 law. As he explained, “Others living in the colony at that time were English; they had been English when they left England, and naturally they and their Virginia-born children were English, they were not ‘white.’” “White identity had to be carefully taught, and it would be only after the passage of some six crucial decades” that the word “would appear as a synonym for European-American.”

Allen was not merely speaking of word usage, however. His probing research led him to conclude – based on the commonality of experience and demonstrated solidarity between African-American and European-American laboring people, the lack of a substantial intermediate buffer social control stratum, and the “indeterminate” status of African-Americans – that the “white race” was not, and could not have been, functioning in early Virginia.

It is in the context of such findings that he offers his major thesis — the “white race” was invented as a ruling class social control formation in response to labor solidarity as manifested in the later, civil war stage of Bacon’s Rebellion (1676-77).  To this he adds two important corollaries: 1) the ruling elite, in its own class interest, deliberately instituted a system of racial privileges to define and maintain the “white race” and 2) the consequences were not only ruinous to the interests of African-Americans, they were also “disastrous” for European-American workers, whose class interests differed fundamentally from those of the ruling elite.

 

https://www.counterpunch.org/2013/05/21/the-invention-of-the-white-race/

It can be tiring, all that whiteness

feministkilljoys

I am posting a short segment from the first chapter of my book, On Being Included: Racism and Diversity in Institutional Life, which was published by Duke University Press last year (https://www.dukeupress.edu/Open-to-the-Public-49485/). As the new academic year approaches, and events and workshops are being announced, I keep noticing how easily whiteness gets reproduced. Below is one example of coming up against whiteness….

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What does it mean to talk about whiteness as an institutional problem or as a problem of institutions? When we describe institutions as being white, we are pointing to how institutional spaces are shaped by the proximity of some bodies and not others: white bodies gather, and create the impression of coherence. When I walk into university meetings that is just what I encounter. Sometimes I get used to it. At one conference we organize, four Black feminists arrive. They all happen to walk into…

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Some Striking Feature: Whiteness and Institutional Passing

feministkilljoys

I was very pleased to participate in a conference Disrupting Visibility: The Politics of Passing co-hosted by the Centre for Feminist Research on Friday. It was a wonderful event – I learnt so much from the papers I listened to. I also gave a lecture, which I am sharing here. I have just added some notes and references – otherwise, this lecture is pretty much as I presented it, which please note means that it is not a polished piece!

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“Some Striking Feature: Whiteness and Institutional Passing,” presented at Disrupting Visibility: The Politics of Passing, Friday June 12th 2015, Goldsmiths.

With thanks to Morganne Conti and Linnete Manriques for their work in organising this event on passing and for the opportunity for me to speak as part of it. I really enjoyed returning to the question of passing. I say “returning” because one of the very first academics events I…

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On identity-reductionism vs. experience-inclusive revolutionary theory

jiminykrix

against-id-reductionism

the political guideline of “no matter what, it is unacceptable to disagree with someone about x political matter if they have y identity/lived experience” is not a liberatory set of politics.

there’s a distinction that should be made here:

there’s the very real fact that of course we should be open to hearing people’s lived experiences. people who try to insist that they know everything about how things were for a Cuban expat’s family in Cuba are out of line. it’s important to not deny *this particular set of facts*, the narrative of *their own lives*.

but it’s also incorrect for a Cuban expat to be able to show up and have people have no choice but to take their word on Castro.

for instance, there are some Palestinians who collaborate with the Israeli government, in the Palestinian Authority. if we were to talk with them, they might say, “listen…

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