What is Whiteness?

What is Whiteness?

Discussion Questions

1. What are the key differences between multicultural education and antiracist education? Discuss each of these differences and provide examples for each.

2. What is Whiteness? The authors claim that Whiteness is organized globally. How?

3. What do the authors mean when they use the term White supremacy? How does White supremacy manifest in institutions?

Extension Activities

1. Discuss some of the common misconceptions about racism. How would you counter these misconceptions from an antiracist perspective? In pairs or small groups, practice articulating your counter arguments.

2. Watch the film Of Civil Wrongs and Rights: The Fred Korematsu Story




(Fournier et al., 2000) (korematsuinstitute.org/). (See Figure 9.1 for information on Korematsu.) Next, conduct further research into Japanese internment in WWII, or conduct research on another minoritized racial group who has challenged legalized racism. Write an essay using these cases to illustrate how racism and White supremacy work, and their connections to the global circulation of Whiteness.

Patterns to Practice Seeing

1. Learn the history of the place names in your local community. Which have colonial roots and which have Indigeneous roots?

2. How is Whiteness exported globally in various domains? Consider industries such as technology, entertainment, education, beauty, sports and health industries.





Understanding Intersectionality Through Classism

“Nowadays, it’s White men who are the victims.”

This chapter examines class oppression. We explain current economic relations of power, address concepts such as capitalism and socialism, wealth and income, as well as provide common class vernacular. The chapter also addresses the concept of intersectionality as an important theoretical development for understanding the multidimensional nature of oppression. We identify elements of class privilege, name common misconceptions about class mobility, and speak back to dominant classist narratives.

Vocabulary to practice using: classism; class vernacular; capitalism; social capital; net worth; intersectional/ality; meritocracy

Mr. Rich White and Mr. Poor White Strike a Bargain †

Once upon a time there was Mr. Rich White, whose forefathers had become rich by exploiting the land and labor of others. Mr. Rich White realized that in order to stay rich, he had to maintain control over his workers. But how? He looked around and his eyes fell upon the Black man. He snapped his fingers, “I’ve got it!” he whispered. He called Mr. Poor White to his office and said, “I’ve been thinking a lot about you and me and how hard it is for us to keep our factory competitive and growing so we can make enough money. To keep the business going the way I want it to go, making big profit off of little capital so I can keep you on the job, I have to keep my wages low, you can see that. It’s good for me and essential for you too, for any job is better than no job at all. And whatever is causing the troubles with our economy isn’t my fault or your fault, but the fault of those coming here and taking your jobs and acting all uppity




like they’ve been here all along. The thing we can’t forget is that whatever our differences the color of our skin makes us kin. We are made in God’s image and He intends us to lead. We are the chosen and we can’t let others, like the Black man, push us out of our place. And when I say ‘Black man’ I’m not discriminating because I also mean the Latino man, whose job is to pick our crops, and the Asian man, who builds our railroads, and the Indigenous man, whose land we will take and use properly (he just wastes the land, lettin’ it sit there). As for the woman, everybody already knows that the Bible ordained her place as secondary to ours, that’s just nature. Men must always rule over and take care of the women.

“The way I see it, there are 2 jobs that need doing. Somebody has got to tend to making the money, to jobs, credit, prices, hours, the politicians, and so on (and you are too low class to do that or else you’d be rich like I am), and somebody has got to tend to the Black man—keep him in his place. So how about I boss the money and you boss the Black man. Don’t worry about what I do, but here’s what you do: Anything to show you are the boss you can do (as long as you don’t touch my business). You can decide where he will live, what schools he will go to and what books his children will read. If science scares you, remember that you don’t have to accept it—this is God’s country and a free one at that. If you get restless when you don’t have a job or your children are sick, just remember your lot is a damn sight better than the Black man’s. If you need to let off some steam and rough some up now and then, go right ahead. I will make sure the law overlooks it (but don’t expect to see me in the crowd).

“Now, if some other Mr. Poor Whites are fool enough to forget that they are White men, I’m willing to put up plenty of money to keep the politicians talking, and I don’t mind supporting a demagogue or two. Of course I’ll ensure the media keeps everyone distracted. Long as you keep the Black man out of your unions, we’ll give you the pick of whatever jobs there are and if things get too tight you can take over his jobs too, ‘cause remember, any job is better than no job at all. If you keep your end of the bargain, I will make sure that you’re always better off, even if only slightly, than the Black man.”

And Mr. Rich White and Mr. Poor White thought they’d made a good bargain. Of course Mr. Poor White didn’t really have much choice, but no matter how hard things got for him, at least he would always be better off than the Black man. It was hard at first for Mr. Poor White’s labor to keep being exploited by Mr. Rich White, but gettin’ to be the boss of someone else started to feel good and helped him hold up his end. Because the Black man reminded Mr. Poor White about what he’d done, he hated and




feared him. And that hatred and fear helped Mr. Poor White continue with the bargain. It never occurred to Mr. Poor White that the Black man could help him raise his wages and make the business work fairly for both of them.

As time passed, Mr. and Ms. Middle Class White also had a role in the bargain. They became the lawyers, social workers, teachers, professors, doctors, judges, managers, advertisers, journalists, and celebrities—the mediators of the agreement. They settled disputes, administered policies, taught the children, and tended to the social services Mr. Poor White and the Black man would need, all while keeping everyone entertained. But sometimes Mr. and Ms. Middle Class White felt bad about their role in the bargain. “This can’t go on,” they’d say. They were worried about freedom and democracy, which many of them still believed in. They called their worry “multiculturalism” or “diversity” or “the achievement gap” or “social justice.” They wore t-shirts and safety pins to show their worries. But in truth they were more worried about getting the best for their children, securing their property values, and maintaining their position between Mr. Rich White and Mr. Poor White. They feared what integration would mean for that position. And it was certainly better to be Mr. and Ms. Middle Class White than Mr. Poor White or the Black man. In the end, despite their worries, they always decided that segregation was best. After all, wasn’t it just human nature to prefer to live near your own? Segregation enabled them not to see the methods used to keep the Black man away from their neighborhoods and their jobs; and not to feel as badly about the bargain. But they knew not to say aloud what they didn’t want to see or feel. Mr. Rich White knew what was in their hearts, and smiled

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