When whiteness is part of a race discussion, it is the backdrop. Whiteness is the blank, forgettable paper upon which the beautiful rainbow of diversity can be painted. “Ethnic” means anything but white. “People of color” is the same.
This is not some kind of “reverse racism” rant – that being said, the invisibility of whiteness is the problem. When whiteness becomes just another ethnicity, we will have dealt a powerful blow to racism everywhere. It is no longer a game of measurement against one ethnicity which is treated like it is the assumed position, but rather a game of comparing ethnicities subjectively and relativistically – this one is unlike this other one, but similar to this other one, etc. With any luck, we eventually stop playing the game altogether.
When whiteness is the backdrop; when white is not just another ethnicity, it becomes the default. It becomes the assumed basis on which we discuss race – race exists as a comparison to whiteness.
It isn’t as if white is not a distinctive ethnicity, just like any other ethnicity (granted that all ethnicity is invented and constructed). You just have to listen to…any standup comedian for any length of time, or read Stuff White People Like, to get the idea of what white ethnicity means, insofar as any ethnicity means anything.
We need to get the point where we are all people of color – only one of those colors is “pale”.
Here are a couple of my longer comments from BRC’s Facebook page:
This is deeply unfortunate on every level. Until “white” is just another color, just another ethnicity, racism will rule the day. As long as we divide everything along lines of white vs. “ethnic” or white vs “color”, we’re still defining everything in light of whiteness. Isn’t that what so many people have struggled and suffered so much to avoid?
As for BRC’s comment – cool. I don’t really understand what he means. When I’m in a group of all white people (which happens all the time as a Presbyterian) we don’t even notice – again, because we’re not “ethnic” , we don’t have “color”, we’re just white people. Blank. Monochromatic. The cultural and phenotypic default setting.
And this language of white vs. color allows us to continue in that illusion, even though it is harmful to non-white people.”