On my walk to class the other day, I ran across a plain sign. It was simple black text on a blank sheet of printer paper simply saying, “it’s okay to be white.” This seemingly simple statement is aggressive and it’s false, it’s not okay to be white.
Whiteness is not an ethnicity, nor is it a culture, nor is it a language group, or any other identifier. It was — and continues to be — a social construction of privilege between people. To be white unabashedly is to accept with full force every privilege and construction that goes into the race “white.” It means accepting that because of your color, you are more capable, better educated, better suited for an office environment and more developed. You accept these things because they are all apart of the systematic creation of the race “white.”
Whiteness is a historical construction born out of a mixture of fear and superiority. Poems like "The White Man's Burden", the racist laws of the Jim Crow south, redlining in Northern cities and the prison industrial complex; these are all things that depend on people, like the sign poster, to continue to perpetuate an unthoughtful view of race. It’s more than government policy, it’s the entire social construction of people’s racial identities within the U.S. To say it’s okay to be white is like saying it’s okay to get ice cream at a Dairy Queen. People already know that it’s okay. That’s not the issue. The issue is making “white” people understand it’s okay to be anything else.
People have complex racial and ethnic backgrounds and these cannot be summed up in one category. Groups like Black Lives matter, the Black Panthers, the Chicano/a movement and many others, are an attempt to create solidarity and pride in non-whiteness. This is done in spite of a country that has continually told them they were unequal because of race. Fighting for a say in what your race is defined as is incredibly important to the expansion of equality in the U.S. So, this is my contribution to mine. I don't want to continue to silently accept the privilege of whiteness, and I don't want to create a false narrative of victimhood around it purely because other racial groups are demanding to be treated completely equally. And I won’t sit silently as others do so either.
The problem with racism in the modern U.S. is that it doesn’t look like a sign posted over a water fountain indicating which one is acceptable to use. It looks like that sign posted around campus, it looks like comments on Facebook claiming “all lives matter,” it looks like people like Richard Spencer claiming that white culture is under attack.
Racism now is all the things said and unsaid that contribute to the undermining of what people of color have been trying to tell us for years. Racism is alive and well, people feel it, people see it, why can’t we?
Maggie DeHart is a junior studying political theory and constitutional democracy. Her opinion does not reflect that of The State News.
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