Whiteness and Racialized Ethnic Groups in the United States: The Politics of Remembrance
‘Whiteness and Racialized Ethnic Groups in the United States: The Politics of Remembrance’ is a book written by Sherrow Pinder in which a critical evaluation of whiteness and its impacts on the American society is conducted with an intent to contribute to the nationwide debate on America’s past and the roots of racism. First, Pinder reviews the issue in its entirety and then conducts an in-depth analysis of previous approaches used in the fight against whiteness. In conclusion, she presents the reader with viable solutions which, if properly implemented, would stamp out this destructive vice. This essay focuses on the book’s introduction (The Argument in Brief) and entails an overview of Pinder’s underlying message as presented in this section. This section contains a general overview of America’s history, an investigation of the roots of racism, and an analysis of studies conducted on whiteness. All information presented here supports the proposition that in order to successfully put an end to whiteness, it is of the utmost importance that this issue is de-normalized before creating a ‘post-white identity’ (p. xv).
There are various arguments presented in the book’s introduction as an illustration of the existence of the need to address whiteness in the American society. The author argues that whiteness in the United States came into existence when the founding fathers first arrived. They treated original inhabitants and black people as inferior populations because of their skin color. Despite being referred to as ‘whiteness’ rather than the common present day term ‘racism’, this did not prevent the dehumanizing treatment or lessen its severity whatsoever. In fact, when the United States was finally independent of Britain, its colonial master, new laws such as the 1790 Naturalization Act were formulated in support of whiteness. Specific minorities and ethnic groups were denied American citizenship.For instance, the Chinese Exclusion Act denied Chinese, Filipinos, Japanese, and Korean people any claim to American citizenship.
Pinder describes whiteness as a system that colludes to treat specific people in a special manner because they are considered as possessing ‘an essential something’ (p. ix). She supports this statement by reviewing Harris and Mills’ descriptions. She argues that for whites to be considered superior, blacks must be viewed as inferior. Whereas no one is born raced, people become raced due to their everyday experiences. Hence, even without considering one’s race as the salient factor, other defining attributes such as gender, sexuality, and class play a major role in propagating whiteness. More often than not, race is misrepresented as class or culture. This is indicative of the fact that Americans are grouped into classes on the basis of race.
Over the years, people previously considered as non-white are currently regarded as white. For instance, Greeks, Italians, and Jews are currently regarded as ‘white.’ However, the inclusion of these groups has not decreased this racial discourse. In fact, this has provided a basis via which whiteness can be asserted. Therefore, this creates the need to critically evaluate the issue and establish ways through which the vice can be eliminated. Obviously, this contentious issue has attracted many scholars in the past, black and white alike. However, little success has been achieved in identifying, de-normalizing, and eliminating whiteness. Pinder states that these studies have advanced into a distinct ‘form of antiracist whiteness’ but is quick to point out that these studies pose a ‘risk of re-hegemonizing’ whereas they should actively ‘de-hegemonize’ whiteness (p. xiv).
Universities as well as other institutions of higher learning are considered to be vital sources of knowledge and information. In the receent past, studies on whiteness have taken center stage in most American universities. Despite facing increasingly high odds due to the fact that policies formulated in these institutions propagate whiteness, there have been quantifiable advancements in making the vice visible. Nonetheless, proper critique and evaluation of the issue at large has been greatly hampered by the power structure in most of these institutions. For instance, most university lecturers are white. Although studies about whiteness have intensified, they have majorly centered on studying the vice and ignored ways through which the vice can be stamped out. This has been attributed to the fact that scholars and researchers have not come to agreement on a legitimate procedure via which the issue can be debated upon. Pinder believes that in order to de-normalize whiteness, scholars must shift from ‘whiteness studies and antiracist whiteness’ and focus on formulating a ‘post-white identity’ (p.xv)
In de-normalizing whiteness, it is of the utmost importance that scholars investigate America’s history in order to identify its origin and detect ethnic minorities oppressed by this vice. Pinder states that it is absolutely important to evaluate the past in order to debate about the present and project the future. In fact, her book provides a reflection of America’s past, present, and future. She identifies the most oppressed groups being the Chinese, Blacks, First Nations, and the Mexicans. Evidently, these groups were targeted due to their long history of oppression and racial treatment. In due course, whiteness became engraved in the law and general rules until it was viewed as normal. Thus, whites are entitled to jobs, university admissions, and frequent promotions. Hence, it is of the utmost importance for studies to be conducted in order to expose these privileges granted on the basis of whiteness. The vice must be stripped off of its presumptive hegemony in order to create a free, fair, and just society.
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