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‘Whiteness’: An ethnicity or identity? Week 16 Ethnicity and ‘Race’

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Presentation on theme: "‘Whiteness’: An ethnicity or identity? Week 16 Ethnicity and ‘Race’"— Presentation transcript:

1 ‘Whiteness’: An ethnicity or identity? Week 16 Ethnicity and ‘Race’

2 Recap Considered complexity of concepts and terms Looked at the ‘institutional racism’ as a study of the contested and political nature of theories of ‘race’ and racism

3 Outline Explore the concept of ‘whiteness’ Consider the extent to which whiteness is both visible and invisible Use it to explore the concepts of ethnicity and identity

4 What is whiteness? Whiteness is usually the dominant culture in the west. It gives privileges to those that are white It shapes societies in particular ways

5 What is whiteness? Whiteness is seen as something neutral, the result of the blending of colours, which will transcends them (Toni Morrison) "White people create the dominant images of the world, and don’t quite see that they thus construct the world in their image." (Richard Dyer ) This is part of the power of whiteness in shaping society

6 The White Dominant Culture Middle-class white straight men are often seen as the standard against which others need to be compared. This is often as true in sociological studies as it is more generally. The White Male point-of-view is taken to be the ‘norm’ from which others need to defend their position It is rarely seen as just as self-interested and self- centred as other points-of-view.

7 Ignoring Whiteness Two recent crime reports: Man grabs teenage girl in street Police are appealing for witnesses… the man is described as being aged in his late 20s or early 30s, tall with a "stout" build and wearing work clothes. Robbers steal gems worth £250,000 Essex Police appealed for any witnesses The men, were described as black, about 6ft tall, with short hair and wore dark- coloured clothing.

8 Invisible whiteness? To what extend do you think whiteness is visible in UK society? Do you assume that media reports are discussing white people, unless they say otherwise?

9 Whiteness and Superiority? White is generally associated in western culture as good and black as evil White is also associated with Christianity, but only where this upholds the model of goodness. For example, Timothy McVeigh (Oklahoma Bomber) was not a white terrorist or a Christian extremist, he was just a deranged individual

10 ‘Civilising processes’ White (middle-class) men were and still are assumed to be self-governing, whilst others need to be governed Advert for soap in 1899 reads: ‘The first step towards lightening the White Man’s Burden is through teaching the virtues of cleanliness. Pears soap is a potent factor in brightening the dark corners of the earth as civilization advances, while amongst the cultured of all nations it holds the highest place – it is the ideal toilet soap.’

11 Is Whiteness an Ethnicity? Derald Sue’s research found that: –White people find being asked about whiteness difficult: They find it perplexing They are uncomfortable or react negatively to being called white They deny its relevance to their lives They prefer to emphasize that ethnicity should be irrelevant

12 ‘Colourblindness’? To aim to see people as equal is important, denying whiteness can have the effect of perpetuating white privilege It can continue the notion that whiteness relates to normality Some argue that making whiteness visible is a principal goal of anti-racism But making whiteness visible may also sustain white supremacist viewpoints

13 Defining whiteness What does whiteness signify to you? Is it possible to claim a white identity without being racist?

14 ‘Other’ whiteness The focus on Whiteness as successfully becoming the norm within western culture also overlooks the way that it is a particular classed and racial identity. Not all white people are classed as White

15 Working class and whiteness Working-class bodies have often been seen as not quite white Some Victorian philanthropists took this to extreme by offering soap instead of food to the poor

16 ‘Other’ White identities Travellers and Gypsies examples of white identities that have not benefited from Whiteness History of discrimination and exclusion Even today, can be vilified without accusations of racism

17 Summary Whiteness is often the unspoken dominant culture that is taken to represent the norm Middle-class, straight white men’s opinions may be seen as standard rather than self-interested Considering whiteness helps to understand the impact of racism Whiteness does not benefit all white people

18 Next week Look at the concept of nationalism Explore how it is constructed and maintained Consider how nationalism is always gendered and the consequences that this has for women in particular

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