White Citizenship

Is the 'white' in white supremacy the same white as the white in you?

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Invitations to White Citizenship

The problem is that whitefolks (an average American of European descent) retain enough 'white consciousness' to understand their place in the racial hierarchy of American life and that as citizens act out of racial self-interest, sometimes unconsciously, sometimes overtly.

I contend that the most telling aspect of racism latent and present in American life is existence of what I call white citizenship. The problem is that many Americans may strive for it without giving it much thought. it probably will take a bit of doing for one to recognize this concept because white citizenship is, for the most part, considered to be neutral and the default of the American mainstream. To be able to remove what is actually racial and cultural from the concept of citizenship, we become better citizens. Constitutionally, our citizenship should have nothing to do with our race or creed.

I must admit that I have had some difficulty in formulating this argument for presentation. It seems overly harsh to say that Americans who consider themselves 'white' might be 'natural' candidates for racist ideas. Yet what, if anything, must the purported neutrality of whiteness entail which is racist? Why indeed would anyone call themselves 'white'? White as compared to what?

My own interest goes beyond some shallow vilification of the term 'white', although I believe that to be a good pedagogical device. African Americans have certainly had to wrestle with the idea of being 'Negro' or 'colored' or 'black' even in the complete absence of racial discrimination. This is part and parcel of our being. For the sake of slavery in which none of us alive has taken part we African Americans deal with that question of identity. That living white folk too, have had no participation in that institution should not exempt them from self-examination. But beyond that, I am curious to know what if any influence can be made on people who consider themselves white which works in racist ways.

In short, how are ordinary white folks who have no pathological reason to be racist, taken in by racist appeals to their identity as Americans? In doing so, I am not suggesting that there is some mysterious force visible only to the proper race man which stealthily infects only white people, but I point to racist appeals we have all seen work, such as the Willie Horton ad crafted by lee Atwater and the presidential campaign of David Duke.

M. Bowen, 1996

Bellant, Russ. The Coors Connection: How Coors Family Philanthropy Undermines Democratic Pluralism. Boston: South End Press, 1991.

Bellant, Russ. Old Nazis, the New Right and the Republican Party.Boston: South End Press, 1991.