I have a friend who likes to post articles related to Black excellence. It’s great to see such achievements from young Black people at the top of their game, especially since the U.S. media has a vested interest in convincing us otherwise. Just today it made me think about what the role of those who have been included in whiteness should be going forward. I feel whiteness is a dangerous construct for several reasons, but one of those reasons is that in the process of being inducted in to whiteness, every trait that could be considered Othering must be removed. Religions outside the norm, passions and interests in unacceptable things, knowledge of one’s heritage, and more.
For many this doesn’t matter to them. There are vast numbers of those currently enjoying whiteness who don’t care to investigate its shortcomings. They enjoy being privileged and will fight to keep what they consider an inalienable right, or in less fancy terms they are going to gorge themselves on the privilege pie and damned if you will get a slice.
However, for those of us who do see the problems with whiteness (which is generally different from Blackness, since in my experience Black can be an empowering term, embracing the diversity of Black experiences in ways the term African Americans can’t) have a big question ahead of us. Since we already occupy heroic roles in all types of media, since our accomplishments are held aloft over similar accomplishments made by people of color, and since we’re usually the leaders and decision makers for institutions like the military, banks, and colleges, we must ask ourselves what excellence should look like for us moving forward.
Dismantling white as a privileged class is ultimately the goal, a goal I feel will give us all the freedom to be complete people. In the meantime, though, one way we can start this process is by finding excellence in things we aren’t told to appreciate or value. This can apply to all privileged groups. Cis men are socialized as a matter of course to be stoic, tough leaders. Cultivate gentleness and the willing to stand back instead. White people are overwhelmingly the heroes in media. Write novels, make movies, and create games that show people of color as the protagonists. It is NOT enough to show people of color as sidekicks, cardboard cut out best friends, or employees. Support those same works by people of color who have put out a great product.
Don’t take from each other and don’t try to further the notion that being white is more oppressive than being a person of color. Instead, let us free ourselves from the construct we have made, without blaming anyone else for it. White people created the idea of white is right, and it’s up to us to tear it down. Men put themselves on top, and now those who realize they’re suffocating thanks to the expectations therein have to be the ones to let air in to the room.